Muse - Drones

As civilization moves ever further into the era of technology, we begin to make everything mechanical. Including ourselves. The creation of drones allows for silent murder - the controller sitting behind a monitor, aiming their strike on their target. The controller of the drone is influenced by its handler, and so forth. Everything has become so monotonous, so controlled and contrived, as far as to say we have become so dead inside that killing is just another check off of the to-do list.

Muse explores this concept with their latest album, Drones, a concept album exploring the journey of a protagonist trapped in a world like this (that is, a more acute approach on the whole “mechanical killing” world than ours is at the moment). It follows a vivid story, from losing all emotion, to becoming a human drone, to fighting against the system, and ultimately finding love again despite being broken down so many times.

1) Dead Inside: I’m not afraid to admit that I was skeptical about this one at first. Muse had been promoting a “back to basics” and “heavy, guitar oriented” album and had released ‘Psycho’ only a short while before. Then they dropped ‘Dead Inside’, which is almost the opposite of what everyone expected. This song, has, however, REALLY grown on me. The funky sound is great and the U2-esque breakdown is just beautiful. You can really hear the emotion in Bellamy’s vocals in this one. The story is introduced in this song, giving an insight to how the protagonist has reached this point in his or her life: they lose hope and all concept of love. This makes them vulnerable, for what comes next... 9/10

2) [Drill Sergeant]: Nothing much to say about this one. It almost feels unnecessary, nothing much other than a drill sergeant yelling at the next “super drone”. It doesn’t deserve a 0, though. It builds up the hype for one of the biggest moments on the album... 5/10

3) Psycho: That goddamn riff. I still remember blowing up when the famous “0305030″ riff that has been a staple riff to jam to live after the likes of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘Map Of The Problematique’ had finally become its own song. While the instrumentation really, really brings out the best in this song, it’s hard to say the lyrics are particularly good. You have to understand the perspective of it, first, before making a judgement on the lyrical content: the drill sergeant. In this song, the drill sergeant is drilling these thoughts that the protagonist is nothing more than a killing machine. “Your ass belongs to me now” does have its own charm, though. Can’t have a good album without the one meme-generating moment, can you? As a whole, the song grooves throughout, keeping the listener bobbing their head and ready for the riff to kick back in. The brass being brought to the front in the final chorus is a great moment, too. 8.5/10

4) Mercy: At this point in the story, the protagonist realizes that they’ve lost something. Theirself. They become aware of what has become of them after the brainwashing in ‘Psycho’, and beg for mercy (who’d have thought?) against what they’ve become. Sonically, this song is comparable to Black Holes & Revelations’ ‘Starlight’, albeit heavier in many ways. Muse’s synth arpeggios return in a big way on this track, a welcome element in any Muse song. Admittedly, like ‘Dead Inside’, this track took a bit of growing on me. Everything feels in place and adds to a very enjoyable listening experience before the truly heavier parts of the album kick in. 8.5/10

5) Reapers: This is what Muse fans were waiting for. It’s like a wonderful mashup of the rocking of Absolution, the electronics and vocoders of The 2nd Law, and just pure rock ‘n’ roll. The song begins with an awesome tapping riff intro and progresses into an onslaught of pedals and modulation on the guitar end of things. Bellamy really shines with his falsettos during the choruses. The massive outro cannot be overlooked either - one of the most memorable (and jam-worthy) parts of the album. Muse meets Rage Against The Machine! Thematically, the protagonist realizes the truth behind the mindless killing and the danger and brutality behind it. 9/10

6) The Handler: Muse? Progressive rock? Well, hello there, Origin Of Symmetry. With an absolutely crushingly huge riff in to kick this song off (the Drop D is strong with this one), you know from the get-go that you’re in for a monster song. The chorus is everything Muse should be - heavy, falsettos, you name it. The bridge is reminiscent of another relatively-heavy Muse song, In Your World. No complaints there. The quantum entanglement with ‘Showbiz’ from the band’s debut album right after the bridge is an incredible moment, sends chills down my spine. Another “ah-ha!” moment: “behold my trance formation.” Oh Matt, how clever you are. Doesn’t make much sense, but points for trying and admittedly posing an interesting play on words. The protagonist no longer wants to be held down by the controlling, and seeks rebellion. Ultimately, this is my favorite song on the album, nearly beat out by ‘The Globalist’ because of that bridge, but we’ll get into that later. 10/10

7) [JFK]: Finally, treading into some unmarked territory. Unless you watched the leaked “Making Of:” featuring ‘Defector’ and ‘The Globalist’, for which I’d scold you for, but that’d make me a hypocrite. The song features a speech by President John F. Kennedy regarding the spread of communism, which carry a relevant meaning in today’s society, not necessarily to the intended message. According to Mr. Bellamy, the track, “...talks about the human spirit, freedom, and independence...” and “where everything transitions.” Accompanied by a lovely string version of the ‘Defector’ solo, this song is very beautiful. 8/10

8) Defector: Based on prior reviews of the song, no one expected this one to be as good as it is. Muse meets the grandiose of Queen meets the riffs of AC/DC. Bellamy preaches, “Free / Yeah I’m free / From SO-CIE-TEE!” in the most operatic way possible while still remaining subtle and massive at the same time. A chorus of a thousand voices, if you will. The solo utilizes some Whammy pedals, which is also welcome. The riff comes in pretty big, too! The protagonist begins to realize their freedom in this portion of the story. 9/10

9) Revolt: It’s hard to not associate this song’s melody to an 80s sitcom. It just fits so perfectly. This one also didn’t immediately bring me in, but I was hooked by the end. The song is built on charm and some heavy powerchords. Bellamy does great vocal work here. That falsetto coming out of the bridge is phenomenal. Nothing much more to say about the sonic elements of this song! Here, the protagonist encourages others around him to stand up against the system and find back. 8.5/10

10) Aftermath: You couldn’t have prepared me for how beautiful this song ended up being. An ambient journey where you can feel the dramatic atmosphere of the aftermath of war. Amidst the destruction and strife, the protagonist finds love again - the opposite of what ‘Dead Inside’ brought to the plot. This song is so serene, imagine Hendrix ft. an Italian Orchestra. In Muse-terminology, imagine ‘Blackout’ meets ‘Hoodoo’. Simply fantastic in every regard. 9.5/10

11) The Globalist: Ask any Muser what song they weren’t prepared for on Drones. It’s ‘The Globalist’. The claimed sequel to the beloved ‘Citizen Erased’ and a ten-minute odyssey of progressive rock. While a sequel to ‘Citizen Erased’ only in that it feels segmented into “parts” (it’s more of a heavier sequel to ‘Explorers’), it still a massive track. The symphonic intro akin to Ennio Morricone’s ‘L’arena’ builds a beautiful and haunting image building up to Matt kicking in with the vocals. The first part of the song (up until 4:28) is a beautiful dream, and suddenly, the ‘Helsinki Jam’ riff kicks in full force. It’s in your face and the operatic backing adds to the intensity. It all counts down into the heaviest territory Muse has ever delved into with a Spanish-esque guitar solo that breaks down into a piano ballad. Wild from start to finish! The story of this song is almost separate from that of the entirety of Drones - perhaps it acts as a backstory of sorts. It is its own narrative on the rise and fall of a dictator. ‘The Globalist’ ends with the thought-provoking lyrics, “I just wanted, / I just needed to be loved.” All a dictator ever wants is some attention. Before you can ask for more, the song ends just as subtly as it began, leaving you reconsidering what rollercoaster you just experienced. 10/10 (note: it COULD have been a smart move to split this song into two separate songs, but I’m not complaining.)

12) Drones: Nothing more than a beautifully layered a cappella track featuring Bellamy sending off the album in a sort of prayer. It’s a statement on the casualties of this war of drones - the voices of those who perished and those who will be forgotten without justice. It’s pretty dramatic, really: they’ve been killed by this machine of a human, who had no empathy towards them as they pushed the shiny read button. A big statement on what war has become, and what it can and will evolve into, should we continue in this direction. The album concludes on one final “Amen” as the story comes to a close. The album could not have ended on a more perfect note. 9/10

Muse delivered one monster of an album, fulfilling their promises in more ways than one. They returned to the basics of who they were: guitar driven songs, synth arpeggios and pianos splashed here and there, and grandiose melodies driven by huge choruses. Sure, it may not be as fine tuned or revolutionary as Origin Of Symmetry was, but, then again, can it be? This album combined the best of what Muse had to offer throughout their career, and I couldn’t ask for anything more out of this album. It told a story and made its mark on society. Here come the drones!

Favorite Tracks: The Handler, The Globalist, Aftermath, Reapers, Dead Inside

Least Favorite Tracks: [Drill Sergeant]

Overall Rating: 9.5/10


My Top 10 Albums of 2015:

  1. Muse - Drones
  2. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial
  3. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho
  4. Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  5. Zs - Xe
  6. Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
  7. Purity Ring - Another Eternity
  8. Liturgy - The Ark Work
  9. Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire
  10. Kamasi Washington - The Epic