British rock trio Muse are about to release their highly-anticipated seventh studio album Drones. Singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy has even been hyping it himself… making a few bold statements and putting a lot of his faith in the project. Even claiming they would be going back to their rock n’ roll roots (less orchestration).
So how does it pan out?
Drones is definitely the strangest Muse album, in the sense that it’s the most eclectic and perhaps the biggest leap in style. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. But it is quite strange.
The first two things that will catch most people is, 1) The overwhelming military theme, and 2) the fact that in a 12-track lineup, two of those tracks are quick sound bytes leading into the next song. So we really just have 10 songs, making it Muse’s shortest release to date. There also seems to be the bare minimum of synthesizers this time around.
I think most of us could do without the anit-military sentiment in most of the songs, and definitely without the word “drones” all over the place. But moving on from that, you’ll notice the whole album plays like a musical. Singalong style choruses (very Sunday-worship-ish), Queen-like harmonies, and straight-forward declarative lyrics give a sense that the listening is being moved along through a storyline.
Here’s a short run-through:
- “Dead Inside” slams, and has a very similar feel to “Panic Station” from their previous album The 2nd Law.
- The music in “Psycho” absolutely reminds me of 2001-2004 era Muse with it’s gritty, heavy riffs. More military lyrics though. Yawn to that.
- “Mercy” is a fine song, although a little too close to 2006’s “Starlight” by my ears.
- “Reapers” comes out of the gate like a Van Halen tribute song. Big fast guitars and a chorus that will probably make it a radio hit in the next few weeks. This is a fun track, minus hearing the word “drones” more times.
- “The Handler”… probably the best song on this outing. Heavy, with really cool riffs in both the guitar and bass. All about that bass (and the wailing Bellamy falsetto). This, of course, before launching into a middle section that is a proper mix between their 2004 song “Stockholm Syndrome” and the soundtrack to a Castlevania video game.
- “Defector” is a musical-ish sort of rock tune, chalk full of Queen-like harmonies and guitar lines.
- “Revolt” has such an uplifting chorus that I thought it was a joke at first. It just screams “musical”. You know, that part where the main character down on his luck, then is lifted up by all his buddies and motivated to go win the day. That part.
- “Aftermath” is a strikingly simple and beautiful song. Like in a good Celine Dion kind of way. I know that sounds weird.
- “The Globalist”, the 10-minute behemoth near the end of the album, definitely makes me feel like I should be watching choruses of people on a stage acting it out. The piece (yes, I’m going to call it a piece) goes through so many changes and styles. It even has a whole middle section that turns almost epic metal before it gives in and lightens up.
- “Drones” (shocking), the final track, is actually a really gorgeous all-Bellamy church choir arrangement of just his voice, singing about being killed by drones.
Bottom Line: Matthew Bellamy claimed in an interview recently that Drones was the best album that Muse has ever made, and the rest of their work could be basically ignored for this one collection of songs. Well, neither of those statements is even remotely true. That being said, Drones is a cool listen for when you want something a little different. I only wish the lyrics were written with more thought to them, and I wish they stayed away from so much anti-military fire. Other than that, you just might find yourself hitting play again.
Songs to check out: “Dead Inside”, “Reapers”, “The Handler”, “The Globalist”