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DRONES

Muse

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4 stars Drones: Muse's seventh album and supposed return to form. Keeping their promise of decreasing (but not eliminating) the symphonic and electronic influences so central to their previous two albums, they have left two main styles struggling for dominance: pop and rock. Piano is still present and important, though secondary to the guitar, symphonic elements appear briefly on a few songs, and after Dead Inside, the electronic parts majorly tone down. And the Queen influence? Still there.

The progressive elements are definitely present as well. While most of the songs don't fit the definition of prog rock, Drones is the band's first concept album. The storyline follows someone who has been broken, and then brainwashed to kill for the military. Eventually, the protagonist fights back and the story ends at Aftermath. (The Globalist a separate storyline and the a cappella/monk chanting title track is the album's outro.)

It is completely unsurprising that Muse has focused their concept album on war and how the government brainwashes us, given themes from previous albums, and the cover art demonstrates it perfectly (notice how we can't see who the largest hand belongs to... remind anyone of Ruled by Secrecy?). Drones is commentary on warfare, psychology, politics, history, and even a touch of religion. The background is fairly complex, but the storyline is simple and easy to follow. The narrative is told well, with Bellamy singing as the protagonist for every track except Psycho, though sometimes it is unclear how or why things happen (for example, how does the protagonist suddenly find love in the Aftermath?). Out of the context of the album, the individual songs usually cannot stand without their lyrics sounding ridiculous, the already-infamous line "your ass belongs to me now" from Psycho being a prime example. Good thing there's no such thing as a casual I-only-listen-to-Muse-on-the-radio fan? right?

While it could be better, Muse does a decent job of making the lyrics fit the music. Defector is the best example of this, as the protagonist begins to become independent of the society and moves towards freedom, and it the song sounds triumphant and proud. However, the subject matter Drones deals with is dark, and in order for the lyrics and music to fully fit, pop songs aren't going to cut it.

The album is split between primarily pop and rock, as a result of the abolishment of electronic and orchestral components. Dead Inside, which sounds like your average, generic pop-alt radio hit, the U2-influenced Mercy, Revolt, and the unbearably cheesy ballad of love Aftermath make up the pop department, and consist of four of the album's ten non-interlude songs. Depending on your preferences, you may or may not want to check them out, but for me, none of these are particularly good.

In the rock department, things are more exciting. Songs like The Handler and Defector display guidance from Royal Blood, the bass sound thick and central. These two songs tend to be operatic and dramatic but fairly heavy, like a cross between Origin of Symmetry and The Resistance. The lead single, Psycho (which I originally hated due to its un-Muse-like excessive cursing) makes much more sense in context of the plotline. It has great energy and a great riff, one that has been around for a long time and now has finally been put to good use.

The album's best offerings lie in Reapers, the fifth song. Let me just say it: riffs. The intro riff and the one played during the Drones chant (main riff), to be specific. It also features what is potentially Bellamy's best soloing and tastefully minimal electronic presence. The noisy outro could have been left out to no loss, but the song is pieced together well and each part has its value. It lies on the unconventional side.

Even more unconventional is The Globalist, Muse's self-described "prog nightmare," only song over ten minutes, and sequel to fan favorite Citizen Erased. By now I've heard plenty of ten minute songs (and I'm sure everyone else who's reading this has as well), but never from Muse. So it's an interesting listen, and the song I was looking forward to hearing the most. The song starts out spacey, western, and reminiscent of tracks Invincible and Knights of Cydonia from the band's fourth album, Black Holes and Revelations. The buildup lasts 4 minutes until a mediocre transition into a good, heavy riff, which plays for about two minutes. The song winds down into a "celebratory" piano ballad of the type that bands will slap onto the end of a prog epic, to give the track a feeling of closure rather than ending it as it peaks in intensity. It's not a bad song, but its major issue is that? it's not long enough. The band spends so much time building up and recovering from the most powerful and exciting portion, the metal riff in the middle, which takes up a disproportionately small part of the song at two minutes/one fifth of The Globalist's runtime. In order to justify the length of the intro and outro, the middle needs to be extended. They could have added another riff, another vocal part, a solo break, or even gotten rid of it. Otherwise, it sounds out of place and completely disrupts the flow of the song. Additionally, The Globalist doesn't have much likeness to Citizen Erased anyway.

