Drones review by Muse

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  • Released: Jun 5, 2015
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.1 (145 votes)
Muse: Drones
7

Sound — 9
Having previously released one of my favorite albums of 2012 ("The 2nd Law," a nod to the thermodynamic principle that in a closed system neither receiving nor losing energy from an outside source, said system will become increasingly disorganized over time until there is a uniform distribution of energy and work can no longer be done), Muse is back to win my heart again in 2015 with their 7th studio album, "Drones."

"Drones" provides even more of the same Queen-meets-Radiohead Brit-prog as before, though interestingly foregoing some of the more electronic elements from the previous album. I may have thought this forfeiture of overt variety might hinder the album's impact and intrigue; but though the result seems almost less varied, they manage to keep things fresh even without incorporating more varied styles into their songwriting.

As such, "Drones" initially feels to be a more focused, congruent album overall than "The 2nd Law," doling out fantastic riffs, searing leads, and soaring melodies left and right while maintaining a very solid, impressive structure of hard-grooving, hard-hitting hard-rock.

Matthew Bellamy's voice is as it ever was, and with a rich vibrato and strong emotional presence, he belts out huge choruses and and falsetto verse melodies impressively over the course of the first eight tracks (not including the two "intermission" like tracks, "[Drill Sargeant]" and "[JFK]"), and even providing a fantastic final two-minutes and forty-nine seconds of rich, choir-like melodies reminiscent of the way A Perfect Circle concluded their 2004 release "eMotive" with a rich, layere, vocal-harmony solo-delivery of Joni Mitchell's "The Fiddle and the Drum." This closing track, the titular "Drones," is a fantastic showcase of Bellamy's vocal talent and compositional competence, and is a relaxing and wonderful way to close an otherwise rhythmically-powerful, hard-rocking record.

Other stand-out tracks for me include "Reapers" and "The Handler," tracks #5 & #6, which are my personal favorite tracks on the album as of writing.

"Reapers" features a fantastic main riff which makes use of a tapping lick rather reminiscent of Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," some wonderful, heavy, fantastically driving single-note riffs leading into and rocking underneath the chorus, as well as an awesome guitar solo from Bellamy, which makes frequent use of a whammy pedal throughout in a very Tom Morello-like way in order to shift his leads up and down, adding an extra dimension to Bellamy's trademark buzz-saw lead tone and expanding the licks, tones, and phrases into exciting places.

"The Handler" features a heavy, slow-burning groove, punctuated by Dominic Howard's drum beats. The melody is typical Muse, contrasting heavily with the the heavy, driving beat of the drums and the carrying pulse of the guitar and bass, with Bellamy providing a dreamy vocal scape to frame the choral synths and gritty bass tone with echoing falsettos and emotive vibrato. The bridge shifts the song into double-time, as if the song found itself beset by a predator and suddenly sprinting for its life, with a tense hammer-on lick reminiscent of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," for lack of a more tonally appropriate comparison.

The production is very clean, smooth, and deep, and the composition is full, interesting, and very well-done. Listening intently through headphones without distraction is almost a totally different experience from listening in the car while driving, or as the soundtrack to a web-surfing session. Listening more closely reveals a lot more neat little details in the recording, much like MCR's "The Black Parade." There's a lot of cool stuff going on, with the guitar often playing backseat to the other instruments and providing textures and quiet accompaniment usually reserved for a synthesizer, and these details could be missed if you're not paying close enough attention to the recording.

The guitar tones are rich, the drums are succinct and punchy (though perhaps lacking a touch in terms of the weight behind the punch), and the bass is situated firmly in a supporting role between the drums and guitars, working to carry the rhythm with the drums while helping the guitar to provide a firm base for the keyboards and vocals. There are some great tones on this album, from the gritty, fuzzy bass tones on "Dead Inside" to the AWESOME octave-fuzz guitar tones on "Mercy," the full, reverb soaked call-and-answer of the slow, calm guitar-work on "The Globalist," and the searing, floopy (for lack of a better term) sounds of the whammy pedal during the fantastic guitar solo on "Reapers."

