ARTIST: MUSE

TITLE: SIMULATION THEORY

LABEL: WARNER

RATING: 8/10 

WORDS: ZAK SLOMAN

Having brought out seven albums over an almost 20-year period, Muse have become known as an outfit unafraid to take risks in regards to their sound, even at the possibility of alienating their fan base.

Whether it was with the Radiohead-esque compositions of 1999 debut ‘Showbiz’, symphonic progression of 2009’s ‘The Resistance’, or the more straightforward rock of 2015 concept offering ‘Drones’, the band have always aimed to try something new with each release, and ‘Simulation Theory’, the eighth album from the Devon trio, is no exception.

This time around, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard have opted to produce what has to be their most diverse collection of tracks to date, lyrically centered around the theme of simulation and the idea of “fantasy becoming real”.

“their most diverse collection of tracks to date, lyrically centered around the theme of simulation and the idea of “fantasy becoming real”.”

Algorithm’ opens proceedings with an effective, dramatic blend of classical piano, synths that transport you to the set of a dystopian 1980’s sci-fi, and a vocal delivery that is able to reach the high notes with relative ease. The influence of a decade that brought us shoulder pads and the Rubik’s Cube is also evident in ‘The Dark Side’, a haunting synth-electro-rock number dealing with the collective’s recurring themes of frustration and loneliness. With the inclusion of a guitar riff that could have been performed by Brian May, this, in time, could become a fan favourite.

Pressure’ diverts from the synth-dominated sound that we have become accustomed to, being mainly comprised of a power-pop rhythm featuring several interchanging riffs, providing a background for Matt to sing about the pressure he has felt on multiple occasions to just basically re-hash Muse’s greatest hits. The band then decide to reflect the currently much-discussed topic of “fake news” with ‘Propaganda’, criticising that and what they deem to be the brainwashing of the public by the biased beliefs of mass media, accompanied with a drawing out of the song’s title with just instruments and music, and a vocal delivery that the late Prince would have been proud of.

There’s more vocal experimentation on ‘Break It To Me’, with little bursts of rap and distortion, which perfectly suits the track’s musical mix of Eastern melodies, an R n’ B drum beat, and Rage Against The Machine-style riffs. Folk rock-inspired ‘Something Human’ has to be the most personal number of the whole album, a description of the exhaustion and homesickness the trio all experienced as their last world tour was drawing to a close, and a collective desire to get back home and spend time with their loved ones, done in a tender, down-to-earth way.

an effective showcase for the vast musical intelligence that Muse now possess

In complete contrast, ‘Thought Contagion’ is a pure anthem, full of arena-oriented sounds and synths, accompanied by lyrics that deal with feelings that can be affected by other people’s false beliefs.

Get Up And Fight’ sees Muse cover new musical ground with a rather poppy sound, however, the lyrics are anything but that, as they almost act as a battle cry for people to stand up and make themselves heard in the current volatile worldwide political climate, something the band touch upon again with ‘Dig Down’, which includes a thinly-veiled dig at US President Donald Trump. Bringing the album full circle is closer ‘The Void’, which sees a return to the synth-laden sound that dominated the opening two tracks.

Overall, ‘Simulation Theory’ acts as an effective showcase for the vast musical intelligence that Muse now possess, which can only really be gathered through immense talent, and expertise that has been accumulated over the lengthy period of much critical and commercial success the trio have all enjoyed. Basically, if you’re expecting an offering that sees the band going over familiar ground, then prepare to be very disappointed.

 

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