The Violet Flame Album Review

28 July 2014

The Violet Flame sleeveThe Mute / PledgeMusic partnership for the forthcoming The Violet Flame album saw the introduction of Playback Sessions, where fans could go to Studio Mute in west London to listen to the album several weeks before its release. Naturally this was something I very much wanted to do, so was present on Day One of the sessions to hear the album in full and you can read my thoughts on each track below.

SPOILER ALERT! If you are going to a Playback Session and don't want to know what to expect or you're the kind of person who likes to listen to an album for the first time without any pre-conceptions, you might want to leave this page now! Otherwise, read on...

I must stress this is a review based on my first impressions (which aren't always right - like the first time I listened to Chorus I thought it was dull... what was I thinking?!).

UPDATE – I've now had the chance to listen to the album several times and you can now read my definitive The Violet Flame Review.

Dead Of Night
The album opens with a trance-like intro, which soon evolves into menacing synths and thumping beats. It's a lively way to open the album and has an immediate club/dance-floor feel. It's all very electro, with Andy's sultry vocals and lyrics about deceit and being haunted by the darkness. The chorus is the line of "D-D-D-D-Dead of night" repeating a few times (it sounds better than it reads, believe me!). It's a decent opening to the album and sets the tone for things to come: this is generally an up-tempo album.

Elevation
Given that this is the lead single from the album and is already available to stream and buy I probably don't need to say much about this track. What I will say though is if I were to rank each song on The Violet Flame in order of preference, I'd say Elevation would be in the bottom third. So if you love this song, you're in for a treat when you hear the whole album. If it's not really striking a chord with you, there is still plenty of other songs on the album for you to embrace.

Reason
The opening piano notes soon give way to a tub-thumbing beat which compliments a rich tapestry of joyous Vince-isms (is that a word?). There's a lot going on in the mix and I can't wait to listen again with headphones on. If you thought Elevation didn't sound "Vince enough" you'll be relishing this song, and its electronic spirals. It's a really catchy tune too, with uplifting lyrics and a really infectious bridge and chorus. Clubby and melodic (reminiscent of Cowboy in some ways), it's a definite single contender. And would make a great song to play whilst on a road trip! One of my favourite tracks.

You're the reason I live
The reason that I forgive

Reason

Promises
With pulsating synths and club-like bass this is another song that would feel at home on the dance-floor. As the song continues, more layers are added to the arrangement with more trademark Vince sounds becoming increasingly prevalent. It reminds me a little of Go Hard Or Go Home from Andy's recent solo album, iPop on which he collaborated with Shelter. The lyrics are lovelorn (Keep your promises / I just need somebody to be there) but it wasn't a song that particularly grabbed me. I think I need a few more listens...

Be The One
This is one heartfelt and beautiful song! The haunting opening is interspersed with the occasional brash electro sound, with a deep bass line joining the mix. Andy's vocals are long and drawn out and are unlike any other Erasure song I can think of. It's incredible that after all these years, the band can create something that sounds so fresh and different. This is the ballad of the album and although it's a slower track, you'll still find yourself tapping your feet along with the beat. The chorus doesn't soar but it is still infectious and the soft middle 8 is to die for. One of the attendees said it could a first dance song at a wedding and I completely agree. An instant classic!

Sacred
This track sees the return of Andy's falsetto in the ethereal introduction, which is complemented nicely with pulsating synths and trance-like notes. The track builds up nicely to an epic musical chorus. I say musical, because there aren't really any lyrics in the chorus (if that makes sense - think Make It Wonderful) other than some woahs and the word Sacred sung a couple of times. Again, this track has a club feel to it, and is perhaps a little generic musically, but Vince's twinkling progressing arrangement definitely has its charm.

Under The Wave
Another massive favourite for me this one, right from the 80s opening with plinky notes to the lush arrangement of various Andys woahing as the song concludes. Bouncy and whimsical, it has a Chorus b-side shimmer to it and it's not a million miles from Loving Man (although it is a far better song in my opinion). Andy's sweeping vocals are delivered in a delicious low register and whilst the lyrics have a very sombre edge to them the song feels sweet and bubbly. The military style drums in the chorus are great, as is the oh-oh-oh melody after the chorus (again, it sounds better than it looks!). Bitter-sweet and brilliant - another single contender, for sure.

