Album Review: Drones // Muse

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For as long as many of us have been alive, Messrs Bellamy, Wolstenholme and Howard have been enlightening the masses, who abide by marvelling at their constant will and determination to push the boundaries and elevate the rafters of alternative-rock into uncharted territory with each release. In an era where global – often selfishly motivated -propaganda has been rife for a considerable number of years, it’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken an irrationally observant, often Nostradamus-esque psyche like Matt’s, to produce a common knowledge come speculatively cerebral concept album, so fervently focused on propaganda as Drones. 

The record’s narrative commences with the moment our unidentified protagonist loses all hope, becoming a physical impression of the metallically sonorous lead single’s moniker, ‘Dead Inside’. This acts as the audible embodiment and paramount tone-setter of the record’s blueprint hypothesis. This hastily introduced vulnerability proves the catalyst for what ensues throughout the proceeding handful of songs – the first of which is ‘Psycho’. Shepherded through our lead’s spirit-breaking mental transfiguration “into a super drone” by a cannonball drop-D riff – well known among seasoned followers as the commonly used live outro to both ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘Map of the Problematique’ – we then reach ‘Mercy’. Presented with a smugly ironic tone of positivity, comprising of light-hearted keys coupled with optimistic pleas for mercy “from the powers that be” – this track potentially echoes the state of desperation many impoverished members of our present society are currently dealing with.

To that end, both ‘Reapers’ and ‘The Handler’ continue the trend of the aforesaid, an appropriated connection to several pressing, vital elements of our own reality. The frantic hammer-on, pull-off intro of the former flow into an amalgam of sharp minor verses accompanied by proclamations of “I don’t think I can handle the truth…/…we’re all expendable”, while heavy major choruses blare: “you rule with lies and deceit / and the world is on your side” – a veiled stab at the government’s unrelenting ignorance, in double entendre form as well? I’d like to think so. The latter assumes the roles of both: our temporarily fallen hero’s peak functionality – “I have been programmed to obey…/….I will execute your demands” – as well as his complete and utter breaking point, adeptly accentuated by the frenzied middle eight and concluding chorus which precede the timely prelude to the inflammatory ‘Defector’.

Then, after a sample of the late JFK’s 1961 speech concerning press freedom in the face of Soviet Communism during the Cold War, and a fill of numerous declarations of “I’m free/from society”, the most empathetic stage of all arrives with ‘Revolt’. An undoubtable, deftly accomplished 21st century protest anthem if I ever heard one. An elated evocation of encouragement, that “you can make this world what you want / you can revolt”.

Heading into the final frontier, so to speak, the three concluding compositions endeavour to step the tempo down a few notches for a lengthy period of reflection. ‘Aftermath’ serenely elicits a meandering premise of ‘the battle’s over, but the war isn’t won’, while ‘The Globalist’ compounds the essence of closure with a predominantly instrumental epic that transcends the records entire pathology. The title track, in contrast, is occupied only by a gospel-like, almost Bohemian Rhapsody-esque vocal harmony from the whole band, until the very last note.

Drones is an undeniably elaborate odyssey that at times is calmly complacent, but for the most part, strikingly succinct. There are many moments that possess timeless relevance, both in the way of musical storytelling, along with our own personal and universal surroundings too. As always, Muse have rekindled and intertwined their respective melodious mastery, to produce yet another soaring colossus of an album.

Words by Alex Graham

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