I first heard about Muse back in 2003 when they popped onto Much Music one afternoon. Since then I have been obsessed with their unique approach to music. I am fascinated by the combination of genres incorporated into rock n roll to form a myriad of bombastic sounds awakening the senses at a time when entertainment seems so stagnant. Now that I’ve been a fan for over a decade, that’s twelve years if you’re counting, I am ecstatic to be given a chance to review Muse’s latest album “Drones”, released June 9th. New music from an awesome group of chaps isn’t something us Musers take lightly, so because I’m sure everyone is dying to know about the new songs keep reading as we share our thoughts with you.
As a way to escape the sleepy ghost town of Teignmouth in the UK three friends guitarist/lead vocalist Matt Bellamy, bassist/supporting vocals Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dom Howard decided to form what would later become internationally known act Muse. Cutting a deal in 1999 they released their debut “Showbiz” spawning hits such as “Sunburn” and “Muscle Museum”. Eventually the English rockers would create the breakthrough album “Absolution”, which then spewed out “Hysteria”, “Sing For Absolution”, and my most favorite, “Time Is Running Out”. It definitely made tsunami sized waves in United States skyrocketing their careers into oblivion.
Now they’re Back In Black with their seventh album produced by Robert “Mutt” Lange calling attention the controversial topic of drone warfare to the music loving public. It’s almost a bit eerie not only in the subject at hand but because it mirrors current events. This demonstrates that the Brit trio are not only on top of their game with lightening fast speed but keep up with cutting edge technology as well. In fact, Bellamy became inspired to chase this idea after reading the book “Predator: The Secret Origin of the Drone Revolution” by Richard Whittle. I say we’re lucky to be alive at a time when history is in the making and who better to provide the perfect soundtrack than Muse?!
What makes this era stand apart from other previous ones is that Muse took to their Youtube channel to release half the record via a series of lyric videos. Some included “The Handler”, “Reapers”, etc. One of these included the opening number “Dead Inside”, which coming off the heels of 2012’s smash “The 2nd Law” it seems the guys picked up where they left off. By this I mean the tune echoes the electro-synthesized fusion with aggressive electric guitars from said album. If you know my taste then it’s obvious why this is my favorite new song. It combines everything I love about the dancey side of Muse and adds a nice 80’s synthpop influence for a little something extra.
This was the first single released with an official video featuring two familiar faces from hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?” waltzing across a talc covered floor. It would also introduce the concept of losing empathy to follow down a dangerous path and losing oneself to the powers that be.
“ ‘Dead Inside’ is where the story of the album begins, where the protagonist loses hope and becomes ‘Dead Inside’, therefore vulnerable to the dark forces introduced in ‘Psycho’ and which ensue over the next few songs on the album, before eventually defecting, revolting and overcoming these dark forces later in the story,” explains Matt.
Speaking of going “Psycho”, this was another song released off “Drones”, but since it was deemed “too offensive for radio” by Bellamy himself via Twitter fans instead settled for a lyric video, as well as a chance to pre-order the album itself. As you may have guessed I took advantage of this opportunity to secure my own copy in vinyl format. When I first heard this song I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear. In typical fashion, I fell in love from the first time I heard them so many years ago. It was great to feel those emotions all over again. Muse never let me down no matter how many times I listen to them.
“Psycho” has some history behind it mainly when it comes to that one guitar riff the guys have been using in various gigs for the past 16 years tacked onto the end of a few numbers here and there. Toying with the idea to make it into a song Muse finally decided to go for it throwing all caution to the wind. Due to harsh language it differentiates itself from the standard Muse jingle, which are known to be pretty tame with a tinge of innocence. Though this is all done within context it does set the stage for a vigorous storyline to take place and is the only track to feature any strong language.
Another song that stands out to me as well as becomes a turning point in the plot is “JFK/Defector”. Muse dives head first into pure hard rock probably inspired by Bellamy’s favorite band Rage Against The Machine with its political call to arms lyrics entwined with harsh guitars, thumping bass and pounding drums. This song lets you know it’s time to fight against oppressors as it begins and ends with a brief speech by former President John F. Kennedy. I can instantly see this being a huge favorite in all its anthemic glory with the crowd shouting at the top of their lungs.
Coming down from the raw energy comes the ballad “Aftermath”, which ends the first of two plots on the album. A grandiose love song has been present ever since 2009’s “The Resistance” with the electronic tune “Undisclosed Desires” and then again three years later with “Madness”. Here we are one more time with yet another go and it’s one I enjoy. The gospel overtones mix together to create something that is beautiful and lets everyone know love does indeed conquer all.
The second plot continues on with a song called “The Globalist”; it is a sequel to “Citizen Erased” from 2001’s “Origin of Symmetry”. I will put this straight into the favorites pile as well since it is a track that utilizes various rhythms and textures of piano, shredding guitar riffs and haunting choruses changing structure of tempos taking it over the top. At this point the story’s antagonist begins to reflect on his past regarding his actions dwindling on whether or not the main character even has a future left to call his own. If you like big epic rock operas including the “Exogenesis: Symphonies” or “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable/Isolated System”, you’ll surely enjoy this song without further questions.
Now we’ve reached the title track “Drones”, but if you think you know Muse - think again! I know you wouldn’t expect the guys to abandon all their instruments but that’s exactly what they did when experimenting with a capella. It resonates a spooky vibe leaving the record’s concept open ended without any real knowledge about what happens to the situation surrounding its protagonist, so it simply closes in a prayer: Amen!
Strap in and get ready for the ride of your life as you engage in this emotional roller coaster. Muse have sought out to create one of their best albums to date and have proven that not only is their music an absolute work of art, but they are incapable of ever creating a bad record. That deserves a tip of the hat for sure!
Muse will embark on a tour this summer playing at several festivals around Europe and other parts of the world. I am looking forward to seeing them again whenever they hit North America!