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Muse - Black Holes And Revelations CD (album) cover

BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS

Muse

 

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3.67 | 399 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars It took them three long years but MUSE released their fourth album BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS in 2006 only this time on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. By this time, MUSE had become one of the biggest bands to hit Britain in the new millennium and had started to take America by storm as well but not quite to the degree of the 60s bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. While the previous album "Absolution" had been a little hit and miss for me, mostly on the miss downward spiral with a shoddy production, inconsistent compositional prowess and dumbing down effect to please their American record label, BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS on the other hand finds MUSE at the top of their game and in effect is a sort of crescendo creatively speaking in their career with even more influences than ever piled up on their smorgasbord of musical impersonations from the past.

While MUSE had already taken on a unique mix of alternative and progressive rock laced with electronica, New Romantic classical, tango and myriad other styles, on BLACK HOLES they upped the ante even further with cited influences including the synthpop of Depeche Mode, the harsh distorted rock of Lightning Bolt and the funk rock of Sly & The Family Stone as well as the heavier alternative funk rock of the lesser known Belgian band Millionaire from whom they acquired the unique stop / start rhythmic beat as well as that interesting bass groove. In a way, one could consider MUSE one of those ultimate mimicry bands much like Mr Bungle in terms of unbridled creativity where no stones are left unturned since there are actually many more influences lurking beneath the more familiar ones. Once again Matt Bellamy unleashes his best Bono ( of U2 ) inspired vocals afire in passionate display but also new to the mix are the keyboard parts that remind me a lot of the "War" era tracks of U2 such as "New Years Day." These keyboard parts recur throughout the album.

While political corruption, conspiracy analyses and extraterrestrial themes are nothing new in the MUSE canon, on BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS they excel like never before. With a comfortable foothold in America and top tier status in the UK, MUSE went for the jugular with themes covering political corruption, revolution, New World Order and the expected science fiction laced polemics such as UFOs. This album overall exhibits much more hard rock heaviness than the previous ones. While the first three albums were rather inconsistent in the heaviness department, on BLACK HOLES almost every track except "Soldier's Poem" and "Hoodoo" have hard rock as the main backbone of their compositional makeup. Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme has also stated that the band was more relaxed and it is apparent by the chemistry afoot on BLACK HOLES that it was the case. Add to that the production is OMG superior to the previous album and just by reading the army of mixers and producers makes it quite clear that this album was heavily manipulated in every aspect as to eke out the most pleasing sonic effects.

With a Queen meets ELO bravado, "Take A Bow" sets the tone with a jittery midi sequencer and a take no prisoners critique of the elite's destructive greed that has been ravaging the Earth with sharper vituperating lyrics that find MUSE in a cynical mind set as they hammer away at the miscreancy of the a ruling class run amok. "Starlight," one of the hit singles on the UK charts anyways offers a respite from the progressive wrath of the opener with a piano run churning out odd time signatures before jumping into rock mode. The band stated that this was the hardest track to record and about seven versions exist. Do i hear a box of unreleased goodies in the future? The next track and most successful single of the album, Super Massive Blackhole" was my personal introduction to the world of MUSE and the gateway drug to the larger spectacle that the band has become. Not only is this track an interesting alternative rock performance that utilizes Matt Bellamy's falsetto skills to fullest level (they're back after a dampening on "Absolution,") but it kinda sounds like Prince joined in as the track is funky, danceable and infectious as hell with a strong groove, interesting dynamic shifts and even a backmasked guitar solo.

"Map Of The Problematique" sounds sorta like something more modern that could fit in on U2's "War" album with the same Edge styled guitar sweeps and that famous piano run heard on "New Year's Day." The track tackles the polemic subject of limits of growth and escaping to Mars which the cover art refers to. While the album is by far the heaviest with almost every track rocking out big time, "Soldier's Poem" is a slow acoustic ballad sounding like something Freddie Mercury would've conjured up. Continuing the genre jumping, "Invincible," influenced by David Bowie's "Heroes" was the fourth single starts out slow with a military march percussive drive and evolves into a more sophisticated rock track with a haunting theremin adding an eerie atmospheric presence. "Assassin" is a bona fide heavy rock with stellar riffing in progressive time signature chops and performs much like the track title connotes.

"Exo-Politics" continues the rockin' out with a catchy guitar riff, spooky atmosphere with more theremin and a crooning Bellamy lamented the political suppression of extraterrestrial life. "City Of Delusion" begins with a Who inspired acoustic guitar strum-a-thon and wends and winds through some interesting progressions that venture into rock and electronica and ultimately back full circle while utilizing the main melodic theme to tie it all together. "Hoodoo" is an instrumental surf rock track with a few interesting twists and turns that is the perfect build up to "Knights Of Cydonia," inspired by the 1962 hit "Telstar" by The Tornados which featured Bellamny's father George Bellamy on guitar. The track is like riding in the wind through a spaghetti western with surf guitar and progressive pop accoutrements popping up all about including trumpets. This is one of the coolest songs ever and is the perfect way to end a perfect album as it fades to a satisfying crescendo of heavy rock, fight or flight bravado and references to self-preservation. The sequenced key parts are based on the five tone musical phrase from the film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

In the day many critics called the album "overblown." Sound familiar? Any time an artist dares exceed the comfort zone of a critic, it gets deemed overweening and dangerous to society. In the case of BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS i couldn't more wholeheartedly disagree with such punditry. This album is a masterful youthful critique of the world around the musicians involved. Not only does this trio deliver a passionate plea to the world in terms of ecological justice, spiritual elevation and conspiratorial analyses but it delivers simultaneously some of the most carefully crafted pop hooks disguised by a vast web of musical influences that are juxtaposed in perfect conjunct. Focus too much on a certain aspect of the MUSE-ic and it can certainly derail from overindulgent intellectualism but if one suspends the fact that many musical influences (which are openly cited), then one can come to the conclusion that ALL developments in not only music but science, linguistics and politics are derived from an amalgamation of what came before. MUSE excels in taking a ridiculous amount of musical antecedents and weaves them into something utterly unique. This album was love at first listen and after dozens if not over a hundred listens, it only gets better and better. While i've never made a top 100 album list, i can honestly state that this one would be on it. I simply don't understand why this isn't deemed one of the best pop rock albums of the 21st century. It certainly is for me.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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