Review of Muse: Black Holes and Revelations

Please read Greg Jorgensen’s selection article of Muse: Black Holes and Revelations before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
There was no dispute that all of us saw the greatness in Muse and felt that they really owned their sound. Sure they sounded like other bands at times but they are very unique. Muse doesn’t need us to tell them they are great and they will be a remembered band for years to come. Maybe they are too ahead of their time though. Time will tell.
I (Darren) was quite surprised by all the reviews. I think we all went in thinking this would be a band we would most likely all love. However, we each pointed out something that didn’t sit right with us as individuals but we varied in what we didn’t like. Muse is a complicated band, very complicated. It is not music you can just ignore in the background like most pop music, it is meaty and flavourful.
Though we all had our beefs with Muse we all definitely recommend that you listen to this album and their work. Take a few minutes to read our in-depth reviews.
What was cool about this album:

  • A bold new complicated and musically complex sound and songwriting is a must listen.
  • Knights of Cydonia – an album favourite.
  • You know Muse are hall of fame musicians.

What we didn’t find so cool:

  • They often sound like Queen. Every one of us mentioned that and we write all reviews separately.
  • They might be ahead of their time. The music was complicated and sometimes hard to follow.
  • Darren felt that Matthew Bellamy’s voice got super annoying after listening to the album several times.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced our tastes: 2.5
Worth the hype? 4
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
As I mentioned in the “pick” section for this album, I can’t believe I only discovered Muse this year. This is a band that I would have LOVED 10 years ago for a few reasons. That being said, having listened to almost their entire catalog – and having some of the excitement wear off a bit – I can say that Black Holes and Revelations is indicative of their retinue for me now – not solidly great, but with a lot of fantastic, varied, catchy stuff.
There are a few things I like most about BHAR (as well as the rest of their music). The first is that they really mix up their sound. Some songs (like Take a Bow) are completely unique and different from others on the album, while still remaining catchy enough to be favorites. Others (like Assassin) start out incredibly gratingly, but turn out to be awesome. Still others (like Map of the Problematique) enjoy what I liken to ‘layers’. Have you ever been listening to a song and feel there should be a bit more there? More what? Who knows, but more. I think Muse is great at layering in sound upon sound until there is just a solid wall of music. Me – I like that.
It’s clear their inspirations come from all over the place – at various times I was reminded of Queen, Bush, Extreme, or even Zappa. (insert “Zappa the queen’s extreme bush” joke here). While the album isn’t a solid hit – Invincible and Hoodoo are a bit weak, and I don’t know what the hell’s going on Soldier’s Poem – I still think it’s got enough solid material to earn its reputation as a winner from one of Britain’s biggest bands.
PS – Not sure if you’re like me, but the first note of Take a Bow hit me right away – the song was used to great effect in the trailer for Watchmen.

