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BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS

Muse

 

Prog Related

3.60 | 302 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After reviewing Muse's previous album, ABSOLUTION, now I'll share a few words about their latest release, 2006's BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS.

Following such an incredible masterpiece is quite a difficult task for any band to fulfill. There's always the risk of the band choosing the safe path: recording an album very similar to the one heralded as their best. There's always the possibility that the musicians decide to go the other way around and release a record in a totally different style, with the risk of annoying their fans and losing what they accomplished with the preceding opus. And there's somewhat of a middle path, with the group making a few changes to their sound experience while not altering the main elements that led them to success in the first place. So, what road did Muse choose to travel on?

For sure, what we have here is an album with the traditional Muse characteristics: interesting textures, piano arpeggios and cascading figures, a mix of Brit-pop and rock with progressive elements and even some metal details here and there. The band hasn't deviated completely from the norm established in their 2003 opus-magnum. But some changes in sound have been made. The main one: the band has focused in the "pop" side of their sound a lot more than in ABSOLUTION, and has toned down their progressiveness a little bit. Sonically, the experience is still Muse, but even more accessible, more radio-ready. Attention. This is still great music, great rock music, if less "proggy" and more "poppy" than before.

Take A Bow (8/10) We think we're on a small one-engine airplane traveling across clouds and skies. Then we arrive to an electronica oasis, the mood gets heavier. The atmosphere gets more technified, from an insignificant 1920's airplane we've jumped to the outer limits of the sky. This song signals the start of a journey, one that will lead us to unexpected places. Good song.

Starlight (9/10) We are in pure pop/rock territory now. A simple, Brit-pop rhythm adorned with efficient, seducing piano chords. An optimistic song, there's no way around it. Even with Bellamy's dramatic voice going over it, there's no alternative but to wait for the better after this song, which again takes us to the skies with a bridge full of flying, oscillating notes. A very good song.

Supermassive Black Hole (8/10) A fast, grooving rhythm opens the song. We're reminded of Weiland here. Then the vocals in falsetto fashion, with some Prince flavor to them. This is almost pure pop. But that doesn't mean it's bad, and is actually good.

Map Of The Problematique (9.5/10) The start is pure pop/new-age bliss, a techno-like rhythm and some fleeting piano chords here and there. The song continues to grow in its seductive power and by the time the ultra-pop pop arrives, we don't care anymore about the need for extreme progressive elements, as we've already realized we're listening to excellent music nevertheless. Great track.

Soldier's Poem (7/10) Suddenly we're in the 60's, with a super soft, quiet, whispering little tune that reminds us of songs that have nothing to do with rock as "A wonderful world". Halfway down the track we hear the vocal harmonies that got many people comparing this to Queen. A decent track, not my favorite.

Invincible (6.5/10) Another soaring, over-the-clouds beginning, with flying notes in guitar over a marching snare drum. Another happy track, a little repetitive for me. Near the end we hear a riff much reminiscent of "Hysteria" in ABSOLUTION, then we hear a weird guitar solo, and soon the song will be over. The two latter elements I mentioned save this song from getting the first "boring" label from me for any Muse track.

Assassin (8/10) This starts with one of those riffs that Muse surely knows how to pull off and that remind us of DT in OCTAVARIUM. The chorus is good but no match for the best song Muse has ever produced, "Stockholm Syndrome", nor for the best on this album, which is still to come.

Exo-Politics (8.5/10) A somewhat weird, cut-down theme strikes us as very absurd, and then it grows into a more rocky, energetic song. Then the chorus arrives and we are in Muse's Palace of Delights again. One of those dramatic choruses that this band played to perfection in the previous output. The first section of the song is not much to my liking, so it takes away from what could've been a superb track.

City Of Delusion (10/10) We've been waiting for this album's "Stockholm Syndrome" and finally it's arrived (though not near the level of magnificence of that song). A rhythmical, Spanish-flavored acoustic start followed by an energetic middle section and a truly spectacular chorus, with pure drama, kinetic energy, suffering, lamenting strings and frenetic drums. The song explores different territories and is the not only the most progressive but also the best in the album (one thing doesn't necessarily lead to the other, but in this case, it did.)

Hoodoo (9/10) Some flamenco-painted guitars, but not acoustic guitars, kick off this song in style. It starts very slowly, sounding a lot like Radiohead. It gets more dreamy, more foggy. Halfway down the track we get to a section when the piano makes its much-expected reappearance with powerful, tragic chords. A theatre, that's where this song takes us to, a stage where passion, love, hate and drama is portrayed. Excellent.

Knights Of Cydonia (9.5/10) For a moment we're in western-territory. We turn our head looking for the gunfighter. Then the main section blasts off with pure energy, the force of a thousand horses. Some trumpets and weird effects join in the charge of the Knights. The middle section is almost epic in nature, heroic, this is an unusual track for Muse, a band full of unusual stuff. From Purple to Floyd, the band surely shows they've heard a lot of different music, and that's the only recipe for becoming a good musician.

As a final word, let's say Muse's BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS fails to live-up to the quality of its predecessor, but then again, that was most surely an almost impossible goal to achieve. What the British trio has done here is taking the same formula, incorporated more pop elements in their sonic experience, tone-down their riffs a little, and deliver a quite satisfactory collection of light, optimistic, accessible songs. What we miss a little bit is the drama, the sense of theatricality, and most of all, the powerful piano chords of ABSOLUTION. What made that album a masterpiece is not completely absent here, but relatively more scarce, difficult to find.

A 4 star album anyway, worthy of addition to any collection. If this wasn't a prog site, maybe I'd kick the rating a notch, to a 4.5. But whereas in ABSOLUTION the songs were so good that we could evade the prog-obligation and gave the album a 5, here we have to settle for the imperfect rating, as we have a couple not-so-good tracks to speak of.

Recommended for: Fans of light prog; fans of Brit-pop/rock and rock in general; fans of pop/rock.

Not recommended for: Fans of ultra-progressive rock; people that just dislike any hint of pop in their rock. This album has quite a truck-load of those. And fans of Muse that think they will be getting ABSOLUTION Part II.

.I think such an album is just impossible to follow.

The T | 4/5 |

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