I don't know what to do
I don't know what to say
I'm out of my depth
I'll go under again

Under The Wave

Smoke & Mirrors
The twisted synth opening and interesting, almost tribal percussion, allow Andy's tormented vocals to be unimpeded in the foreground. In the early stages, the arrangement is largely just a beat, giving the track a stripped raw feeling that wouldn't feel out of place on Loveboat. Melodically it sounds like nothing the band have done before and there are lots of sounds layered into the mix. More percussion is added as the song progresses with more musical layers being added to the mix also. It's not the most melodic of songs, with the lyrics telling a story of a relationship in crisis. There is an uplifting synth/flute line in the chorus that reminds me of When I Start To (Break It All Down) and no doubt there is plenty more where that came from to explore when listening with headphones on.

Paradise
No, not the b-side from Drama! - this is a new composition. Rhythmic synths and thumbing beats once again conjure visions of a nightclub dance-floor, with this track having a very strong disco feel to it. There are quirky trademark Vince sounds in the mix, including a creaking synth sound that reminds me of some early Depeche Mode tracks. This song lacks a killer vocal hook, although lyrically it is strong. Not a track that instantly grabbed me.

Stayed A Little Late Tonight
It is often tradition for an Erasure album to conclude with a slower ballad. Well, this isn't it! The retro synth opening gives way a nice mid-tempo track which uses an undertone of piano chords to allow story-telling lyrics of conflict, fear and self-blame to take centre stage. Andy's regret tinged vocals are enjoyable throughout, and the song progresses nicely but ends way too abruptly for my liking. I guess that's just because it leaves me wanting more!

Listening to The Violet Flame at Studio MuteOverall, The Violet Flame is a strong album and is certainly the best the band has produced since Nightbird (at least). Many songs have thumping beats and killer bass, although that may just have come across from the loud speakers that were present at Studio Mute. The production is slick (but not at the expense of Vince's signature sounds) and the vocals are strong (full of reverb but no manipulation/effects that I could hear). I was particularly impressed with the lyrics and it feels like Andy has got his mojo back and that the standard is higher overall than on recent albums. Thematically, the lyrics are still dominated by love and relationships, but things click better than on some previous releases. Musically there is a tendency for songs to drop back to pads and a bass drum from time-to-time (I'd credit this influence to Richard X) but this helps give the album a consistent identity - both sound and quality. And much like I felt with Elevation, the album is a real grower and was getting more and more into my head with each listen. Frankly, I can't wait to hear it again!

The Playback Session itself was also a lot of fun, and each attendee was given some cool free Mute merchandise (including a CD promo of Elevation which has the somewhat elusive Radio Mix on it!). It was nice to mingle with other fans, especially the nice couple who flew over from Germany just for the session! Friendly, long-time Mute employees were happy to discuss all things Erasure and gave a fascinating insight into how things work in the industry (like how each single has a seven week lead time) and to see the studio equipment and gadgets. I did manage to learn that a second single has already been chosen (although I couldn't coax out what song had been chosen unfortunately!) and that a third single was a distinct possibility too.

So, do you have any questions about The Violet Flame? If so, leave them in the comments below and I'll try to answer them all the best I can!

UPDATE – my definitive The Violet Flame Review is now live. Here you can also read reviews made by other fans and whilst you're there why not write your own review to share with the world!

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Comments

  1. Excellent review on The Violet Flame! I am even more excited for the release and tour! Thank you Onge so much!

    Posted by Lauren
    29 July 2014 12:29 am (GMT)
  2. Hey Onge!
    I have sure this album will pump!
    Richard X produced SG and what you think about TVF sounds? It’s nearly Loving Man-There’ll be no Tomorrow or Gaudete-Make it Wonderful?
    Cheers!

    Posted by Julio Cesar
    29 July 2014 1:07 am (GMT)
  3. I have a strong good feeling about this album that I haven’t felt since the release of “Nightbird”.
    The last two Erasure albums didn’t do much for me, not that they were bad, but something just felt off.
    The first time I heard the snippet of “Elevation”, I felt overjoyed and knew something good was coming.
    I’m so ready for The Violet Flame and seeing one of my all time favourite bands this September in Toronto!

    Posted by Robert Raum
    29 July 2014 2:06 am (GMT)
  4. This just made my day. So excited to hear it!!

