Everyone’s favourite space rockers are back, this time treading unchartered waters. Muse’s Drones is a concept album, in which a protagonist falls out of love and becomes a killing machine under the control of mind-controller-psychopaths, only to break free and destroy the system from the bottom up. It’s hardly as complex or deep as The Wall, but it’s a concept album nonetheless. Each song’s intention as part of the overall ‘story’ is clearly told through Matt Bellamy’s straightforward, sometimes cringeworthy (having the word ‘drone’ in every song doesn’t necessarily constitute a storyline) lyricism.
The first half of Drones is absolutely killer. Opener ‘Dead Inside’ is reminiscent of the band’s style on sixth album The 2nd Law, with its dark 80s synth groove and powerful, earnest vocals harking back to previous lead single ‘Madness.’ However, Muse shift into new territory on tracks such as ‘Psycho’ and ‘Reapers’, where fast guitar riffs and steady bass rhythm backing manage to combine the band’s stadium sound with long-forgotten feelings of aggressive old school rock. ‘The Handler’ is a particular standout, a dark combination of Royal Blood-like bass and brooding guitar with Bellamy’s falsetto intercepting throughout.
The second half of Drones starts to veer away from this tight rock sound into Muse’s more trademarkedly bombastic, OTT comfort zone. This detour sometimes works to the group’s advantage, such as on Dire-Straits-esque ‘Aftermath’ or epic three part finale ‘The Globalist’- but other times, things just get a bit too Queen-like. Overall, it feels like the album is split into two very well structured parts, with one narrative flowing throughout- a move that is either stylistic genius (following the depression and elation of the protagonist) or (more likely) a misstep in musical direction. Make sure you’ve got your tin-foil hat strapped on.
Review by Bridget Rumball