Songs of Faith and Devotion has sometimes been called Depeche Mode's grunge album. While that's hardly an accurate description, it's easy to see how that impression arose, and it's another truly great effort from the band. Depeche Mode had taken the dark synthpop sound as far as they could and wisely decided go in a new direction. The album is hardly grunge, but there are more elements of rock than on earlier albums, with more guitars and live drums on most of the album. If anything, though, they were letting their darker side take over even more, for what is really even a darker sound than on Violator and certainly not one that sounds of its time. While it is rather different from their previous albums, the songwriting is still high quality definitely has the elements that made Depeche Mode great in the first place, even though the arrangements are very different. The biggest highlight for me is the Martin Gore sung and orchestral "One Caress, " which is overflowing with emotion, but there's truly a variety of material on display. On "Condemnation" and "Judas," the band takes on elements of gospel and soul, and there is also more straightforward gothic rock on "Walking in My Shoes" and "In Your Room," and even a straight-ahead alt rock oriented song in "I Feel You," which comes the closest to warranting the grunge label. I'm not sure where this falls exactly in the Depeche Mode canon. It's not quite up to the par set by Violator, but honestly, just anything would have fallen short. For me, Songs of Faith and Devotion is just as recommended as their best material of the 80s. I have to admit that the less synth and less pop oriented approach here is simply not my preferred style for the band, but the songwriting really was most certainly still there at this point. In retrospect, this was the last hurrah for Alan Wilder, and it is certainly a great showcase for his musicianship with his forays into live drumming proving a wild success, although it sadly marks the end of his tenure with the group and the end of an excellent run of albums. While they would still have great songs after this, Songs of Faith and Devotion is the last truly great album from the group, at least as of this writing, but what a way to go.