Drones is a flawed album. Is it bad? No, although the pop songs are weak and The Globalist is disappointing. There are still good songs on here, Reapers not only one the best song from Drones, but a highlight of their catalogue. If there is one song to hear from this release, it would be this one. But Muse is also becoming more progressive, seeing as Drones is a concept album, and they've even had a go at writing a "ten minute prog nightmare." Hopefully, this, rather than pop, is a path they will continue down.

I would give it three stars musically? but it's a concept album, a first for Muse, and more entertaining and interesting that way. A for effort. Until next album.

Report this review (#1425631)
Posted Tuesday, June 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I listened at first to the singles...separated...the 5 first songs.... My first impression was...ou...As the first songs and singles of the 2nd Law ...now their tendency is to make rock for the masses....'what happen to the most progressive vein of Muse demonstrated ...in Absolution,or Black Holes...something in Restoration and in the 2 nd Law. But listening and listening..to the singles and then to the next 6 songs ...I felt pleasure for recognizing all songs are very good ...the singles and the next 6 (well Drones is a joke of Gregorian music. .but well...)..Aftermath and Globalist mostly in the line of Queen .Revolt maybe the worst Is a good album not as good as their best ......but the average is 3,5- 4 stars
Report this review (#1425766)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I haven't been actively listening to Muse since 2009 due to complete disinterest in the material on The Resistance and The 2nd Law. Even though I've been a fan of their sound since Origin Of Symmetry, Muse made a turn for the simpler and commercially oriented sound on Black Holes And Revelations and expanded in the same direction with The Resistance and especially The 2nd Law. So why did I suddenly decided to return to Muse? Well, the answer is that I actually enjoyed Drones a lot more than their previous two releases and thus decided to write a few words about it.

First off, let's be clear on the fact that Drones is by no means a return to the band's old sound. What we get here is a mix between the old and the new, some tracks are completely omittable while others are among the best that Muse has ever recorded. If you've heard a couple of the singles from Drones and thought that they were weak, then you're definitely not alone; my reaction was completely the same. Dead Inside and Psycho are riff-driven anthems that completely leave me cold while Reapers is slightly more enjoyable even though the song drags a bit too long.

The first really great song here is Mercy, this track is a mix of Starlight and Bliss featuring a strong melodic chorus that transitions well between the verse-chorus sections. The Handler and Defector and Revolt are strong album tracks that manage to move the album along while adding layers to the concept of drones warfare. My favorite part of the album are the three final tracks that begin with the ballad Aftermath, progresses with the 10 minutes of bliss with The Globalist and finishes off with an a cappella outro on the title track. The Globalist is probably the biggest reason for my return to Muse since this is easily their best multi-part epic that manages to completely overshadow both Exogenesis and The 2nd Law.

I really hope that the band will continue in a more conceptual direction on their next releases while moving away from the dispensable singles that have filled their last couple of albums. Drones is a slight return to form thanks to the marvelous second part of the album that focuses on the beauty of the band's sound and reduces the filler. Recommended to fans of Absolution and Black Holes And Revelations!

***** star songs: The Globalist (10:07)

**** star songs: Mercy (3:52) The Handler (4:34) Defector (4:33) Revolt (4:06) Aftermath (5:48) Drones (2:50)

*** star songs: Dead Inside (4:23) Psycho (5:17) Reapers (6:00)

** star songs: [Drill Sergeant] (0:21) [JFK] (0:55)

Report this review (#1431832)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Muse is a band that is recommended to me constantly. I always hear 'Oh, you like the White Stripes? You'll like them.' Or possibly 'If you like Radiohead, you'll definitely love these guys.' I might have heard their more popular songs like 'Uprising' and 'Madness' on the radio, but have never made the connection. With their latest album 'Drones' released recently, I decided to let it be my first taste of them.

Muse consists of Matthew Bellamy on vocals/guitars/keys, Christopher Wolstenholme on bass guitar/vocals/keys, and Dominic Howard on drums. Upon listening to their music for the first time, I can hear the resemblance to Radiohead, being a harder and experimental sound with moments of progressive and space rock. To call this band a progressive rock band, though, is a little bit of a stretch, but I can understand where critics and listeners come up with such an opinion. I would say their sound is more closely related to a pop/alternative rock, consisting of heavily overdriven guitar riffs like the Foo Fighters/Queens of the Stone Age right aside piano ballads that remind me of Coldplay/30 Seconds to Mars. Their newest album 'Drones' basically throws all these names into a blender and presses the on button.