    Posted by mumbles cares
    29 July 2014 2:33 am (GMT)
  5. Excellant review. With elevation as a single- will there be more bside material or EP planned for this single and future single number 2. I always think 10 track is too little for an album unless the songs are long. So I look forward to more stuff that didn’t get on the album

    Posted by Mike DePaz
    29 July 2014 2:41 am (GMT)
  6. Indeed an excellent review, like you I think every album since Nightbird has been below average, but The Violet Flame sounds very promising. Can’t wait for it.

    Posted by Shaun Pierce
    29 July 2014 5:30 am (GMT)
  7. @ Julio Cesar – this album doesn’t really sound like anything from Snow Globe. The Violet Flame is a lot more contemporary and slick any any of the original tracks from that album.

    @Mike DePaz – apparently there are four unfinished tracks that could end up as future b-sides. It just depends of whether the band feel they are worth recording and if so, trying to get them back into the studio to do so! Plenty of remixes have already been done for the CD single too.

    Posted by Onge
    29 July 2014 6:51 am (GMT)
  8. Great review Onge thanks

    Posted by Pughie
    29 July 2014 7:16 am (GMT)
  9. This has really lifted my spirits :) after hearing Elevation, I was somewhat disappointed that this was not the song I so wanted to hear. Why was this chosen as a first single? However, after reading your review and seeing that actually, this is the best stuff since Nightbird (one if my favourite albums), I am now in hope of hearing something brilliant.
    I love Erasure. I want them to be recognised properly for their brilliance. PSB have received a recent Brit award for contribution. Let’s see Erasure get it next year, on the back of a brilliant album and tour.

    Posted by Paul
    29 July 2014 7:24 am (GMT)
  10. Great review by the way Onge. X

    Posted by Paul
    29 July 2014 7:25 am (GMT)
  11. Great review Onge. Must admit I was getting a positive feeling about the new album. I am off to the playback on the 30th so I could not wait for some spoilers. Do you think a lot will be played live from the new album? Be interesting to see if Andy can remember the words of the new songs as he had to sing Be With You from a sheet of paper, bless him. But maybe due to his residency on the opera star thing, on the tele?

    Posted by Paul
    29 July 2014 7:39 am (GMT)
  12. sounding very cool…………… can’t wait to hear it now!!!

    Posted by starlight
    29 July 2014 8:43 am (GMT)
  13. Wow, having not heard the album yet I’m already wanting more!!! Great review Onge, can’t wait to get a copy and pop the headphones on too!
    Roll on September…….

    Posted by Simon
    29 July 2014 8:48 am (GMT)
  14. Is it rather a diversified album in terms of sounds/styles and/or moods (like were, “The Circus” “Wild !”, “Loveboat”, “Tomorrow’s World” and “Snow Globe”) or a more a cohesive album (like “The Innocents”, “Chorus”, “Erasure”, “Cowboy” and “Nifgtbird”) ?

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    29 July 2014 8:51 am (GMT)
  15. PS : How many stars would you give it ??

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    29 July 2014 8:52 am (GMT)
  16. Superb review Onge! I’m ready for the thumping beats of ‘The Violet Flame’ :-)

    Posted by Jo
    29 July 2014 9:16 am (GMT)
  17. Great review, mank thanks. Really can’t wait for this now :)

    Posted by Chris
    29 July 2014 10:03 am (GMT)
  18. Great review! If you had to compare it to any previous albums what would they be? Cannot wait to hear it in full! Loving man on snow globe loved it and also saying four songs not making the album who knows may be another new release sooner rather than later!

    Posted by john magee clitheroe lancs
    29 July 2014 11:18 am (GMT)
  19. Thanks Onge, great preview. Looking very forward to hearing the album and to the tour, I loved nightbird, but the last two albums while good were a dip in quality….this sounds extremely promising.
    Cheers.

    Posted by P MartinElliott
    29 July 2014 11:20 am (GMT)
  20. @Paul – I see no reason why a fair few tracks wouldn’t be added to the tour set list. Several of the tracks would certainly get the crowd going! As for lyrics, Andy did very well performing Torsten The Bareback Saint on Saturday and there are a lot more lyrics in that (and ones he didn’t write) so I reckon he’ll have no trouble with The Violet Flame live!

    @AIRAZUR – I’d say it falls into the “cohesive album” pile. Not sure on the stars I’d award it as I’d like to really get to know the album inside out first but it’s certainly in the 4 or 4.5 out of 5 category at the moment.

