By: Ryley Chorowiec
My hopes and expectations were turned into black holes and revelations.
In their eighth studio album, The British alternative prog rockers dive deep into their long and unholy obsession with infusing electronic elements into their already complex music. Simulation Theory takes the listener on a polarizing extra terrestrial journey which after 40 minutes, might leave you with quite the headache. The Devonshire trio and their overuse of 1980s synthesizers and electronic beats is nothing new.
Our first major experience with this was on their 6th album, The 2nd Law, where the band shocked many listeners with their incorporation of Skrillex-like noises. Simulation Theory ramps these sounds up to an 11, making it difficult to pick out the most honourable artistic qualities from the music.
The album art, created by Stranger Thing’s artwork designer Kyle Lambert confirms my suspicions on just how much Netflix Matt Bellamy and the rest of the guys have been watching over the past three years instead of diligently working to release a better quality of music. Although I don't question the bands devotion to their craft, it seems as though this album was easily thrown together as an attempt to crush Spotify and Apple Music charts.
Being co-produced by Timbaland, maybe this shouldn't have come as such a surprise to me. As a big Muse fan, I was naively hoping this record would be a return of their original stylistic elements. The band’s 2015 release of Drones saw the trio return to a slightly more original rock sound, unfortunately while still not packing very much of a punch at all.
From the beginning of the album, it seems as though Muse are still bitter about losing their 2012 battle for the James Bond theme song against Adele’s “Sky Fall.” The vibes in the opening track “Algorithm” made me feel like they're on a Liam Neeson mission which requires them to be on a space shuttle, set in 2055. Sure, chomp on a purple mushroom cap or two and give it a listen-it might be your thing. However, a sober mind can only take so much noise at once. As I listened to the album I found it extremely difficult to pick out sounds I liked due to the overwhelming hum and buzz of electronic sample pads and outer-space synthesizers.
The special effects on tracks like “Propaganda” and “Blockades” make listening unbearable at certain points, while tracks like “Pressure” and “The Dark Side” might just have your feet shuffling across your bedroom floor. Funny enough, it appears the bands leading two singles “Dig Down” and “Thought Contagion” might just be the worst tracks on the whole record suffocating you with their innovative sounds.
There’s no doubt that Matt Bellamy’s vocals are the highlight of this album. Bigger and better than ever, he makes a habit of reminding us just how hair raising and mesmerizing his vocal range can be. It’s a shame that both Matt’s vocals and guitars are often drowned out by the pulsating electronica that comes with every new Muse album. When audible, Bellamy’s guitar tones are creamy and fuzzy, with Brian May-like undertones. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme carries the rhythm section throughout the album with groovy and fluid bass lines, meanwhile I would likely be able to recreate Drummer Dominic Howard’s performance via garage band drum machines in my basement.
Overall, we can definitely classify this record as innovative. Muse have long experimented with electronic elements within their music, and this is truly a huge dive into the murky waters of electronica and over production. If one thing is certain, Muse definitely has one of the most loyal fanbases on the planet. The trio’s fans will eat up pretty much anything they put out- and keep jamming arenas until they’re sold out. If you’re looking for something to take you another frequency during some type of psychedelic experience, this might just be the album for you. However, I’m going to have a very hard time attempting to listen to this album again with my brain in its average setting. The album has definitely reached success, peaking at No.1 On the UK Billboard charts just earlier this week. With that being said, this record seriously lacks the traditional rock and roll ambience which built the empire Muse now look down upon from their throne, alongside Timbaland, and by the next record, who knows, maybe even Steve Aoki at this point…
Favourite Tracks: “The Dark Side” “Pressure”
Least Favourite Tracks: “Propaganda” “Dig Down” “Something Human”