English rock mega group Muse have been on the scene for just over twenty years now; since the release of their debut album Showbiz in 1999 we’ve been given new material every two or three years. Their beginnings explored a sharp and edgy rock vibe, often earning them comparisons to fellow UK rockers Radiohead, right up until 2006’s Blackholes and Revelations; The Resistance (2009) and The 2nd Law (2012) saw Muse adapt to a more theatrical stance, with elements of their old selves thrown in here and there. It’s been three years and the group has returned with their seventh studio album Drones: it has been described by lead singer Matt Bellamy as their ‘best album’, but only the ears will tell. Muse teamed up with Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard) to produce the album.
Drones is a concept album, it begins with loss of hope leading to its character lacking in empathy/humanity, before finding a resolution. Lead single Dead Inside kicks off this concept quite well: lyrically the protagonist confronts his oppressor, only to give in to the dark forces; it’s possibly the highlight of the album. It’s like Muse drew inspiration from some of their previous work and rewrote it into one memorable number. Allowing himself to be shaped and moulded, the advocate turns to the military to become a Psycho, the first song to be teased saw the group return to heavy guitar riffs and gripping choruses. Mercy sees the fallen character realise he’s become something/someone else, this is the most mainstream the album gets (with Muse, this isn’t a bad thing), Bellamy belts out the lyrics in desperation. Reapers marks the start of an internal war, with its fast paced and powerful verses to its climactic choruses. The Handler is an empowering force: at this point the protagonist has realised the extent of his oppressor’s power and no longer wants to be a part of it, screaming out ‘I must disassociate from you’.
Defector becomes the oppressor’s undoing in true Muse style, the chorus kicks things off with its punchy hook and vocal layers; Muse often write about self empowerment, so Defector can be welcomed into the Muse family with open arms. Revolt identifies the woes of the current predicament but the chorus reassures the protagonist they can fight and ‘revolt’: it’s one of the catchiest tracks on Drones. The character sees the light, Aftermath reintroduces him to human empathy and seeks to fulfil his need of comfort, it is a slow track much like their songs Soldier’s Poem or Invincible. Left with practically nothing after his journey, the whopping ten minute track The Globalist states that he was left ‘unprotected’ and was easy prey, except now he has the chance to start over; it begins as a ballad and introduces some rock elements, ten minutes may have been a stretch. Drones is the final chapter, a haunting ballad written in the form of a prayer: it takes a few listens to follow the lyrics but you get caught in the sad moment.
Muse have done it again, not that anybody really had a doubt; Drones has a followable, understandable and even a relatable concept, and hardcore fans can thank them for their early career influences. Matt Bellamy stated that due to the symphonies/classical elements present on their last two albums it became harder to perform them live, so they went back to basics. As with most albums, there are tracks that may dumb down the initial vibe, with Drones these tracks didn’t appear until the final moments as they served to wrap up the concept; this album is solidified, one of Muse’s strongest releases since Blackholes and Revelations. Renowned for their stunning and captivating live shows, it will be interesting to see Drones on stage; in the meantime, you’ll enjoy spinning the album again and again. Without hesitation we can say that Drones is one of the best releases of 2015.