Release Year: 2015
Ever since their fifth album, Muse have steered away from the intense rock music that won the hearts of millions. They kept experimenting, going bigger, better, and more dramatic. Incorporating elements from classical music to electronic, the band become more than the average rock group. For their latest album the band return to their rock roots for an LP that roars to life and slays through tracks with a ferocity and viciousness missing from their previous releases.
Things kick off with the vibrant “Dead Inside,” which mixes the band’s rock side with the electronic they experimented with on their last LP. Matt shows off his sick riffs while Dom provides the pounding percussion that announces the track. Matt even unleashes some of the sensual singing when he coos “Unleash a million drones.” It’s still one of the best and most exciting songs on the album. Next, comes a pointless “Drill Sergeant” interlude followed by the limp track “Psycho.” As many fans were quick to point out, the song features the “Stockholm Syndrome” jam riff, which is the best part of the song. It’s sleek, sexy, and dirty. The lyrics, on the other hand, are kind of awkward. Bellamy sounds like he’s trying to be tough as he sings “Your ass belongs to me now,” but he ends up sounded weirdly sexual. The politics of the song are also very obvious and come off as clumsy with the drill sergeant from the previous interlude coming in at every break. It’s one of those songs that’ll do well in a live setting, but falls flat when compared to the rest of the record.
“Mercy” calls back to the softer tracks from their fourth album, like “Starlight,” with the bright, uplifting piano and Matt’s sweet vocals. There’s also a hint of synth during the pre-chorus but it’s subtle enough to be pleasant. Though it does sound a lot like their previous material, the song is good in its own right and reminds fans why Bellamy is such a talented vocalist. Things pick up with “Reapers,” which blazes with Bellamy’s lightning fast riff. It’s so hot his fingers should catch fire. His playing is so unchained it’s like he’s losing control of the beast and he’s trying to reign it it. With enough energy to get you on your feet and a heart palpitating pace to wake you up, this is the band fans have yearned for since Bellamy decided to abandon dirty rock for orchestral pieces. It’s full of attitude and has this underlying viciousness that makes the song irresistible. A personal favorite on the LP is “The Handler,” which has the sexiest guitar riff. The whole thing is dripping with intense distortion and aggression. Another thing that’s notable is Matt’s falsetto. It seemed like it was missing from most of their last album and here he lets it run wild and free and it is glorious. This is the singing that’ll give you chills; you just want to close your eyes and let it take you away.
Similar to The 2nd Law, the band let’s their Queen influence fly high and mighty on “Defector” and “Revolt.” The high pitched group harmonies make the comparison almost too easy to make, but it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to rip off the legendary band. This Queen-esque singing also kicks off “Dead Inside.” “Revolt” on it’s own is kind of weird. It starts off just fine, but then it picks up the pace and gets really poppy and upbeat during the chorus. It sounds like you’re hearing two different songs smushed into one. It’s not horrible, but it’s not the strongest on the album. Clocking in at ten minutes “The Globalist” could’ve been a disaster, but it actually works. It has a “Knights of Cydonia” flair with the lone man whistle and the Mexican stand off like music during the beginning. There’s a sense of hopelessness that follows with the somber music and Matt’s muted singing. That goes away as soon as it came in with balls out crazy riffage that’s fierce as fuck. Then eerie voices begin wailing making them sound like ghosts while the music swirls around and keeps building up until it breaks and returns to an eerie calm. When it starts, it lures you into a relaxing clam and then wakes you up midway through the track. It’s haunting, awesome, and a bit beautiful all at once.
While many of the songs here are fantastic, the weakest thing about the album is the concept itself. According to Matt, the story is about the dehumanization of modern warfare, but this doesn’t always come across in the lyrics. Some of them are confusing or just dry, such as on “Aftermath” when Matt sings “War is all around/I’m growing tired of fighting/I’ve been drained.” Or on “Revolt” when he sings “You can grow (you can grow)/You can make this world what you want,” which has good intentions but sound kind of dull. From the lyrics alone, it’s not that easy to piece together the story. Maybe the band knew the concept wasn’t very strong since the word “drones” is featured once in every song. Is it supposed to remind us that the songs are connected? It seems like it. The tracks themselves are at least able to stand on their own with the exception if “Drones.” With layered vocal style and it being stylized after hymns, it’s a bit weird and disorienting. It’s kind of interesting, but it doesn’t really work on its own.
Muse have always been an ambitious band that pushes their musical limit. While they’ve made some great songs incorporating elements of dubstep and classical music, it’s great to hear them return to their rock roots. Many of the tracks mix a bit of the old with the new making sure the album doesn’t sound too familiar. The music kicks ass and Matt Bellamy’s voice is as other worldly as possible. The concept isn’t that strong and comes across as clumsy, but just about all the songs are good on their own it doesn’t take much away from the experience. Welcome back Muse, we’ve missed you.