Written by: PP on 16/07/2015 21:12:38

After a couple of albums spent experimenting with electronic elements and other oddities, seventh album "Drones" sees Muse return to what they do best: writing timeless rock songs that transcend generations. Prior to its release, the band suggested in interviews that they were looking to return to a sound more akin to their old material during the writing process of "Drones", and that shows throughout the record. It is certainly the most rock oriented album they've written since "Absolution", featuring a guitar-driven sound that is accentuated by a majestic vocal performance by Matthew Bellamy that rivals his best work with the band.

In practice, the above manifests itself in two ways. One, the songs are more down-to-earth, more inclined towards the traditional rock melody much like "Time Is Running Out" back in the day. This means the soundscape has returned from stratospheric levels of songs like "Knights Of Cydonia" and "Uprising" back to a less inflated version, which automatically gives the songs more substance and less unnecessary production values. A good example is "Reapers", which features a quintessential Muse guitar/keyboard duel, and even some background screams to land it as one of the heaviest tracks they have written in a long while. In other words, back to the basics.

Secondly, this allows the band far more room to showcase their pure instrumental talent as these are no longer masked by over-production nor elements of artificial inflation, which has been a problem in the past. "Mercy", for instance, is an instant classic in Muse repertoire, delivered with passionate feelings and featuring Matthew Bellamy at his very best. Here, his immersive voice expands in an enormous soundscape after a signature sound keyboard-infused crescendo as he reaches towards the highest notes, delivering not just an infectious chorus but also a display of simply amazing talent. Considering this is done without autotune live and sounds identical to record, this kind of raw talent is extremely rare these days and probably comes only in once in generation within rock music.

"The Handler" is another quality example. Its soundscape is majestic and far-reaching but still fits more with "Absolution"-era and before rather than the albums that came after it. Old Muse fans will feel right at home here as Bellamy showcases his high notes and the band delivers larger-than-life riffs in the background. It's a much welcome change that restores Muse as one of the key bands within the realm of rock, as true leaders that are able to experiment with their sound ("The 2nd Law" and "The Resistance") without sacrificing the art of writing a conventional rock album for the ages.

Lyrically, "Drones" is a highly politically-charged album, dealing with the dehumanization of modern warfare. Unfortunately the band has gone overboard here in a couple of instances with spoken-word samples of "[drill Sergeant]" and "[JFK]" interrupting the flow of the album and coming across as over-the-top politicization that doesn't really go well with the overall Muse sound. Leave that to the punk bands next time. Moreover, the bombastic opener "Dead Inside" is a little too simplistic to work well, but at least the band wins you back later with tracks like "Revolt", which may feature plenty of pop elements in the mix, but nonetheless land the song home as a winner thanks to another silky Bellamy chorus.

Overall, "Drones" is dominated by content that is designed to fill up stadiums and festival grounds to their maximum limits. To hear Bellamy's voice travel so immersively across the space on record is back chilling in itself, hearing it live is a transcendent experience. Sadly, the album ends up on a low note with the ballad "Aftermath" going nowhere in particular with its orchestral backing, and the ten minute "The Globalist" just being way, way too long for its own good despite featuring some classic Muse elements within. That the song takes four and a half minutes to get started suggests it probably should've been cut into two songs instead, especially because the heavier and faster second part of the song is quite good. "Drones", which closes the album, shouldn't have been on the record at all considering it's basically an operatic a capella track. Still, it's hard to deny the rest of the album. Some of the best Muse songs in more than a decade are on this one, so you'd be a fool not to give it a listen.


Download: Mercy, Reapers, Revolt, The Handler
For the fans of: Queen, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.06.2015
Warner Bros

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