Much of this album follows the same tempo and flavor from start to finish. Each song has a catchy rhythm, mixed with weird sound effects, falsetto vocals a la Jeff Buckley, and fairly simple drum beats. Simply put, the album is straightforward. For being a progressive album, I actually was a little underwhelmed. There aren't too many highs and lows, and aren't too many highlighting moments for any band member. Dare I ask, is this my first negative review? Perhaps it doesn't catch my attention like most of the music I tend to listen to, but that doesn't mean this album is devoid of great material.

There are two songs in particular that stood out to me: 'The Handler' and 'The Globalist.' I believe these two songs are the two best on the album, and for different reasons. 'The Handler' starts with that overdriven guitar sound, but chimes in with deeps bass lines and drum beats that bring the song down a whole other level, one that isn't pursued too much in 'Drones.' Alongside these extremely deep and low tones is Bellamy's high-pitched vocals, drifting between sharp and flat notes that give a very eerie vibe in the song's chorus. Add in the sound effects over his vocals and the song becomes even creepier. A simple but nicely inserted solo using a phaser pedal extends the song into the four minute mark. Every time I play this song, I can't help but play it twice.

The other song, 'The Globalist,' runs over 10 minutes long. For that reason alone, I believed it was worth mentioning. Being the most progressive sounding track on 'Drones,' 'The Globalist' starts off with a country western-style whistling over clean guitar chords, a much slower pace than any other track on the album. This sound shifts towards slide guitar and military style snare drumming, which continues the concept present throughout the album, which I will mention shortly. This section actually reminds me a little of David Gilmour's solo material, which was a great change of pace. Sure enough, the track falls right back into the (by this point) slightly boring alternative rock sound and tempo half way through the song, which is where my attention shifts away. The song closes with a piano arrangement, followed by the a cappella title track.

Now for the other reason why most people suggest Muse to me: the lyrics. If you didn't know, I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories. Not that I necessarily believe in them, but I am fascinated by the research, explanations, and devotion that comes with the territory. Turns out Mr. Bellamy is the same way. As stated in several press interviews, 'Drones' follows a concept of indoctrination and defection as the main protagonist fights against the system. To me, this concept alone sparks my interest in the album. Unfortunately, much of the lyrics are uninspiring to me. I feel Muse really had the chance to make a much larger and profound statement with their lyrics considering the state of the world today, but just flat out missed it. I wanted to be caught up in their vigor with youthful aspirations and invoke the libertarian views in me, but I just didn't feel it in 'Drones.' The lyrics are a little boring, predictable, and even at times laughable. The chorus of 'Psycho' is a prime example:

'I'm going to make you, I'm going to break you, I'm going to make you / A f*cking psycho / Your ass belongs to me now'

Another example is the abusive instructions between a drill sergeant and a private inserted in this song. It's a little over the top and unnecessary. Maybe their next album will make me feel like standing up and fighting for what I believe in.

With all the positives and negatives I've mentioned, I'd still recommend 'Drones' to anyone on this blog. Sure, it isn't the perfect album, but it's still really catchy and interesting, perfect for driving and rocking out.

I give this 3 of 5 stars. At best.

Taken from Crash And Ride Music

Report this review (#1442912)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Drones is not a bad album, but it is noticeably not as good as Muse's 2000s albums. While the lyrics to "Dead Inside" are actually good, the song is really a less interesting "Madness" that sounds like an 80s style U2 song with a clichd chord progression. "Psycho" is cheesy, but it is silly in a good way. "Mercy" is a musically interesting song and at the same time a pop hit type song, and the somewhat unusual keyboard part in the verses works pretty well. "Reapers" is a highlight mainly because of the guitar playing and a good solo with different parts, even though the lyrics are starting to get repetitive with the mention of drones. "The Handler," whose beginning is like an angrier version of the beginning of "Come Together" by The Beatles, is another highlight, with good high-pitched singing and a buildup in the guitar solo and bridge. "Defector" is a fun rock song with its vocal harmonies and exciting guitar solo, and it does a great job incorporating the JFK intro into the song and a great part of the speech at the end of the song. "Revolt" is in my opinion one of the worst Muse songs. The verses do have an interesting rhythm, but that's about it for the good stuff in the song. The song has a cheesy late 80s rock feel, and the chorus is poorly written in just about every way in that it does not fit with the rest of the song, it uses the 1-5-6-4 chord progression, and the lyrics are incredibly shallow and repetitive. "Aftermath" is a ballad with a well-written melody, but is not very deep musically or lyrically. "The Globalist" is the main prog track on the album, and it is good but not amazing. The three distinct sections are all great, especially the fun middle section with a buildup and a hard rock guitar riff, but the sections do not feel very connected. The album ends with the title track, which is a boring a capella track that is hard to follow and just continues to repeat words that have become cliches through their use throughout the album, and it is a very disappointing ending.
Report this review (#1490516)
Posted Saturday, November 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've always felt that the criticism towards Muse's Drones is way harsher than things actually are on the album. Such a solid record deserves more recognition, and I quite enjoy it and find myself revisiting it every now and then, even though I don't listen to a tenth of the amount of Muse I used to listen to.

None of their albums follow a story: mostly, they have an extremely vague concept that usually fails to give the albums cohesion. Not by at means they fixed it with Drones, but it was a huge step towards the right direction. The concept of wars, drones, people as pawns, the usual rage against the system, it's all a lot more present and felt throughout the songs. The interludes (Drill Sergeant, JFK) provide that in a great way. I know the interview where Bellamy said it was an actual story, but I bet he made it on the go. I don't buy that story by any means. Nonetheless, it's conceptual work, and a great one.

On this record, the band tried to escape from the electronic dubsteppy sound from the two previous releases and provided a much more rough and powerful sound. Fuzz-filled basslines and crunchy guitars give that, and the musicianship is great. It all goes really great with the concept.

The songs also do have a flow that pleases the listener. I'm not talking about songs with no silence in between, but a thought order that provides peaks and rest-time. The three last songs feel like a single piece and for me it's where the album shines the brightest.

Overall, it gets way less recognition than it deserves, and everyone, from the indie guy that thinks he's cooler because he has all the Arctic Monkeys albums, to the nerdiest prog snob, should give this album a couple of listens before saying it's a three-star record. It's not a masterpiece, but for me it scores somewhere between 4-4.5.

Report this review (#1868705)
Posted Monday, January 22, 2018 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have a long love/hate relationship with Muse.

I started playing Bass by learning their songs, (almost all of OoS & Absolution).

But nowadays they seem to have been letting me down.

The Resistance, while an acceptable album has one problem. The influences are very notorius. Queen & U2 being one of them. While everyone is inspired by anyone, they got their influences to heavily in their music that sometimes I think, this is like a demo or leftover song from Queen. They say that they want to challenge themselves to change, but do they really do? Catchy, poppy songs, and grandioesque songs about revolution were there before in their repertoire. The Electronica side was being played with in Black Holes & Revelations, the only thing kind of new was the Dubstep thing with Follow Me that was an horrible experiment. From those albums, yes, they gave us some great songs like: "Animals", "Supremacy", "Uprising", "The Resistance", "Explorers", "Unnatural Selection", "Panic Station". Despite being great songs they weren't that new in their vocabulary.

Ballads before Explorers? Unintended, Falling Away With You, Starlight, Guiding Light.

Revolution songs like Supremacy, The Resistance, Unnatural Selection, Uprising? Well every single album has a couple of them.

The grandioesque, pompous arena rock songs were there before. So this wasn't really new to them.

With Drones, they said they we're going to be back to their roots.

I was pleased... until I've heard the album.

Psycho - an Single that has some of the cringiest wanna be revolutionary lyrics that makes Linkin Park be the new Rage Against The Machine. Basic hard rock song.

Dead Inside - Catchy single, I may say but well is another Pop/DepecheMode/U2/HeavilySynth inspired song.

Mercy - Starlight Pt II.

JFK and Drill Sergeant are spoken word tracks wanna be cult/smarter than in their minds sounded like a spoken word fragment from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but in reality was poor and wanted to give a seriousness to the album.

Reapers - It's a nice track, heavily inspired by Rage Against The Machine (revolutionary message and the end with all that Guitar Explosion driven by Effects) Here Bellamy displays his Guitar Skills with that tasty solo and the Van Halen inspired Tapping Riff.

The Handler - Another nice track, great bassline by Chris, the atmosphere was intimate but met with anger.