    @john magee – It really doesn’t sound like anything else they’ve done. It’s modern (so a bit Tomorrow’s World), slick (like The Innocents and Cowboy) with strong lyrics (like Chorus and Erasure). But it’s a unique album that should be treated as its own thing I think. :)

    Posted by Onge
    29 July 2014 12:43 pm (GMT)
  21. Many thanks onge so looking forward to hearing it thanks for your incitful review!

    Posted by john magee clitheroe lancs
    29 July 2014 12:54 pm (GMT)
  22. Thanks for having answered my questions !

    ..a last one :
    isn’t the album too clubby ?
    Would you say it is a “dance” album contains sophisticated melodies or generic ones ?
    ..please, tell me it doesn’t sound like “Non Stop” !!

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    29 July 2014 1:47 pm (GMT)
  23. Oh ! I forget :
    What about the mood(s) :
    uplifting, optimistic, cheerful or gloomy and depressed ?
    spiritual, mystic or purely festive ?

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    29 July 2014 3:19 pm (GMT)
  24. Really wish I was attending one of these sessions!

    Onge – A quite superb preview! I cannot wait to hear these songs in all there 24bit glory on my headphones. Sounds like a joy. Sounds like ‘Be the One’ will be my favourites.

    Well done!

    Posted by mOOger!
    29 July 2014 6:26 pm (GMT)
  25. Amazing review . I can’t wait for the release. I love Elevation so much and hope the whole album is just as good !

    Posted by Ed Brandrick
    29 July 2014 7:09 pm (GMT)
  26. @AIRAZUR – I don’t think it sounded too clubby, although if you’re keen for another You Surround Me or Piano Song type ballad you won’t find it on this album. The melodies rarely soar (like say, on Cowboy) but neither are they generic. And believe me – it sounds nothing like Non-Stop!

    As for the mood, some lyrics are a bit downcast but I wouldn’t say the album is gloomy at all. Many songs are uplifting though so perhaps bittersweet best sums it up!

    Posted by Onge
    29 July 2014 7:16 pm (GMT)
  27. Excellent review I really enjoyed reading that cannot wait to hear this album ,Times gonna drag now even more . Lol. LOVE THIS BAND FOREVER XX:0) as forever they will b x:0)

    Posted by beth. morris
    30 July 2014 4:14 am (GMT)
  28. Once again, thanks Onge !

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    30 July 2014 11:16 am (GMT)
  29. I loved ‘Light’ and ‘Tomorrow’, but after reading your great review I’m (almost) sure ‘The Violet Flame’ is even better than those two ones. And I’m really glad it’s another bouncing one!

    [I was particularly impressed with the lyrics and it feels like Andy has got his mojo back and that the standard is higher overall than on recent albums. Thematically, the lyrics are still dominated by love and relationships, but things click better than on some previous releases.]

    Well, ‘Tomorrow’ was thematically quite more diversified than ‘Light’ and ‘Nightbird’, since it has 4 songs that don’t talk about love affairs. ‘A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot’, ‘Then I Go Twisting’ , ‘I Lose Myself’. I hope this new one follows this way, despite I really like the quite romantic ‘Light’.

    Posted by Chabacano
    31 July 2014 8:17 pm (GMT)
  30. Oops. I forgot to mention ‘Fill Us With Fire’ above.

    Posted by Chabacano
    1 August 2014 4:36 pm (GMT)
  31. Just wondering if anyone knows if all the album versions are eligible for chart entry inc the deluxe box set?

    Posted by Andy
    2 August 2014 3:19 am (GMT)
  32. Sounds like a return to form. I was underwhelmed by TW but am going to the Wolvo Civic gig in anticipation….hopefully the media will start recognising the Erasure story and give them some much deserved credit for a change. Bring it on!

    Posted by Stew Jeens
    2 August 2014 3:00 pm (GMT)
  33. Excellent review thanks.The violet flame will be the best Erasure album

    Posted by Oguzhan imrak
    3 August 2014 3:51 am (GMT)
  34. Hi Onge I was fortunate enough to go on Friday nite and wasn’t disappointed met some lovely people and the staff were great as for the album well I want it now it’s going to be a long few weeks until release the louder it was played the better it sounded in my opinion and Andys voice wow and Vince’s bleeps and sounds awesome I agree that it’s the best album for a while and I’ve also ordered the deluxe box set best wishes wayne

    Posted by Wayne
    3 August 2014 11:45 pm (GMT)
  35. Hi, Great review.

