After some soul-searching in their first couple of albums, British band Muse began to look at the world around them for inspiration. In doing so, they explored various templates from war (what is it good for, if not music) to technology to cosmic phenomena such as black holes and interstellar travels. The essentially three-member act (they employ a plethora of musicians for their zany, high-energy performances) didn’t just push the envelope — they crafted an entirely new delivery system, evolving from a hard garage rock sound to heavy experimentation with electronica, distortions, even dubstep, all leading to every album release becoming a definite event in the global music scene.
Drones, their seventh studio offering, ideologically follows the same path —tracing the journey of a single character, from the time she is brainwashed and turned into a human drone, to her defection from an Orwellian dystopia.
The concept album explores dehumanisation and the destruction of empathy. And while it continues the concept of the concept album, musically, Drones is sort of a return to Muse’s earlier largely hard rock sound but without too much deviation.
The album begins melodically with Dead Inside, a curiously uplifting tune for a morbid title, comes with plenty of zithering on the synthesiser and emphatic, nay, bombastic drumming. There’s still a hint of malevolence to it, rather fitting, given that the next track, Drill Sergeant, is well, as suggested, an audio sample of a drill sergeant exhorting fresh recruits, and a natural progression to Psycho, the frenzied third track, about training to kill, like well, a psycho.
The album takes a breather with Mercy, a gentle track, as glam and 1980s as a prom scene from a movie. A moment’s reprieve before Muse launches into the furious Reapers, an aural assault with one of the tastiest guitar solos we’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a while.
Lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Matthew Bellamy continues wearing his many hats with ease, ably backed up
by bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and percussionist Dominic Howard, all three members taking care of production duties, and their line-up bolstered by session musicians for various tracks. While lyrically simple, the music is anything but. Drones is influenced by operatic, classical strains throughout the nearly-hour-long album.