Muse
Black Holes and Revelations


4.5
superb

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
July 3rd, 2006 | 506 replies | 51,733 views


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist


While Muse certainly stepped out of their "Radiohead clone" days with Origin of Symmetry, their musical evolution seems to be following a Radiohead path, in a way that appears to be unintended. Take a look at Radiohead's first 4 albums. The first two, Pablo Honey and The Bends, were more compilations of songs without a defining concept behind the entire album. Sure, each album had a distinct sound, but they did not have a distinct purpose. Moving down the Radiohead timeline, the next two albums are Ok Computer and Kid A. Both albums, while they aren't really concept albums, do have a concept and a point to the entire album, rather than a dozen songs recorded in a certain amount of time. Muse seem to follow this same path. Absolution, an album revolving around the apocalypse, started this style of album making Muse has discovered. Black Holes and Revelations refers to times in history where all hell is about to break loose, tensions building and people protesting.

However, the largest progression made on this album is the musical progression. While it's no Kid A, Black Holes and Revelations dabbles in some experimentation of its own. Everything from Queen-style vocal arrangements to songs akin to Nancy Sinatra to a dance-pop single (much to the demise of many Muse fans), Black Holes and Revelations is unlike any other previous Muse effort. Gone are the huge piano epics and in are synthesizers, operatic strings, and trumpet solos. Of course, the main Muse instrumentation is still here, guitar, bass and drums, but the guitar sits in the back for nearly half of the album.

The real downfall on this album is Matt's lyrics. He, like so many other artists, takes a political stance. However, this fits the concept in such a way that it isn't as annoying as, say, American Idiot. There are no direct Bush (or Blair, for that matter) bashings. The political stance is not what lets down here. It's the actual lyric writing. Repetition is used heavily here, especially in songs such as Starlight and Map of the Problematique. Clich� lines are all over the album, especially in Supermassive Black Hole ("Ooh baby I'm a fool for no one, but ooh baby I'm a fool for you") and Invincible ("Together we're invincible"). Most songs are simply written and leave a listener asking for more. However, sometimes, the simplicity works and the lyrics are delivered in such a way that all you sense is the utter power in Matt's voice. A perfect example of that lies in Take a Bow, the album opener. "You'l burn in Hell" screams out utter hatred. Regardless of the abundance of bad lyricism; there are a few great lyrical songs in here. A Soldier's Poem, Hoodoo, and Knights of Cydonia all contain excellent lyrics that stand up with Matt's best.

The first half the album shows a poppier side of Muse, including the first two singles, Starlight and Supermassive Black Hole. Supermassive Black Hole brings an electronic drum kit akin to a Britney song, a 2 note guitar riff, and catchy as hell hooks and choruses. Bellamy says this song was inspired by going to clubs at night and wanting to someday go to a club and dance to one of his songs. Thus, Supermassive Black Hole was created. Starlight, on the other hand, strives more to be a great pop rock song. Starting on 10 seconds of the same bass note until bringing a U2 sounding synth melody, Starlight immediately sounds like a single. Cheesy lines such as "You electrify my life" are terrible, but this could be considered the title track, since the chorus says Black Holes and Revelations.

However, Black Holes and Revelations doesn't hit the high point until the second half, starting with Assassin. Assassin showcases Dom's drumming, usually a let down for Muse. The riff borderlines on a metal riff, but still keeps the Muse sound that always remains prevalent no matter what the band does. Dom's drumming is the best on the album, and is probably the best he's ever done. The song pulses forward and sounds great, but still lacks a bridge and more variety in the song. The chorus is anti-climatic, but the song makes up for itself for the surprise metal sound.

After Exo-Politics, the last 3 tracks of the album arrive, and they are the best on the album. City of Delusion opens with a 2 chord acoustic pattern. Then the Chris enters with his signature distorted bass sound. The chord pattern expands and complicates, and the bass sticks to the same line throughout. After a beat of palm muted strums, the chorus explodes into powerful chords and Matt singing his best on the album yet. After a held note by Matt, strings appear and continue throughout the chorus. The cinematic strings are truly a highlight on the entire album. Everything drops out except for the bass riff, and then palm muted guitar comes in with a syncopated pattern. This is something new for Muse, a build-up section where new elements keep adding on until another chorus. The song goes through another chorus, and then another surprise appears- a trumpet solo. While the solo is nothing to marvel at, it fits overtop of the verse riff surprisingly well. The song goes through one last operatic chorus and closes out.

Hoodoo is definitely the most experimental song on the album. It opens with only a guitar, and after a short intro, Matt slides down the fretboard and bursts out into a short flamenco pattern. The guitar then sticks to playing sparse chords while Matt croons the listener. A brush kit and string section enters for the chorus, until the entire character of the song changes with a dramatic piano entrance. The song pours out into the most emotional and heartfelt of the album. This is short-lived however; as everything drops out but the sparse guitar playing and Matt once more, showcasing one of the best lyrical stanzas on the album.

The U.S. single, Knights of Cydonia, closes out the album on an epic note. At just over 6 minutes, Knights is the longest on the album, taking a mix of surf-rock, Origin-esque synthesizer lines, and lead guitar out the ***. The trumpet reappears in the background, almost as to reminisce upon the album. Matt busts out the falsetto for the first time since Supermassive Black Hole, oohing and ahhing the main melodic theme. Just past 2 minutes, Matt enters with actual words. Chris harmonizes with him for most of the lines. Chris takes a different role on this album, rather than playing his frantic baselines, he spends most of his time making excellent harmonies with Matt. Anyway, the song continues with the main instrumental theme after the short verse. At 3:18, the song drops of everything except, Chris arpeggiating and a humongous vocal harmony screaming out "No one's going to take me alive." Matt recorded a track of himself a full octave above the rest of the vocal tracks, and the harmonies sound amazing. That part is guaranteed to give the listener chills. Finally, after the vocal harmony, Muse gives something their earlier fans have been anxiously waiting for the entire album, a big, chunky guitar riff. The album closes on the rocking riff, and leaves you breathless.

Black Holes and Revelations may not be the most consistently good album Muse has ever put out, but it certainly showcases some of the best Muse songs ever. A few years down the road, this might only be the stepping stone Muse needed to reach the echelon of their idols- Radiohead. However, Black Holes and Revelations does not disappoint, and only leaves one wondering where Muse will go next.

Recommended Tracks:
Map of the Problematique
City of Delusion
Hoodoo
Knights of Cydonia



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Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 4th 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Woo it's finally here! Too bad I'm broke.:upset:

Nice review.

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
July 4th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wait the release date on the review says 07/11/2006, yet it isn't the 11th yet? Shouldn't this be removed?

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 4th 2006



16081 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It came out in the UK today, and thats the safe date for reviews.

The Sludge
July 4th 2006



2169 Comments


Yes, I remember the mods saying its safe once the release date in either UK or USA unless specially notified. Just not in Japan :pThis Message Edited On 07.04.06

Muisee
July 4th 2006



679 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I always thought Muse was just another indie pop band, nothing special, but people talk about them like they are radiohead or pearl jam. May want to check this out.

montague
July 4th 2006



35 Comments


good review. although it does remind me how painfully wanky muse is.

led-zep-chris
July 4th 2006



52 Comments


I think its good how you say they've changed, eg. Chris and the harmonising, trumpet solos, even a poppier sound. Becoming 'poppier' just makes their music more 'accessible' to others. I've been listening to the past 3 albums ever since 2003 and i've been longing to hear this album for.. quite a while now and in my opinion it does deliver.

Your review kind of made me think you didn't really like it, and yet you gave it 4.5 Anyway, it was a good review, well done

Senor_Whippy
July 4th 2006



367 Comments


Great review for a great record!

Not as good as Absolution but still very very good. 'Take A Bow', 'Supermassive Balck Hole' and 'Knights Of Cydonia' are my favourite tracks off it. Gotta say 'Starlight' is maybe my least favourite, that opening riff is way too annoying.

Two-Headed Boy
July 4th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been catching up on my Muse, and this sounds like an investment. Great review.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 4th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Of course, I submit this review right before Sputnik goes down. Is anybody else finding the site randomly opening up but usually inaccessible?

Clunge
July 5th 2006



32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Argh, why does EVERY review have to mention Radiohead?

Aside from that, pretty good review. This album for me beats Absolution quite easily which after 3 years of listening has shown to only have 3 or 4 stand-out tracks.

I'm really loving City Of Delusion, madness in a song :D.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 5th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Wait, I thought I had the better approval rating on this review?

Eh.. not anymore.This Message Edited On 07.06.06

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 12th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Clunge, I didn't compare Muse to Radiohead as in they are just trying to be like them. The way I'm comparing them is an unintended parallel, I think, and just the way that Muse have matured.

NortherlyNanook
July 15th 2006



1285 Comments


I never really saw Muse as a Radiohead clone, even with their older stuff. Good review, though. I can see why people like it, but it just old for me. Worst Muse album in my opinion.

The review gets my vote, especially since you didn't go overboard with the rating...This Message Edited On 07.15.06

Kyle
July 15th 2006



667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's just 'old' for you? I don't get what you mean.

Ya, I still love this album.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 15th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Agreed with that.

NortherlyNanook
July 15th 2006



1285 Comments


It's just 'old' for you? I don't get what you mean.

I just didn't really enjoy it with time. It just sounded... I dunno... with more listens.

I still think that this review is more deserving of positive ratings than the other one...This Message Edited On 07.15.06

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 15th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Muse is like wine for me.

Honeymoon_Croon
July 15th 2006



297 Comments


The only song I've heard off this album so far is "Knights Of Cydonia" and I really want this album now. Great review, bee tee double-u

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 15th 2006



2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Why thank you.

Knights of Cydonia is awesome. My second favorite.



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