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype?: 4.5
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
I was excited by this month’s pick as I’d heard of Muse many times over the years but couldn’t name one song by them. Despite their sound fitting into the spec I usually enjoy, they somehow had totally evaded me. Black Holes and Revelations is an intricate work that definitely requires many listens to begin to grasp and it got many plays over the last month.
While I really enjoy some of the deep rock licks, such as on Knights of Cydonia, which really gets rocking and is a fitting near-ending track, I wish the album had stuck more to the rock, leaving out the electronica it incorporated at times. While I completely appreciate the unique sound and style Muse went for here, I found the blend not entirely pleasing at all times. In fact, I’m still wondering how these guys came up with their sound? It’s so unique and they should be applauded for taking an interesting path rather than following the masses and typical sound.
There’s a grand, rock-opera factor at play, much in the vane of some of Queen’s work. It’s at times truly epic and I wondered if it was written to accompany a play or movie? The album as a whole was fun at times, and at others, not so much. It’s definitely complex, requiring one’s attention and doesn’t make good background music while working. I can’t imagine listening to any of these songs on its own, as there wasn’t that stand-out single, but it’s a complete work intended to be digested from start to finish.
All in all, while I enjoyed parts of this album, no particular points really stick out, and it all sort of blended together in my mind. That said, I’m glad innovative rock is still alive, I’ll seek out some more of Muse’s albums and had a lot of fun this month.
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype?: 4
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
Muse. Hmmm… Muse. This was a groundbreaking review of an album for me as something happened during the month of listening that has never happened before. What you ask? Well, let’s get into this shall we.
I had known of Muse and had some songs in my music collection and I have to say I realty liked them. I’m not sure why I had never bought more of their stuff, but like many artists I hear, I just don’t have the time and money to buy and listen to it all. So, for me, Muse was always on the fringe of my collection and taste. I was delighted when Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations was picked for October. So I dove right in.
I have great headphones for my iPod(Yes, I still have a big, clunky iPod Classic with the 160GB hard drive. I just love having all my music collection with me at all times and phones storage doesn’t cut it. Why is storage still expensive anyway?). I commute every day so I have about an hour, which is perfect for an album listen. I cranked BH&R and let myself immerse in it. I was totally blown away. I forgot how amazing of musicians that Matthew, Dominic and Chris are. The mastery of their instruments and the amazing structure and complexity of the songs was a refreshing treat to my ears. I though to myself, finally someone is using highly technical production techniques for the good of music rather than wasting it on over-producing and auto-tuning almost every pop song we hear. I believe that this is Muse’s greatest strength and they will be appreciated for many years because of this. By the end of the album, I was sold. I was definitely going to buy all their albums and be president of the fan club(Ha ha ha). Then, the craziest thing happened.
Throughout the month, I started listening more to BH&R. Second time-good. Third time-still good…I think. Fourth times-Um… this is starting to be too much. I waited a week or so. Fifth time-Um… does Matthew Bellamy’s singing sound slightly annoying to anyone else? Sixth time-ok, I actually don’t think I like Muse anymore. Are they not just a modern Queen that only has one method of delivering lyrics?

I was amazed, as you might be, that with each listen I actually started to find Matthew Bellamy’s singing annoying as fuck. I am actually listening right now as I write this and I want to make him stop. I can’t help but perform an analogy between the over-acting of Jim Carrey and the singing of Matt Bellamy. Hey, there is a place for this and many fans love Prog Rock. Unfortunately, I never really embraced progressive rock bands. I’ll admit that even some Rush songs are too much for me and bands like Marillion never really did it for me.

I do stand by my statement that Muse’s musical abilities are amazing and they will be a band of the ages. I do also still like their hits and would listen to them in a playlist. However, I don’t think I will ever listen to a full album again of them. It’s just too over-sung and dramatic for me. I have never been so in love with a band on first listen before and to then, so shortly, fall out of love with them. It reminds me of my grade 9 crush Jennifer Ross. I was so Twitterpated with her and then shortly after dating her she was too cool and mean and I lost all interest. I wish the best of luck to Jennifer and to Muse. Not my thing, though I do love Queen. Freddie was the man.
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 1.5
Worth the hype?: 4
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So, waaay back when Muse hit the scene, I never really got into them. Why would I listen to the bargain-version of Radiohead when Radiohead was still out there cranking out great work? The biggest impact Muse had on my life was helping strip most of the flesh off my thumb for the better part of 2011:

But, sometime between then and now, I reignited a love interest with Meatloaf, Queen, Veruca Salt, and Dread Zepplin. That common thread of over-the-top rock showmanship is present in this album, and coming back to it a decade later I find a deeper appreciation for what they accomplished.
I perused a lot of the UK reviews from back in the day, and many agreed this was an ambitious, audacious and outrageous rock album. The subject matter was flighty, fantastical, out of line with current rock vibes and a throw back to the 70s when you could get away with references to Mordor in your songs. (Thanks Page and Plant) How could you not love this album? I look back now and wonder.
I’m a big fan of driving guitar riffs, and this album is filled with great work. It’s almost insane how varied the selection is. Many of my favourite groups have such signature sounds that I can tell most of them by their instrumental work within seconds. I can’t find that common thread here, and I like that. Until you hear Bellamy’s voice on Assassin, you could honestly believe you were listening to a new System of A Down song. Similarly, Soldier’s Poem reminds me of some of the moodier, low-key Queen tracks.
Back and forth through emotions, themes, and down through the rabbit hole into Cydonia I followed Muse, and it was a draining, fulfilling experience. By the time the last track Glorious started to wind down, I was honestly left thinking, “what now?” Seriously. What do you do after listening to an album like that?
By now it should be clear I enjoyed the album as a whole; here’s a breakdown on the three tracks I enjoyed the most.

