Over the years Muse have become the masters of reinvention, seemingly able to transform between albums and constantly keeping their fan base guessing as to what direction they would go next. Even with this fluctuating history, their eighth studio output Simulation Theory (Warner Bros.) was a high-stakes gamble, even for Muse.
A traversal into the realm of electro-Pop may not seem such a huge leap to some fans, but it is a dive into the relative unknown for a band so beloved for apocalyptic rock epics such as Absolution. This is especially so since their previous outing, Drones, was received so poorly.
Frontman Matt Bellamy has been the driving force behind Muse’s various transformations, and has been on the receiving end of much of the criticism lauded on their experimentation. Opener ‘Algorithm’ treads a fine line between intriguing and cringeworthy, with a menacing air that taps into a conspiracy theorists nightmare, but whereby the listener is forcibly removed from this by the repetition of the line “It’s too late for a revolution, Brace for the final solution”.
This is, sadly, a common thread in Simulation Theory. Bellamy’s preachiness on ‘Thought Contagion’ is a punching reality check, diverting attention from the technical dexterity of the band and fostering the odd snigger. That being said, Bellamy’s vocals and the bands overall sound are without question and there are calls back to previous albums and songs, such as ‘Knights of Cydonia’ and ‘Starlight’, with heavy, slow-burning guitars riffs. A sign that the old Muse is still in there.
Overall, while Muse is a band adept at experimentation, Simulation Theory is a mixed bag. If it weren’t for Bellamy’s punching preachiness or a couple forgettable numbers, this might be a success. However, it feels as though Muse are treading water rather than diving headfirst and putting everything behind it.
6 / 10