If there’s one thing you can depend on Muse for, it’s that they release some really off the wall stuff.
2015’s Drones was a rock-opera that was so over the top, it was difficult to really understand what they were getting at. Simulation Theory sees them embrace pop and roll with it, fusing Matt Bellamy’s haunting vocals with a narrative about a simulated world.
It’s pretty clear that this whole concept album thing is something Muse are adamant on sticking to – this is the fourth album in a row they’ve tried it. This time around though, they seem to have pulled it off.
There’s the usual apocalyptic prophecies, with Bellamy warning “evolve, push us aside, render us obsolete” on opener Algorithms. It feels fresh out of Blade Runner and really creates a post-apocalyptic feel through menacing synthetic beats.
Muse have been around since 1994 and in that time, they’ve rode the turbulent waves of an ever-changing musical climate, constantly evolving their sound and never allowing it to stagnate. This in itself is a victory for any band, but for Muse to still be doing it as consistently well is hard to comprehend.
The Dark Side features some of Bellamy’s best vocals and rolling piano arpeggios while Pressure has the monster stadium-filling riffs that the trio are so well known for. Yet they still manage to make silky synth-pop meld with it to create something brand new, but undeniably Muse.
Pressure features one of those iconic bass riffs that will inspire people to pick up the instrument, just like Hysteria did way back in 2003. Chris Wolstenholme relies on a myriad of effects that makes his bass tone sound like something out of Tron, and you’d nearly be forgiven for mistaking it as a guitar on the first listen. Synthesised horns do battle with Bellamy’s guitar riffs in the main verses, and also add an endearingly cheesy element to it.
The thing that sets Simulation Theory apart is that you can hear how much they enjoyed writing and recording this album. Each song has its own accompanying video and the entire thing featured heavy production input from the band themselves, something you can tell through just listening to it.
Simulation Theory is an album that pushes the conventional Muse sound in a way that ends up being oddly complementary. On paper, some strange dreamy pop melding with a stadium rock band shouldn’t be seamless but they’ve managed to pull it off.
Let’s hope there isn’t too many lasers when they play live.