Review: Drones, Muse

Muse Drones

Muse’s seventh studio album, Drones was released this week and it heralds a back-to-basics sound for the band. However, it’s a concept album. This should strike fear into the hearts of fans everywhere because the concept album is incredibly difficult to pull off.

The album itself is an expectedly bombastic affair with themes including drone warfare, the end of the world, government conspiracy and state control. It is told from the perspective of a man who loses his humanity, is brainwashed and turned into a drone by the ‘psycho’ before eventually defecting, revolting and overcoming the enemy. Y’know, the regular Muse topics.

The musical experimentation has been stripped back to a more basic guitar, bass, drums with supporting keys and synths rather than the orchestral and electronic elements that have been pushed to the fore on the last two albums. The tone of the album is somewhere between Absolution and The Resistance with some throwback riffs to Origin of Symmetry.

It never fails to amaze how popular Muse are for being a band that makes such heavy and progressive music. This album sweeps through all tempos and tones from the almost poppy numbers like ‘Dead Inside’, ‘Reapers’, ‘Defector’ and especially ‘Revolt’ through the heavy and nasty ‘Psycho’ past the oppressive ‘Mercy’ ‘The Handler’ to the calm ‘Aftermath’. Muse have such talent that even the general public recognise it and buy their albums in droves. The only other contemporary band with that kind of following is the Foo Fighters, who have some punishingly hard songs for such a popular band.

The last two songs on the album are the most progressive. ‘The Globalist’ is a 10 minute epic that, at first, wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. It even features an Ennio Morricone  style whistle. It then morphs into a kind of bond theme before exploding in a rumble of distorted guitars and pounding drums before slowing down to just piano and vocals reminiscent of Absolution-era Muse with a bit of Queen thrown in. The song never loses a sense of being one single entity though. It even morphs into a choral number – the title track – to close the album out. It sounds like a hymn being sung by either all three members of the band or multiple takes of Matt Bellamy, ether way, it’s quite the final 14 minutes and actually finishes with an ‘amen’.

I’m not entirely convinced the concept stands up, with some of the lyrics being a bit ‘on the nose’, but it’s certainly not the worst concept album of all time. Plus, what the lyrics lack in depth – in some places – the scale of the music makes up for it.

This is Muse dialling it back! Muse is a band with more range on each album than 20 regular bands  manage in their whole careers and, while they may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no doubt that they are unique.

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