    I’m really loving Elevation. I have a little mix-CD of it with iPop and the Dave Aude single (Aftermath). Great to have so much new material at once!

    Perhaps I’m in the minority for actually liking their last few albums. I though Tomorrow’s World was very contemporary, without going overboard. A Whole Lotta Love, Lose Myself and When I start To, are all classic Erasure whilst not sounding like anything they’ve done before, which is surely why they are still as loved as hey are?

    Elevation has a smooth euphoric feel to it. From day one I thought it was amazing. Lovely melodies over those synths. Paradise (BLO Remix) I think is good, but I agree with you that it lacks a punch. Looking forward to hearing how it fits with the other tracks on the album.

    Just on a related note, my first daughter was born last Christmas. I am predominantly a Depeche Mode fan, but around that time I was playing Snowglobe alot. When I brought her back from the hospital I deliberately played Always first, as I want to be able to tell her that was the first time she would have heard music. The final irony! We called her Violet! :-)

    Best wishes

    Paul

    Posted by Paul
    5 August 2014 6:15 pm (GMT)
  36. to Paul:
    This is a nice story !
    Erwann

    Posted by AIRAZUR
    6 August 2014 10:59 pm (GMT)
  37. Great review, am way too excited to hear it for myself! Thanks so much!

    ~ Steve

    Posted by Stephen Weiss
    14 September 2014 7:05 pm (GMT)
  38. Stumbled across this review (and website) from a Violet Flame google search. A very informative & intelligent review – thanks!

    Posted by Chris
    15 September 2014 8:43 am (GMT)
  39. Under the wave is stunning, I can’t stop listening to it on strem, its like old school Erasure!

    Posted by Paraic
    16 September 2014 3:34 pm (GMT)
  40. Great review!

    I honestly haven’t been able to stop listening to this album since it started streaming online. Its a pulsating electro dance classic from start to finish. I’m rather surprised that you thought it was their best effort since Nightbird though as i think it is far superior to that rather flawed album. I honestly think its their best since Cowboy, which is probably my favourite Erasure album anyway. Andy stated in a recent interview that “we’ve definately got our mojo back”and i couldnt agree with him more.

    All the best,
    Paul.

    Posted by Paul J. O Connor
    16 September 2014 11:34 pm (GMT)
  41. Hi onge. Good review. Do you know the setlist for the new tour yet. Got tickets for Edinburgh myself. Thank you.

    Posted by Mark Nevison
    17 September 2014 9:15 am (GMT)
  42. Hi Mark – tour setlist can be seen here (spoiler alert!): http://erasure4rum.com/forum/Blah.pl?m-1410311985/s-0/

    Posted by Onge
    17 September 2014 1:03 pm (GMT)
  43. Hi Onge, I agree with you, excellent review.
    At the moment I love most of all Reason, Sacred and Paradise.
    Amazing album!

    Posted by Paolo Serrau
    18 September 2014 5:33 pm (GMT)
  44. Box set and album arrived this morning . Played the album and I am over the moon and feel as high as a kite . A really quality produced album , which is wreaking with confidence . Well done Vince and Andy on such fantastic work !

    Posted by Ed Brandrick
    20 September 2014 10:43 am (GMT)
  45. Got Signed Boxset through today, It felt like a kid opening a much anticipated Xmas Present, Listened to album twice, got goosebumps of Joy & the odd watery eyes, this album is Amazing, very like the old erasure but matured in the right way, been an erasure fan since 86, this album really is were erasure should be, 10/10 and i’m a hard Sod to please. well done Andy & Vince & all those involved in making this fantastic new album, i’m going to buy extra copies of the 2 discs & play this album so much i’ll be singing the songs in me sleep.

    Posted by Lewis Grocott
    20 September 2014 9:40 pm (GMT)
  46. Got my boxset this morning Onge. What a fantastic new album! I’ve only heard it twice but it sounds amazing through earphones. I can see this is going to be a real grower too. Not even got on to the remixes yet. Onge, speak soon, and Andy and Vince, big respect to you both! You really are in a great place musically right now. Erasure are back with a bang.

    Can’t wait for London in December!

    Posted by Roy Fearn
    21 September 2014 12:43 am (GMT)
  47. Agree, its a great album, a return to form since 2007 at least.

    Posted by Mister lushus
    21 September 2014 8:39 pm (GMT)

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