Muse's sound on this new album is altogether a bit more focused than their last release, and though I have yet to decide, that solidarity of tone and style may end up making the record stick more firmly in the memory of its listeners as a whole, rather than as a few singles and "that dubstep track," as "The 2nd Law" did.

Lyrics — 8
Imagine if "1984" were written by somebody with a bigger interest in exploring the human side of things rather than illustrating the frightening implications of allowing governments too much control over their citizens.

That's the impression I get from the lyrics in general. It's hard for me to speak very specifically on them, because everyone might interpret them a little differently, or some people might not understand potential allusions, or maybe the songs are meant to tell a story, or maybe they're not all connected, or maybe they're not in chronological order, or SOMETHING, but that makes it difficult to say, really.

The lyrics here are competent. There is emotion, there is some slight narrative, and the rhyme and rhythm aren't so lazy that it has the impression of being trite or cliché.

Overall Impression — 8
Compared to Muse's past efforts (that I'm familiar with), "Drones" is a *very* competent offering. The tracks are fairly distinct, interesting, fun to listen to, and well-composed. The lyrics are great and worth reading along while you listen if you can't make them out well enough on your own in order to more fully realize the pieces.

My personal favorite, stand-out tracks, what I think to be the best representations of what this album offers, and the tracks I would share with a friend in order to convince them to purchase the album are "Reapers," "The Handler," "Dead Inside," and the fantastic a-capella closer, "Drones."

I love Muse's musical identity here. They build these rich soundscapes over simple, driving riffs, and hammer home the emotions and grooves by opening them up into huge, soaring choruses.

Muse is like the musical blend of Queen, Radiohead, and Daft Punk, and they rock just as hard as that makes it sound like they do.

If I lost this album, I would buy it again in a heartbeat. My only problem with the CD is the small, hard-paper case is a square with a side length only about as long as the diameter of the CD, so if you put it on a shelf with the rest of your CD collection, the edge will be sunk in around a half-an-inch compared to the full-size jewel-cases on either side of it and difficult to read.

