Classic Muse: More heavy guitar riffs, less electronic musical aids and thought provoking lyrics.
Muse’s records usually concentrate on major worldwide issues, with previous albums looking at technology evolution, war, and economic & environmental issues, and Drones is no different. This record is, according to Matt Bellamy, a “modern metaphor for what it is to lose empathy … through modern technology, and obviously through drone warfare in particular”. Drones is a concept album that looks at the autonomous nature to drones and their ability to do “quite horrific things by remote control… without feeling the consequences”.
The opening track, also the first released single, ‘Dead Inside’ has elements similar to tracks on the previous record The 2nd Law, but the similarities between the two albums finish here though. During ‘Psycho’, of which the lead guitar riff was an outro in their gigs over 15 years ago, the protagonist is turned into a human drone, or as the lyrics put it “a f*cking psycho” or someone that, in the eyes of the bellowing Sergeant “will kill on my command, and I won’t be responsible”. Arguably the most lyrically aggressive song on the album. Latest single ‘Mercy’ feels like a 2015 version of their most famous song ‘Starlight’, but not as good – one of the more ‘pop’ sounding tracks; fit for radio.
The next group of tracks are classic heavy Muse, starting with the crazy ‘Reapers’ and personal favourite ‘The Handler’ that builds up to a JFK-speech-inspired ‘Defector’. These three tracks add the ingredients that many felt were missing from the previous two albums – the pure guitar and drum sounds, rather than the electronic elements that were key to their recent records. This is the best musical section of the album, probably due to the fact the protagonist has reached full drone mode – meaning . ‘Defector’ signals the protagonist fighting back and telling them that they’re “free from your inciting, you can’t brainwash me”.
‘Revolt’ is possibly the weakest track on the album, a filler if you will, with a weird sounding chorus, but does sound better the next time. ‘Aftermath’ is almost a ballad, signalling the end of the ‘human drone’ phase. The song itself reminds me of ‘One’ by U2 with it’s underlying guitar riff.
‘The Globalist’, a 10-minute-plus super track, combines elements of almost all of Muse’s previous records as the protagonist goes completely insane and ends up destroying the planet singlehandedly. This is captured musically in three separate sections – a spaghetti western-like start similar to the infamous ‘Knights of Cydonia’ from Black Holes & Revelations, building up to a heavy riff that wouldn’t look out of place on Absolution or Origin of Symmetry and eventually culminating with a similar finale to that of the album The Resistance – while all the while being coupled with Bellamy’s soothing vocals.
The record ends with title track ‘Drones’, a surprisingly hymn-like vocal only song based on the 16th century hymn ‘Sanctus And Benedictus’. Muse are one of the most daring bands around in terms of their music choices and risk-taking in new albums – the finale to this album symbolises that in abundance.
In summary, Drones incorporates the hard rock from early Muse records with the intriguing and thought provoking political message that normally underlines their work.
Drones is out now via Warner Bros records.