Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
I think it was fair to say that on the first listen to Muse's first single from their new album, Supermassive Black Hole, everyone was a little worried that Devon's best space rock group had lost the plot a little bit and gone a bit mental as they matured to their fourth studio album. Sure, SMBH was good, with the Prince/Franz Ferdinand inspired disco funk combined with Matt Bellamy's falcetto tones, certainly a track that fulfilled Bellamy's promise to release material that "would make girls want to get up and dance", but at the same time fans wondered whether it signalled the end of the epic stadium rock that had been the cornerstone of Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry and Absolution. However, with the release of Black Holes and Revelations, it all becomes clear that any worry that the Muse of old were dead is baseless.
Sure, Muse have matured as a band. Gone are the pianos that were so loved, and most of the thrashy riffs are gone too, but in is the funk and electronica that inspire people to get up and dance where before they would've moshed, yet still maintaining the air guitar lovers' need for the epic guitar solos. This album could well turn out, looking back, to be Muse's magnum opus, where they have matured, like a fine wine, to near–perfection, mixing Soulwax, Franz Ferdinand, Prince and Rage Against the Machine into their influences for a tour–de–force album.
Proceedings begin with Take a Bow (see below for sample), an epic, classic Muse track that settles the nerves of all the doubters who believed that they might have descended into madness and abandoned their former fanbase. But beneath the surface lies a further beat, less a rock drum beat as a disco drum beat that inspires the listener to bop away. This then fades into Starlight, not a classic track but with the classic vocals of Bellamy. It all seems like it's building up to something, something special…
Suddenly, the synth–disco–rock of Supermassive Black Hole kicks in, pulsing away as a completely new sound from Muse's point of view, repetitive lyrics were never the bed of Bellamy's music but they seem to work for this track, one of the strongest of the album but going into perhaps the strongest track on the album, Map of the Problematique, continuing along a similar road of funk–rock, but this is more the Muse we know and love… long, searching vocals but with a dance beat to the back to it, still dancey but with an edge.
At this point, the album gives the listener a breather, helping the transition from the funk–induced, dancefloor–filling Muse to the more epic, stadium–space rock that older fans enjoy. Soldier's Poem and Invincible are both slower songs, breathers, reminiscent of Unintended and with beautiful lyrics. Following this though, a resurgence takes place. Whereas Absolution gave the air-guitar thrashing, moshing Muse fan Hysteria, this album gives them Assassin (see below for sample), a heavy drum beat and thrashy guitars - the Muse we know and love. Following this, Exo-Politics continues onwards, suggestive lyrics, Bellamy's attack on Bush. Everything is wonderful on Exo-Politics, a wonderful, wonderful track, the highlight of the album…
Another transition takes place as the equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome rears its head in the thrashy City of Delusion, giving the transition strength into the climax of the album, which begins in Hoodoo. Hoodoo is a strange track in many ways, it begins as a slow, climactic, beautiful, string-induced sojourn into Bellamy's mind, before springing to life with a heavy end as a prelude to the epic finale. Knights of Cydonia (see below for sample) begins with the sound of hooves (presumably the four knights - the Horsemen of the Apocalypse), and then transforms into a pressing, searching track not heard from Muse since the likes of New Born - and that is the only track that can really compete with Knights of Cydonia for the kind of wonderful sound that completes the album. Pushes Exo-Politics right to the wire as best track of the album, with a wonderful sound that lends itself only to a last track or a first track.
All through the album, Bellamy's lyrics supplement the sounds beautifully. On Knights of Cydonia (Cydonia is a reference to the area of Mars where many believe there used to be life, and presumably the Knights refer to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), Bellamy screams "No one's gonna take me alive, the time has come to make things right, you and I must fight for our rights, you and I must fight to survive" in a way that will almost definitely fill dancefloors soon enough, building to a crescendo and the end of a superb album. Supermassive.
Black Holes and Revelations is released in the UK on July 3rd and the US on July 11th.
8.5 out of 10
- July 2nd – Eurockeennes de Belfort, Belfort
- July 7th – Stockholms Stadion, Stockholm
- July 8th – Quart Festival, Kristiansand
From July 18th onwards, Muse begin a US tour, but return for the UK stadium season:
- August 24th – T on The Fringe, Edinburgh
- August 26th – Reading Festival, Reading
- August 27th – Leeds Festival, Leeds
Black Holes and Revelations is released on Monday, July 3rd in the UK.
MP3 Expired Take a Bow
MP3 Expired Assassin
MP3 Expired Knights of Cydonia
NME are currently hosting all of Black Holes and Revelations for streaming here