Muse has become one of the biggest names in alternative rock and their millions of fans have been waiting for the next album to be released. Since the inception of the band, Muse has released albums approximately three years apart, and their 7th studio album, Drones, is no exception. Arriving just two years and eight months after Second Law, Drones is a complete one-eighty of its predecessor. When compared to their latest few albums, it is very obvious that they’ve taken their music in a different direction.
Drones is something of a concept album, with most tracks flowing into each other. The story is of a man fighting against his own dehumanization. It feels cohesive, but also played out, we’ve heard this sort of plot before. They’ve also backed off the more orchestral and electronic styles of their most recent previous albums and delivered a solid, forceful, yet sometimes awkward, sound.
The first track, “Dead Inside,” starts with Muse’s signature robotic-futuristic sound with booming, addictive guitar, yet something’s missing. By returning to a more stripped-down style, they lost the ear-worm electronic hooks that dominated The Resistance; a regression that fans of their recent albums may not like.
Two of the tracks on the album, “[Drill Sargeant]” and “[JFK]” are pieces of speeches that lead into the songs that follow them. The audio clip seemingly breaks up the flow of the album. A little more than halfway through the song “Psycho,” which follows “[Drill Sargeant],” there’s a break in the music and another audio clip pops up. It feels anticlimactic and forced. They could have been left out and would likely not be missed, and in fact were annoying interruptions I’d likely skip if ever listening to the album all the way through again.
From the quick, huge jumps in the dynamic range of a song, to the harmonic vocalizations of Bellamy, the Queen influence is stronger in this album than anything I’ve ever heard before by Muse. Tracks like “Drones” and “Defector” have moments that could have been plucked straight from a Queen album.
The true strength in Drones is what Muse’s strengths have always been: fantastic vocals, skilled and interesting guitar parts, adrenaline-pumping beats and their political and emotional lyrics.
Stepping back from where they have evolved by choosing to return to the alternative-rock sound found in their early albums can be good or bad depending on your preferred era of Muse. The audio clips of the speeches didn’t add anything and, unfortunately, there are places where the political story felt cliché and a dated. Even though there are some underwhelming tracks, it is a solid release with some catchy songs. It didn’t blow me away, but I’ll be adding a couple tracks to my playlist for the week.
My favorite tracks, by far, were “Reapers,” for its absolutely addictive guitar parts, and “The Handler,” for its amazing vocals and energy. Try to listen to either one of these and not smash something out of joy, really they’re what bumped this album (just barely) into my good graces.