Defector - Average song, cool to listen but really isn't anything else. Other crappy lyrics here too.

Revolt - Muse meets the Killers but with Matthew Bellamy laying down good solos in this [&*!#] track instead of The Globalist.

Aftermath and The Globalist are two of the most dissapointing songs, here all that tension and warfare messages and the (and another one, who could have guessed) anti war concept album should have been released in "Aftermath" but is just so mellow, laid back, you can fall sleep to. It doesn't portray an real Aftermath. The Globalist has this huge Spaghetti Western Flavour, and is the continuation of "Citized Erased". Everything went nice until the Classical Muse Breakdown Hard Hitting open String Riffs in the Low Strings. And all this crescendo/tension created that doesn't go anywhere and they gave us another tremolo picked solo (New Born, Knights Of Cydonia, Aftermath) wich would be nice if this was an leftover from Explosions In The Sky. Another Piano Interlude inspired by Sergei Rachmaninov.

And the title track is meh at this point.

Report this review (#1954315)
Posted Thursday, August 2, 2018 | Review Permalink
Kempokid
COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Despite finding Muse's attempts to branch out and experiment admirable, I still preferred the rock sound implemented on earlier albums compared to the predominantly pop projects of their later work. This made me quite hopeful when getting around to listening to Drones, as I heard it was to be a return to form. Honestly, if this is a return to form, please just stick to the pop music. While yes, it's clear that an effort was made to return to the sound of Origin of Symmetry and Absolution in sections, it's also clear that this sounds nothing like those, with a lot more cheese than I know what to do with, weaker, more simplistic songwriting with far less of the emotional rawness that made early Muse so great, and much less enjoyment all around.

The album quickly makes it clear how this will not be a complete return to form, with the high pitched vocal harmonies and the extremely danceable beat. To be fair, I do quite enjoy this song, as the vocal melody is excellent, and I do love the beat. The next song, Psycho demonstrates a massive problem I have with a lot of the album, lyrics, which while I normally don't care too much about them, they just get so stupid in places that it becomes embarrassing to listen to. No matter how much I enjoy the riffs in the song, I just can't get over lyrics like "I'll turn you into a superdrone" and "your ass belongs to me now". The song may be simplistic, but I could see myself loving it if not for constantly wanting to laugh at the lyrics. Mercy can be summed up in a simple phrase, Starlight but worse. Reapers is a massive improvement from anything else on the album, with a lot of incredible riffs, switching between a Van Halen inspired mini solo, and a simple, hard hitting riff, combined with some of the classic Muse dramatic flair, making for a uniquely amazing song on a mostly subpar album. The next stretch is where a lot of issues arise, with all of the songs dragging on while also having the same issue with lyrics and general lack of interesting hooks , solos or anything of the sort. By far the worst offender of this is Revolt, which has one of the most painfully forgettable hooks I've heard in recent memory. The Aftermath doesn't serve much better, being one of the weaker ballads by a band that I already dislike the ballads of for the most part. Honestly, this portion of the album is so unappealing, that combined with the other weaker songs on the album, the song that I ended up using as a decider between whether to give this a 1 or 2 was The Globalist. Fortunately, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit, as while it isn't quite a masterpiece, it provides a great apocalyptic feel, and definitely makes good use of its entire 10 minutes, with each section being excellent, with the way it gradually slows and transitions into Drones to be great.

This album left me feeling incredibly disappointed, I wasn't expecting anything amazing after the previous 2 mediocre albums, but I was expecting something more accomplished than this mess. While Muse have certainly always been overblown in their style, so much about their lyrical content and music here just screams "pretentious" to me, while still being unbearably dull and simplistic in other points. Despite that, Muse once again display their talent of making sure each album has 1 or 2 tracks which are clearly some of the best stuff they've ever done, in this case, it's Reapers for me. I honestly feel like Muse have been on a decline since The Resistance, but I do feel like this is in all likelihood, their lowest point, as it's quite difficult to go lower than this. As said, this album was saved from a 1 star rating by having 3 really good songs, and only barely.

Best songs: Dead Inside, Reapers, The Globalist

Weakest songs: Psycho, Mercy, Defector, Revolt, Aftermath

Verdict: I see no real reason to listen to more than the best songs on the album unless you're a fan of Muse, as basically any album before this makes for a much better starting point and listening experience.

Report this review (#2136137)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2019 | Review Permalink

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