The opening years of the new millennium proved to be spectacularly successful for British rock band Muse. Their critically acclaimed third album Absolution propelled them into the mainstream spotlight back in 2003 and caught the attention of the USA for the first time. Coupling orchestral harmonies with their usual brand of hard rock proved to be genius, a step outside of the norm for the band. After such a ground breaking album, it was always a wonder where the trio would venture from there. But in early July 2006, “Black Holes and Revelations” was released, and any doubts that the band would fall flat were silenced.
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Recorded in late 2005, the album had an eclectic range of inspiration and influences from across the globe. Prior to its inception, singer Matt Bellamy had been living in Italy for quite some time, which proved to play to his advantage. He explored Italian and European music, which turned out to be so varied in terms of style, he couldn’t resist using this in “Black Holes and Revelations”. As the band never truly fit into the Brit-pop or rock genre, they didn’t feel the need to conform or sound a certain way. When it came to writing the new album, the trio retreated to a chateau in France to be free from distractions. The freedom to complete it at their own pace allowed them to channel their artistic findings and learn about new technology to make their sound even more defined. Recording the album in France proved to be slow, so in keeping with the band’s tradition of creating music in contrasting surroundings, they travelled to New York to bring the record to life.
“Black Holes and Revelations” encompassed a lot of different genres throughout the album without compromising the rock element that makes Muse so special. And it seemed that critics across the world couldn’t get enough of this new sound. What followed however was to be the Muse’s largest and longest tour to date: playing 195 shows in over 40 countries, in total spending over two years on the road, the very magnitude of this piece opening more doors than they could have possibly imagined.
Opening with the truly epic rock-opera “Take A Bow”, Muse take you through an incredible fairground fun house of classic symphonies, techno delicacies and finally culminating in an edgy, ballsy rock blast that is so unexpected, you really have to stop for a moment and wonder if this triumphant sound is truly happening. Feeding into the more upbeat and, daresay mainstream track “Starlight”, whose lyrics lend themselves to the title of the album, we see that the entire record is an oxymoron in itself. From this point, Bellamy’s vocals excel into another dimension and beyond.
Masquerading difficult themes under the facade of edgy riffs sometimes makes it difficult to hear the pain inside, as seen in “Map of the Problematique”: ‘Loneliness be over. When will this loneliness be over‘. But cleverly, Bellamy takes inspiration from conspiracy theories and controversial topics and creates characters to portray these messages throughout “Black Holes and Revelations”.
And the eclecticism continues with more subdued tracks “Invincible” and “Soldier’s Poem”, as eerie voices carry a rather deep message, still hauntingly relevant to this day: ‘There’s no justice in the world, and there never was’. Exploring these crooked avenues musically certainly make you stand up and notice but traditionally, the hearts of Muse belong to the sweet embrace of rock. The trio shine brightest with the likes of “Exo-Politics”, “Assassin” and “City of Delusion”, the latter offering an insight into the twisted mind of Muse. Close your eyes and imagine an orchestra, but then throw in the sass of bass and cheeky Marachi brass vibes, it sounds completely insane. But the ordinarily clashing themes are actually having the best damn party you’ve ever heard, topped off by the dizzying endlessness of Bellamy’s vocals. It all works together in perfect harmony, and for the life of you, you cannot explain why.
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In itself, the album produced five incredible singles, the most successful being “Supermassive Black Hole”. Mixing funk with guitar riffs, inspired by Belgian band Millionaire, turned out to be one of the craziest yet wisest directions in music one could make. It also carries quite possibly one of the most recognisable, daringly heavy and intriguing opening riffs of all time.
The political and sci-fi undertones to the lyrics made this record come alive with a sense of wonder, “Knights of Cydonia” a prime example of this. On the face of it, the lyrics were so simple: “No one’s going to take me alive, time has come to make things right. You and I must fight for our rights, you and I must fight to survive”. But these words have officially been inducted into the war cry anthems hall of fame, forever burned into the subconscious of fans across the globe. And the idea of literally creating the effect of galloping horses with gutars is another level of inspired madness.
Muse show endless amounts of professionalism and imagination throughout and perhaps this is why “Black Holes and Revelations” has stood the ever judging and difficult test of time. It is pure, unadulterated insanity but in the best possible way. Who knows what this album really means? Quite frankly, who cares! Crack on this album on a long car journey, wind down the windows and rock your way into the sunset.