Any fans of Muse would do well to pick this one up, as would any fan of broody, hard-rocking alternative, or driving arena rock. Muse really put in a great effort with this disc, and it's a great showcase of their collective talent, and of their performing and songwriting abilities.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    MilDosmil
    Mentioning Radiohead whenever reviewing Muse's material is old and irrelevant. Don't be Pitchfork, don't compare everything to Radiohead just because.
    travislausch
    I think it's a good album if you're okay with the musical direction Muse has taken on the last couple records but yearned for a bit more guitar. It's not going to appease the fans who want another Absolution or Origin Of Symmetry, but it might win back a few fans who loved everything except The 2nd Law. And the drill instructor dude's dialogue was very cringe-worthy.
    tradiohead15
    Muse was one of the most amazing bands i ever met. But know, they are not really amazing.
    farkasvolgyikol
    I now
    RobFlynn_RSA
    Muse is for intelligent people... which you clearly are not.
    Baby Joel
    I would contend that there is very little music aimed specifically at intelligent people. I don't know how intellect and music relate in a way you've suggested
    RobFlynn_RSA
    Just ask all the Tool fans out there
    EpiExplorer
    Tool is like, bare-bones basic shit though.
    Artifracture
    You're right, writing a song based on the Fibonacci sequence is bare bones basic shit.
    Baby Joel
    what does it accomplish though? Yeah it's cool that it does a maths thing, but it's ceases to be maths as soon as it is music.
    Artifracture
    Music and math are deeply connected. You play guitar, yes? Surely you have some sense of this.
    Baby Joel
    saying that music = math is like saying literature is math. Or paintings are math. Or photos are math. Or films are math. Just because it can be related to math doesn't mean that it is math. Just because Lateralus uses the fibonacci sequence, it's not math. It's music. Maybe it's about math, but it isn't maths itself
    Artifracture
    I didn't say music = math, I said they are deeply connected. You cannot have music without math. All Tool does is take that connection to the next level, which I find to be much more groundbreaking than anything Muse has ever done or attempted to do, for the record. Muse makes pop music (usually quite well, with recent exceptions). Tool makes music that transcends categorization.
    Baby Joel
    Fair enough, I can get with that. I think I misinterpreted what you had said.
    MaXiMuse
    [quote=UG TEAM]"Psycho," would fit on something like "Origin of Symmetry" if it had a production overhaul[/quote] Production overhaul? I think they meant complete change of composition-style. I think Hyper Music is the 'simplest' song of OoS but still far better than Psycho if you ask me.
    sloppyjoe24
    The music and production, in my opinion, is actually pretty solid. It's the concept and lyrics that make me cringe.
    symmetryerased
    Muse used to be my favorite band. I understand the hate due to its horribad lyrics but I think its their somewhat best effort since BHaR.
    Denwylde
    The handler is the best song muse had for a long time, that and reapers for me make the album worth buying, the rest takes a few listens to get into but a good album 8/10
    jeretx2
    Honestly, this album isn't a 7.6/10. I could maybe see 5.7/10? I sat and listened to the entire album and nothing stood out to me. Sounded very weak. I'm very surprised you guys rated this album higher than The 2nd Law. That album had power! Drones, on the other hand, does not.
    K!!LsWiTcH
    can you honestly discern the quality of an album down to non rounded decimals? did part of you say maybe its a 5.8 and then decide it was actually .1 less vague, nondescript quality?
    ninjamo
    I actually kind of like it; maybe because I was expecting it to suck balls like Resistance and 2nd Law. It doesn't capture the emotion of "the first four", but I've pretty much accepted the fact that nothing they'll make ever will.
    LightxGrenade
    Like with almost all other Muse albums, I found a handful of songs I enjoy and the rest is not my cup of tea. But in all honesty, that's not really a bad thing. Save for a few particularly incredible albums, I rarely find an album where I like even 1/2 of the songs. I don't think this album will be in discussion for album of the year or anything though, just a average to slightly above average release in my opinion.
    jnfeaste
    I love muse, but this just feels like a product of them trying too hard. While I wasn't fan of the 2nd Law's direction, it was all together a stronger album. This album has even worse ADD then the last and the lyrics have fallen short. I'll keep BHaR and Absolution in rotation though.
    blooddrunk
    Awful crap. Further proof theyve started believing in their own hype. this album is offensively smug and boring.
    Karlsteel
    Listened to it, was bored by it, probably never listen to it again. It'll be forgotten about fairly quickly, and people will just remember it as "that one with the shit cover".
    capcocoapig
    I don't know, love Muse to death, ALL of their albums, not just OoS and Absolution like every other dork out there, and while this was a solid album as whole, nothing stood out. It was disappointing after having owned it for several months but not at the moment of release.
    cliff_em_all
    I know most people will say "But what about the music maaaannnn" but my word, that cover art is awful.
    lg187
    The title track is weak, theres no instruments and just layers of vocals. Then there's two dialogue tracks which gives the album 9 ACTUAL songs. We have Dead Inside which is good overall but the intro and outro is horrid imo. Standouts for me and Defector (why is this one not getting enough love?), Revolt, Mercy and Reapers. The only other ones I dig are The Handler and Dead Inside, the rest of the album had nothing stick out to me at all. The Globalist and Aftermath are some of the worse Muse songs I've ever heard
    Satyendra
    Hero of War by Rise Against also has strong lyrics that tell the story of a scarred war veteran. I feel one of the singles should have been as moving as this track at least. The singles were a let down, the rest was border line "good".
    ma99ot1281
    Overall, it isn't their best but I can tell they went back to their original sound. The 2nd Law made me dread the day Drones was to be released because I was afraid they would drown us in silly dubstep noise, but I was wrong. I've been a fan of MUSE since the early '00 and have always enjoyed their style in music. DRONES, lyrically, was cliche`. Of course, MUSE is popular with making their lyrics political and Matt really makes his point about us being plugged in for too long, which also helped make this album a little... meh for MUSE. I give it 3/5 stars.
    tehglobalist
    And here ladies and gentlemen, we have a clear example of butthurt "musicians" who didn't get what they wanted to they complain about it and hope something changes because of their "experienced and expert review"
    s6k
    This didn't turn out to be as good as I was hoping, but I definately like it much more than the last one! Keep at it, and hopefully the next one will be even better !