Sound — 7
After finally breaking into America the hard way (touring the wheels clean off their tour buses) Muse took some time to carefully consider their next endeavor into the dog-eat-dog world of pop rock music today. The result is simultaneously triumphant and unfortunate. See, despite the Radiohead copy accusations surrounding Muse for the first two albums they remained a creative tour de force of music. Sure Matt's lyrics and voice weren't fully developed yet but the band created uncompromising epics that fit into normal 'pop' song lengths. Each moment of each album was a feat of guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, vocals and piano. It's the complexity and power of classical, with the energy of heavy metal and the movement of punk. Absolution saw them perfect this sound on Hysteria and Stockholm Syndrome, while also concentrating on condensing into a more digestible form. Black Holes jumps out of this mold, and while the epic intentions remain their often intentionally held back at risk of seeming boundlessly bombastic. A new dance-rock Muse emerges at several points, and a new obsession with syths makes itself felt. This is Muse thrashing about, spreading the arch of their musical talents in an attempt to find new ground. The downside is sometime it doesn't work (Take A Bow is very eh, Supermassive Black Hole almost seems like a bad joke, Soldiers Poem goes nowhere), the upside is that it opens new doors; doors best represented by the lovely Starlight, punchyness of Map of the Problematique, or the Spanish-inspired City of Delusion and HooDoo. The band also manages to whip up one of their classic anthems here: Knights of Cydonia: six minutes and six seconds of absurdly overwhelming, exceptionally bombastic, bliss.
Lyrics — 7
Matt's vocal abilities have never been stronger and when he really chooses to think it over neither has his ability to stir up powerful words. Take a Bow, while musically a build up to nothing, is a lyrical punch in the gut; Starlight is touching and makes an excellent sing-along; Map Of The Problematique a feat of lyrical brilliance, and City of Delusion shoots successfully for the stars. Soldiers Poem too, is a touching in words, though the vocals are a little overdone considering the nature of the balled. The rest of the album alternates incredibly brilliant lines with pointless fluff like "together we're invincible". Sure it's all delivered with such powerful conviction but aren't such lines terribly adolescent for a band now moving into their late '20s? Of course this section's rating is balanced out by Matt being probably one of the ten greatest singers I've ever heard.
Overall Impression — 8
As an album there's no doubt that Black Holes And Revelations is a great one; head and shoulders above most of it's competition in todays rather stagnant music scene; however, for a Muse album it's rather weak, perhaps their weakest. Don't fret over my saying so though, BH&R still has several Muse classics on it and it signals the first huge step off the path down which they originally charged. If they're willing to keep pushing their boundaries and return to ignoring anyone who's not a fan (critics often dissed on Origin of Symmetry but any true Muse fan will tell you it's their best) they'll push the 3-4 minute 'pop' rock song format so far beyond it's breaking point that they might well invent a new genre. That's what Black Holes And Revelations really is for Muse, it's a huge step in every direction at once, and such risking taking is going to cause some failures, but if the successes like Hoodoo, City Of Delusion and Map Of The Problematique are any indication they might well be on the edge of a huge breakthrough.