Since the release of their debut album, Muse has been viewed by many as Radiohead Jr. Sharing similar vocal techniques and overall sound, Muse didn’t receive very much exposure in the United States until the release of Absolution in 2003. The album received critical acclaim, yet the band was still seen as the poor man’s Radiohead. Now, with their 4th studio album, Blackholes and Revelations, Muse look to distance themselves from the Radiohead comparisons by adding a few new tricks to their huge arena rock sound. Produced by Rich Costey, (who also produced Absolution), Blackholes is an eleven track opus that balances the peaks and valleys very nicely, forming the album is a very smooth and atmospheric listening experience.
The album begins with a pulsating electric tone and a subtle bass note as Matt Bellamy’s voice starts very low and slowly rises and crescendos with the beat until that pulsating beat turns into a full-on assault of your ears. The jagged guitar riff from Bellamy along with Dominic Howard’s staggered drumming sets the pace for the rest of the track, as it continues to rise to arena rock standards. The next track, “Starlight,” takes the pace down a notch, instead incorporating a dancey synth chord with Chris Wolstenholme’s steady bass line. The song has a very new-wave feel to it. “Supermassive Black Hole” will make longtime fans do a double take upon first listen, as Muse tries out a bit of glam-rock. Bellamy’s silky falsetto carries this song. “Map Of The Problematique” changes the direction of the album, taking a turn into the industrial sound. Again, Howard’s tight drumming sets the tempo just right as Bellamy’s guitar jots up and down throughout. “Soldier’s Poem” takes the album into another valley, as this 2 minute ballad follows a simple guitar pluck and the band use group vocals in a way reminiscent to Queen. Muse keeps the pace down with the gentle “Invincible,” which features a steady marching drumbeat. After that break in rhythm, Bellamy and company finally amped it up again with the stadium-rocker, “Assassin,” as Bellamy’s guitar pierce through the thick bass of Wolstenholme, as this track is certain to get you moving. Muse again tampers into the dance craze, this time with the tango-tinged “City Of Delusion,” a track brings out the guitar and strings in full force and Bellamy’s voice balances between a commanding baritone and his shrieking tenor. The album closes with the epic “Knights Of Cydonia,” a track that darts from fuzzy guitar riffs to a galloping drum beat. This track is a great showcase of how talented this trio is at their instruments. After 2 minutes, Bellamy’s steady voice enters and the electronic effects add another dimension to this track. The second verse again channels Queen, as the backup vocals from Howard and Wolstenholme crescendo along with Bellamy’s voice, followed by a roaring guitar solo. “Knights” is one of the best songs Muse has ever written and it’s an exhilarating finish to this grandiose album.
After listening to this album, one can tell that Muse have shed the tag of being Radiohead’s little brother, as they do a fine job of incorporating different techniques and genres into their already explosive rock noise. Blackholes and Revelations is a beautiful album, as it perfectly positions the peaks and valleys of each track. They know when to bring it down a bit, as shown in “Soldier’s Poem,” as well as when to kick it up a notch, evident in “Assassin.” Muse does not dwell on one sound for very long, as they change up pitch, signatures, and tempos often. The only question that remains is, is this Muse’s best work? It’s hard to say after only a handful of listens, but I feel that Muse has raised the bar. Blackholes and Revelations is a brilliant piece of work, and should be a staple in many lists at the end of the year. Get out of your Blackhole and put this album at the top of your “must-buy” list.
Well-written review, but personally, this album piles it on way too thick for me. I feel like they are going so far out of their ways to mind-fuck me with all the shit going on with each track that it is almost hard to focus on the music.
Absolution >>>>>>>> Black Holes if you ask me :shrugs:
PS - Thanks for taking the review from me! I just said all I have to say about the record in that one post.
if you don't have any constructive conversation, please don't take up space.
An interesting review. I don't know much about the band's history and it was nice to have it wrapped up. Personally I would like to see them get away from their predictable intervals in the chord progression. Although they are catchy and very epic sounding, I sort of want to see them expand their overrall tone. I agree that they really keep stepping into their own corner, but I think it's just that-- a corner. Still a great sounding recording with monster sound. I don't mind all the extra stuff too, but I think someday they will pull it all together and really take that extra step into something truely original.