Album Review: Muse – Drones

Muse Drones

Muse finally released their seventh studio album Drones this week after months of releasing individual singles – six to be exact.

Fully, it’s 12 (let’s just call it 10) songs are not as inventive as 2012’s  The 2nd Law but is certainly awash with Matthew Bellamy’s soaring vocals and guitar chords, Chris Wolstenholme’s thumping bass and is just about everything you’ve come to expect from Muse. It’s arena rock in some areas, keyboard heavy in others, a touch of pop in one and a couple of surprises in some.

Muse is not shying away from their political commentary either as Drones gives plenty of discourse starting with the album cover clearly illustrating mind control. It’s a concept album they pull off well because what else could it be once you hear what’s inside?

Drones starts off with “Dead Inside” which is such a Muse song complete with Dominic Howard’s catchy drum beat, the heavy background electronics and Bellamy’s vocal work. It really picks up musically just after the 2:30 mark with a great keyboard driving melody.

The second “song” is just the intro to “Psycho” called “Drill Sergeant” which is exactly that as a faux 21-second recording begins with a drill sergeant berating his subordinate before leading into “Psycho.” The heavy guitar chords propel this song but the drill sergeant makes several unnecessary additional appearances that only serves to interrupt. Leave it to the listener to decide what the band is trying to convey here but on the surface it seems they have little love for the military with lyrics like these I’m gonna make you/I’m gonna break you/I’m gonna make you/Your ass belongs to me now.

But seriously if you can get past the foul-mouth drill sergeant and whatever they’re trying to say politically it’s a fun song with a great beat that begs for high volume.

“Mercy” softens the tone quite a bit but still brings those strong Muse guitar chords. You can really get a listen to what a great singer Bellamy is here. His range covers the gamut dropping to some lower bass through his tenor and what can is now only be considered his signature alto. It’s pretty hard to mistake Bellamy for anyone else in rock and he’s phenomenal behind the mic. He sounds classically trained but whatever the case, he is definitely a vocalist’s vocalist.

“Reapers” is a prog rock fans dream. Though the band generally, and this song in particular, relies heavily on electronics, which is not necessarily the main ingredient in most progressive rock songs, it’s got guitars and a whole mess of time signature changes. Then midway through, the guitar solo goes on for 40 seconds and is accompanied by an awesome bass. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be surprising if you heard it on a Dream Theater album.

Oh, the song is also six minutes the longest of the bunch, (except for the 10 minute plus “The Globalist” which truth be told won’t be reviewed because I don’t get premium Spotify. Lame, I know.) “Reapers” has got so much going on musically it requires multiple listens just to catch it all. So play it again. It’s one of the album’s best.

“The Handler” continues the strong guitar influences, starts off a bit slow with heavy chording but then picks up again at the two and half minute mark and takes off from there. Song seven, “JFK,” is a speech from John F Kennedy which like “Drill Sergeant” leads into the next song “Defector” letting the band tap into their inner-Queen (yes, the band).

If there’s such thing as an upbeat Muse song it’s, despite the name, “Revolt.” Even the lyrics are encouraging, You’ve got strength/You’ve got soul/You’ve felt pain/You’ve felt love/You can grow/You can make this world what you want. Who would have thought to throw on a Muse song to get out of a depressive funk? It’s got some pop a bit of pep so it just might make it on feel-good radio.

“Aftermath” is the most non-Muse song on the album and perhaps of their career. With a guitar chord sounding like U2’s “One” at the start, the song is slow but melodious, beautiful and emotional. It’s an interesting twist in their catalog and you know what, it fits well. The high-noted guitar solo just prior to the three and a half minute mark, though short, is rather enchanting.

Oops, in yet another even more non-Muse song, the title track closes out the album and is basically bizarre monk-like chanting for nearly three minutes. OK, okay, it’s now clearly a concept album because this totally has something to do with mind control which seems to be the overarching theme of the album but skip it entirely. It’s dumb. Just dumb.

If you’ve seen Muse live then just by listening to this album what the band does normally on stage is right up front and center and Drones is ready for the tour. It’s almost impossible to not visualize the strobes and the vast amount of lighting effects then subconsciously squint only to realize you’re at home. Hmm, sounds like mind control or maybe it’s just predictable.

Overall, Drones is a decent effort, not their best but like most of their albums, with each listen it’ll probably get better. So for now…

Grade: B-

Drones Track List:

  1. Dead Inside
  2. Drill Sergeant
  3. Psycho
  4. Mercy
  5. Reapers
  6. The Handler
  7. JFK
  8. Defector
  9. Revolt
  10. Aftermath
  11. The Globalist
  12. Drones

Written By: AndrewT