Black Holes and Revelations – Muse

Black Holes and Revelations

Muse

Helium 3 / Warner Bros.

2006

Honestly, I never knew about Muse until this album.  I was way late to listen to them, seeing as this is their fourth studio album.  Critically, Black Holes was met with acclamation and disdain.  Both sides cite this album, even the band really, as being overblown and theatrical.  And this is totally true.  Muse is overblown and theatrical.  That’s why I like them.  Who else is like that?  Who else creates sounds that continually get bigger and bigger?  The band, who combine influences of progressive rock with classic rock, can be summed up neatly with one word: epic.

Sure, this might be a little too clean-cut, but it’s true.  Their lyrics may be politically charged, but Muse keeps specifics out of the songs.  This vagueness brings a sense of idealism to the album.  “No one’s gonna take me alive,” “You’ll burn in Hell for your sins,” “Will our leaders tell us why?”  All this grandness lets anyone get into the album, even though Black Holes is lousy with ambiguity.

The opener is “Take a Bow.”  Quietly, electronic scales begin, and lead singer Bellamy almost whispers his vocals.  Slowly, the song’s dynamics begin to rise, especially after the title is sung.  This leads into hard rock, beginning the epicness of the album.  The song always feels shorter than it actually is, probably because it is an interesting track, though it’s more of a mood-setter than anything else.  “Take a Bow” devolves into chaos, letting the next song climb out of the rubble.

That’s where “Starlight” comes in.  The beat is instantly recognizable, and Wolstenholme’s bass keeps a steady, yet frenetic pace.  It’s a rather uptempo ballad, with Bellamy singing “I’ll never let you go, if you promise not to fade away.”  Again the dynamics are amazing, as the band isn’t afraid to drop out during the bridge, letting Bellamy’s unique voice lead the buildup.  The piano may come off as a little cheesy, as it’s not really needed – in fact, it’s appearance in the tune is only as a cameo.  Most of the time Muse’s signature keyboards take it’s place, which has a better sound.

The third track is “Supermassive Black Hole,” one of the best songs on the album, and definitely the funkiest.  The vocals are mainly sung falsetto style (reminding me of “I Turn My Camera On” by Spoon).  The bass and Howard’s drums lead the song musically, making a danceable beat.  The chorus features more than one vocal part, which is a great effect.  The “solo” here is more of just electronic sound effects, which work, but I’d rather hear some guitar.  Still, awesome song.

“Map of the Problematique” starts off cool, except for the out-of-place piano again.  I really don’t understand why the band uses that so much, they create enough sound without it, and to use a straightforward piano really doesn’t fit at all.  The vocals are all breathy which is cool, but makes it so the lyrics are somewhat indiscernable.  Best part: the drums are really heavy-hitting.  Unfortunately again, no guitar solo.  For a song of this length that doesn’t change too much, I think they should’ve put one in.  Semi-disapointed.

The next track is “Soldier’s Poem.”  This a short, slower song.  The acoustic guitar arrpegiates chords over the brushed drums.  Really, it’s a beautiful song with Queenesque harmonies.  Which is probably the only reason this song was recorded. 

“Invincible” brings back the epic feel of the album, starting off as a quiet march.  Again, the lyrics keep things unclear as Bellamy sings, “Together we’re invincible.”  Smart move on Muse’s part; the use of the pronoun “we” allows for a sense of community, a technique used by The Beatles at the beginning of their career.  It works too.  Almost the entire song is a giant buildup, with only a short shuffle break in the middle.  The end of the song brings the epic feeling to a head, and we finally get a kick-ass guitar solo.  The oscillation of the song makes this one of the most well-written songs on Black Holes.

“Assassin” sounds like they’re using old tricks, as it’s very reminiscent of “Stockholm Syndrome,” especially with its opening riff.  The pounding drums lead the song along, and it’s a very heavy song.  The background vocals, although incomprehensible, create a nice effect.  But no matter how you look at the song, it’s a sub-par version of that earlier song.

“Exo-Politics” again features plodding drums.  However, with the interesting chord changes, the vocal line is nice to listen to.  It’s a rather direct hard rock song, but this is sometimes what is exactly needed.  I give it my approval.

“City of Delusion” is different for its acoustic intro, and violin section.  Though, my favorite part is the bass line.  It doesn’t sound particularly difficult, it’s just a really nice touch.  This is more featured when the music drops out, and the audience can hear the line (although it has electronic effects added over it).  Again, the vague lyrics creates an ideal-finding setting, “Destroy this city of delusion” is sung without irony.  The different parts (acoustic guitars, string sections, awesome bass lines) almost make the song sound like a lost Zeppelin track; although I doubt Jimmy Page would’ve allowed a trumpet to take over where a guitar solo should be.  But still, it’s a really great song.

“Hoodoo” opens with an acoustic guitar (with a reverb effect) doing a spaghetti-western theme on it.  And this is the way the song should’ve gone.  Instead, it’s a really boring slow song for most of the first half, and the ending.  Even the drums and bass coming in can’t truly save this song.

But that’s alright.  Because the best song on the album is directly after it.  And what better way to close the album than with kicking one’s ass with awesome rock?  “Knights of Cydonia” keeps the western theme going, but the way it should always have been.  The prolonged intro features synth, trumpets, and guitars trading riffs on the same theme.  When the vocals finally come in, two minutes into the song, they kick the epic up to a whole new level.  “How can we win when fools can be kings?  Don’t waste your time or time will waste you.”  Pure awesome.  But still not as much as what’s coming up.  The band drops out for one of the greatest buildups ever.  Over a pulsating noise (which I believe is the bass, though it could just be a synth), the vocals harmonize on some of the most singable lyrics ever: “No one’s gonna take me alive, the come has come to make things right, you and I must fight for our rights, you and I must fight to survive.”  Did that get you pumped up? No? Well than the buildup will.  Remember that part in Wayne’s World where the characters sing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and then headbang?  Well, that’s this song. The guitars are fantastic, and the entire band brings out everything they’ve got.  They build the energy up so high, and they don’t let it go during the entire song.  “Knights of Cydonia” is one of the best songs of the past decade, easily.

Black Holes and Revelations may not be a perfect album, but i’s still highly entertaining.  Some of the middle songs bring the album down to an almost boring level, but that’s not to say they’re bad songs, they just don’t match the quality of most of the collection.  But the band knows how to rock hard, and they do just that.  I’d like to hear better lyrics, but for now the unspecified, evil authorities that Muse is constantly raging against with enthusiasm will have to do.

Buy This Album

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4 Responses to “Black Holes and Revelations – Muse”

  1. I remember thinking that the next Muse album would sound like 20 Black Holes and Revelations stacked on top of each other, which it pretty much does. Nice post.

  2. ha, damn, now I can’t even review their latest album cos it won’t even come close to being as good as your description. Thanks, man

  3. You made some excellent points here. I did a search on this and most people agree with what your saying. Will you be updating this blog in the future? I bookmarked you and will check back later. Thanks for the info.

    • Well, thank you. We will be updating with more album reviews sooner or later, as soon as we have more time on our hands. I hope you do check back, I certainly appreciate your input and everything!

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