If you asked me six years ago to name a band that at this time would seem about to take over the world I really don't think Muse would have even been in my top 50 choices. Then they had just released the very Radiohead sounding Showbiz and seemed almost destined to spend their career being compared to the Oxford based supergroup. Then in 2001 they came out with Origin of Symmetry and it seemed like a completely different band, gone were the slow miserable songs and in came this adventurous bombastic sound full of OTT headfuck guitar riffs and an almost gleeful will to be as big as they could. Absolution seemed to refine that sound and all of a sudden they were everywhere. So when details started to emerge about this, their fourth studio album (fifth album overall if you include the b-side collection Hullabaloo Soundtrack) and everyone was talking about it you knew it was going to be special.
Black Holes and Revelations is probably going to be the silliest album title of the year, but then Muse have never been a band to deal in subtlety. The album kicks off with "Take a Bow," which sounds like something out of a Flash Gordon serial. Its somewhat familiar keyboard intro and Matt Bellamy's frankly bonkers nonsense lyrics build up throughout the track as the guitars and drums slowly creep up on you until you find yourself being dragged into the music just waiting for what is going to come next. Of course it leads you into the next track, "Starlight," and you are hooked. "Starlight" is all about the hypnotic bass of Chris Wolstenholme under a soaring piano with Bellamy's vocals tying it all together.
Lead single "Supermassive Black Hole" is quite a shock, what with Bellamy singing in falsetto, but it is probably the best choice for a single as it is such a head turner. Mixing a chunky bassline with Bellamy's driving understated guitar to create something of a dirty accompaniment for the silly lyrics in that voice. Following it with probably the best song on the album, "Map of Problematique," is just ingenious. I wouldn't want to try and describe this song for you, I just couldn't do it justice.
The one problem with Muse has always been Bellamy's lyrics, and here that is no different, However when the band can mask that weakness with a sound that mixes Queen with one to many Sci-fi movie soundtrack you really don't notice the sheer absurdity of lines like "Glaciers melt in the dead of night/ And superstars sucked into the supermassive".
The album finally slows for "Soldier's Poem", which hits the quota of every album released this year having at least one song that touches on the current world climate and also allows Muse to pretend to be Queen once more with harmonies that seem to have been lifted pitch perfect from Freddie Mercury. However this doesn't last long as by "Assassin" the album is back to it's off the kilter pace.
"Exo-Politics" is a doozy of a song. It starts slowly and belongs once again to how tight this band are. The rhythm section holds things together so that Bellamy can take his guitar wherever he likes, including a fantastic, if a little short, little solo and some fizzes that come out of nowhere unexpectedly. The huge choruses seem to be designed for the live environment when singing along will not be an option but something you cannot help but do.
By the time "Knights Of Cydonia" brings the whole pompous affair to an end with it's overblown histrionics and driving forceful instrumentation you'll find yourself pressing play all over again. It's just so damn good. Black Holes and Revelations is a monster of an album, with so many hidden depths and it may just be the best album Muse will ever create. It's certainly the best album so far this year and I really can't see any band coming close to crafting anything this flawless for quite a few years. Yes it's a pompous, pretentious album filled with an arrogance that comes from knowing you are as good as you claim, but that's what makes it so good.
9.9 / 10
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