  1. Knights of Cydonia

Easy pickings I know, but it’s the first track I ever heard off the album, and listened to easily a hundred times more than any other Muse song. Thanks to Guitar Hero, I’ve made my fingers bleed for this song, and it deserves some attention in this review. It’s big, beautiful, and throws back to rock-opera, space-opera, and what the hell, probably even opera-opera. This is probably what Pavarotti sings in the shower. I’d have no problem adding this to my Car-eoke list (right after John the Fisherman), scaring the people in the SUVs next to me. I feel sad for them because they can’t join in.

  1. Starlight

I think I’ve previously mentioned my love of progressive baseline and rhythm in other reviews. The drums really come through and actively control the entire makeup of this song. Bellamy’s smooth, lilting and flowing delivery of the lyrics plays a perfect counterpoint to the sharp snares and crashing cymbals. It’s a beautiful mash up that, once you settle in to it, hides a very touching love song. It’s very rare that I value instrumental composition over lyrics, but this song had me distracted for a good half dozen listens before I even thought of deconstructing the words.

  1. Map of the Problematique

Muse lists Depeche Mode on their list of influences for this album, and I think I feel it mostly on this track. Of course there’s no way Bellamy would ever provide the same haunting, dark edge to a song that Dave Gahan provides, but I can feel the tension, the energy coming through like I would with DM. It reminds me of dancing away the 90s at the Warehouse on British Alt Night. If you dropped this in the middle of In My Arms and Friday I’m In Love, you’d have the perfect threesome to close the night on a happy note.
Ok, let’s talk numbers:
Overall Opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype: 4.5

alain-dupuis
Alain Dupuis’ Review 

I’ve heard a number of Muse songs on the radio over the years, but I hadn’t given a listen to a full album before this month’s pick. I’ll cut right to the chase here: Black Holes and Revelations is good. Really good.

I liked:
On this album, Muse has this masterful way of pulling together elements of a variety of genres and making something cohesive that sounds good.
They take the driving, distorted guitars and feedback of grunge-rock, steep it in electronica, add a dash of musical theatre flare, and sprinkle it with science fiction.
On Take a Bow, the song starts out with an energetic spacey sounding synth, and continues to drive that energy up, louder and louder until the song ends in an echo of guitar feedback. If this song came out in 1997, I would have been in heaven.
In Map of the Problematique, the percussion and syncopation of the synths drives an almost tribal anthem that finds some juxtaposition with a haunting piano or a kickass guitar riff at various points in the song. For some reason, the track really stuck out in my head as being something special. (Completely subjective, I know…)
I didn’t like:
Is it just me, or do the vocals start to sound a bit whiney after a while?
The single Starlight didn’t do much for me, and if I’m being honest, it never really has. I can’t quite pin down what it is I don’t like about it, but I think the fact that it used to get a ton of radio airplay might be a factor.
Invincible. For the first half of the song, it plays like a rejected U2 song that whales are mating to (I shit you not). Frustratingly, I always found myself wanting to skip it – that is, up until the 3:30 mark, when the song takes a completely tangental turn into some bizarre, spacey rock opera and becomes likeable.
Final thoughts:
While not every track on Black Holes held my interest, I couldn’t help but fall for the crazy shitmix of sounds that congeal into an epic album. Overall, it’s solid, and most of the songs on it had something awesome to offer. I don’t know that I’d listen to the album from front to back on the regular – whiney vocals for 45 minutes? No thanks – but certainly tracks like Knights of Cydonia, Take a Bow, and Map of the Problematique will see heavy rotation on my playlist.
Overall Opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype: 4.5

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *