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Muse - Black Holes & Revelations

Muse, Black Holes and Revelations

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

MUSE don’t do things by half measures. Their music almost always contains an epic, operatic quality that plays out on the grandest scale.

Latest album, Black Holes & Revelations is a classic case in point – a towering achievement that aims high and excels in just about everything it does. If you thought 2003’s Absolution was great, wait ‘til you get a load of this!

The album has already been preceded by the release of the single, Supermassive Black Hole, a marked departure for the band that quite possibly represents one of the most irresistible singles of the year.

With its crunching guitar riffs and surprising falsetto vocals, this beefed-up slice of disco funk was a mighty record that effortlessly combines elements of sleazy glamrock-dance with a truly distinct guitar hook and some powerhouse dance-floor beats.

Vocally, there’s also plenty going on – Matt Bellamy’s lead vocals sounding strangely reminiscent to Wonderland-era Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, combined with some Beach Boys style melodies and even some Goth-style screaming late on.

Any die-hard Muse fans concerned that this different approach may spell disaster will be reassured to hear the more distinctive sound of Bellamy’s aching vocals intact for album opener, Take A Bow, a slow-burner that unfolds with all the theatrics we have come to expect.

But the album really kickstarts into life with second track, Starlight, courtesy of a driving bassline and some New Order style synths that infuse it with a really upbeat vibe. The track is a strong contender for a future single and is busy and energetic enough to fill any dance-floor (complete with a rocking chorus).

Elsewhere, the album is filled with similarly ambitious moments as well as a more electronic, 80s-based sound than in previous efforts.

Map Of the Problematique contains an electronic intro that recalls memories of Depeche Mode’s glorious Enjoy The Silence before dropping some rousing drums and another scintillating set of vocals from Bellamy.

But it’s neatly offset by the melancholy, tender acoustic guitar that eases the listener into the poignant Soldier’s Poem, a bitter lament at the state of the world that finds the band at their most political and biting – “how could you send us so far away from home, when you know damn well that this is wrong”.

The backing vocals recall memories of Queen, circa Bohemian Rhapsody, only much less epic and, quite possibly, the shortest record on the album.

The pace changes again for the full-on guitar assault that is Assassin, another political rant that uses its driving, borderline-metal guitars and intense drum loops to sound a rallying call to “destroy democracy” and “Aim, shoot your leaders”.

Further highlights come in the form of the inspiring Invincible – with its “don’t be afraid of what your mind conceives… stand up for what you believe” philosophy.

And the epic, strings-laden City of Delusion, a track that really finds Muse in full swagger and really letting loose on the full scope of their unbridled ambition.

Final track, Knights of Cydonia brings things to a formidable close, almost cinematically in fact, to draw things to a close just as impressively as they started.

Throughout, however, you can’t fail to be struck with Muse’s ingenuity – they have crafted a sound that draws on the greats (Queen, Radiohead, Beck) while retaining an identity that could only be their own. The guitars are crisp, expansive and exciting, while the vocals as memorable as ever.

With Black Holes & Revelations, Muse only seem to be getting better and better. It’s a quite staggering achievement and easily one of the best releases of the year. Do not miss out!

Track listing:

  1. Take A Bow
  2. Starlight
  3. Supermassive Black Hole
  4. Map Of The Problematique
  5. Soldier’s Poem
  6. Invincible
  7. Assassin
  8. Exopolitics
  9. City Of Delusion
  10. Hoodoo
  11. Knights Of Cydonia