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BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS

Muse

 

Prog Related

3.60 | 299 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

russellk
Prog Reviewer
5 stars A masterpiece of popular music from the gunslingers of rock.

MUSE rip out an album of high-octane tunes powered by enough energy to light up northern Europe. Not since QUEEN in the 1970s have I heard a popular band with the sheer raw power to make their tunes come alive and the FREDDY MERCURY-style self-confidence to bring them off. Anyone who enjoys drama in their music, who is captivated by the theatrical and the pompous, ought to order this album immediately. I repeat: for me, QUEEN is the touchstone for MUSE.

'Take a Bow' begins quietly enough, accusatory anti-politician lyrics backed by synth arpeggios, then someone turns the volume to 11 and the dark chords come crashing in. This opener is a marvel, spitting sarcasm and invective at the high and mighty with such passion that if I was a bent pollie I'd confess immediately. This is prog-coloured. It's not a pop song, or even standard rock. It comes to a roaring climax, then fades out on distortion. Whew! What are we in for?

As soon as 'Starlight' begins I can imagine progheads yelling 'Pop! Pop!' If they'd spend a little less time categorising and a little more time enjoying, we'd probably have fewer of those interminable debates here on ProgArchives. We'd also avoid those unhelpful reviews - you know the type: 'it's pop, so I have to take two stars off' - as though the Prog-Related category isn't enough to help us decide what the rating means. It sounds a bit like OMD's 'Souvenir' to me, a lovely tinkly tune introducing lyrics remarkably similar in structure (if not meaning) to the opening song. This is a great track, and I don't care what pigeonhole you insist it belongs in.

'Supermassive Black Hole' takes us in a third direction, with BELLAMY leaning on his falsetto in a PRINCE-like performance, all the while thundering percussion and the greasiest of cowboy western guitar riffs rips across the speakers. 'Oooh, baby,' BELLAMY croons. I agree. We're now in 'Absolution' territory, one outstanding song after another. Here's the fourth: 'Map of the Problematique' is the first to hark back to previous MUSE incarnations, and again it's no misfire. QUEEN never gave us this much class on any one of their albums.

'Soldier's Poem' takes the QUEEN comparison past similarity of intent and energy and into similarity of sound: BELLAMY's multitracked falsetto is so reminiscent of MERCURY you know it has to be deliberate. Five more great tracks follow, in turn spacy, racy and pacy, each worthy of comment, with 'Assassin' (more monolithic guitar riffage) and 'Exo-Politics' (great beat, guitar - and is that a saw I hear being played?) being the most straightforward and best of them.

And then.

'Knights of Cydonia' is a true prog classic. In six minutes MUSE deliver an inarguable justification for their inclusion here. They reveal themselves as the logical inheritors of SERGIO LEONE's mantle as purveyors of the spaghetti western. Spaceships and cowboys, zap-guns and horses precede a stellar guitar riff straight from ENNIO MORRICONE''s movie file. How can anyone not fall helplessly in love with this? It's so outrageously kitsch! Kudos to these three young men for having the big round ones to write something like this - as revolutionary as 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was to QUEEN and just as important in rock's canon. Speaking of QUEEN, the final chorus is pure camp. Everything prog rock ought to be is right here. And, to my delight, the video is almost exactly how I imagined the track to be - a punk-western sci-fi piss-take. How can the world be a bad place when people do stuff like this? This is five stars on its own.

I'm off to see them live in six weeks' time. Can't wait! Along with THE MARS VOLTA, this is the best high-energy band you'll hear on contemporary radio's airwaves. Completely reckless, over-the-top, outrageous music. Shut off your brain and open your ears!

russellk | 5/5 |

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