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Muse - Black Holes And Revelations CD (album) cover




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3.70 | 493 ratings

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3 stars I'll probably get crucified by my fellow Muse fans for this, but I really think that this album is probably the least Proggy that Muse have done.

Of course, I don't own a copy yet, I made my review notes from the "listening party" that Muse recently held on, during which they streamed the album in it's near-entirity - so I'll be updating this review in the next couple of weeks, once I have a copy.

While the single "Super Massive Black Hole" might have you thinking that Muse have "done a Radiohead" and completely re-invented themselves in an attempt to avoid falling into the trap of writing "Absolution II", the album under review here is quite obviously a Muse album, with all the hallmarks - and few real deviations from their established style.

That said, there are plenty of places that Muse explore territory that is new for them - the vocal harmonies have got some real spit and polish, and in places are more than reminiscent of Queen. There are pieces that really stand out - but there are more pieces that are no more than enjoyable for what they are - and what they are not is Prog Rock, on the whole - with a few notable exceptions.

The album opens promisingly enough - "Take A Bow" begins with a quiet keyboard ostinato that is maintained for the first minute and a half, as vocals join, and it undergoes a quite brilliant build-up for a further minute until the now predictable and doom-laden power chords provide a continuation and further building up of this idea to crunching oblivion. The lyrics are striking, if not exactly subtle - but then Muse are (possibly unfairly) not renowned for being subtle. The message to certain war- mongering world leaders "You will burn in hell for your sins" deftly avoids sounding cheesey, by being delivered in a manner that is promising rather than threatening.

"Starlight" continues, with an intense intro that drops away into the land of Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark - with lyrics that appear to be inspired by Morrisey/Smiths. It's a reasonable enough song with interesting structuring, but not particularly inventive - and the quality of the lyrics appears to do a bit of a nose-dive in the "chorus" section. "High Hopes and Expectations, Black Holes and Revelations" indeed.

I reviewed "Super Massive Black Hole" separately, so I'll skip over it - but it does make a bit more sense in the context of the rest of the album.

Next up is "Map of the Problemmatique", which carries a distinct New Order flavour, with a large portion of early U2. A decent enough pop/rock song, with a decent set of lyrics, that might appeal to fans of The Bravery, but with no proggy elements whatsoever.

"Soldier's Poem" carries music that I'm sure I once heard coming from a keyboard made by Bontempi, and is where the vocal harmonies really start to sound like Queen, with intriguing barbershop style layers and tags. It has to be said that the quality of harmony-writing is very high, and the Queen comparison is fully justified.

"Invincible" features a droning intro, and great arrangement details. The music builds similarly to "Take A Bow", but here we do have a "B" section as well as an "A". The harmonic progressions will be familiar to any Muse fan. A great crowd-pleaser, lighters in the air and all that - it somehow reminds me of Keane, until the big riff around 3:20, that sadly gives way to one of Matt's "anti-solos". I'm sure it will be great live, but as part of a polished product, it's annoying.

"Assassin" is a standout track - a delightfully thrashy concoction with much appeal to metal fans - except, of course, it's not metal. Less predictable than the material that preceeded it, this is probably this album's equivalent of "New Born" or "Time Is Running Out" - and it doesn't sound too dissimilar to either. But it does rock with intensity, and makes me happy that there are bands like Muse creating music like this.

"Exo-Politics" is probably this album's "Stockholm Syndrome", with added theremin that sounds oddly at home in Muse's sonic palette. This is going to be another Muse epic track - even better, on the whole, than "Assassin". But it doesn't mark a progression over anything on "Absolution", despite being a wicked song.

The acoustic intro to "City of Delusion" marks a style change, and this is the first time we get the feeling of Muse really exploring the parameters of rock music - in addition to adding orchestral instruments to the texture - and hence providing some great Prog Rock at last. The textural developments and contrasts are noteworthy too - all elements of music are pushed at, and the end result is a confection that is very satisfying - trumpet solo apart. This latter device is a great idea, and starts very well, but quickly descends into a derived and trivial piece of nonsense that is there to fill the gap left for the instrumental section. But full marks to Muse for delivering!

This is continued into the flamenco entry for "Hoodoo" a full-blown Prog-Rock track with strong Radiohead flavours in places, but the welcome re-addition of Matt's Rakhmaninov-inspired piano (there's simply not enough of this on this album!). This is the real deal, and shows what Muse are really capable of if they put their minds to it.

Then, with thundering hooves and Star Trek noises, comes "Knights of Cydonia"

I won't analyse this one - just trust me, it's a great song, you'll love it. "No-one's gonna take me alive, The time has come to make things right, You and I must fit for our rights, You and I must fight to survive". Stirring stuff, and monster rocking riffs to boot.

Unfortunately the version of the album that Muse put onto their MySpace profile, seems to be lacking the final track "Glorious", or my notes are incomplete - but by this time on Monday 3rd July, I'll have a bona fide copy of the album in my collection :0)

If you're already a Muse fan, you'll either be puzzled or excited by this album initially - but over time, will end up delighted - it's a quality piece of work.

If you're not already a fan, though, this album probably won't convert you - it would be better to start with "Origins of Symmetry".

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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