Album Review: Muse – Drones
Drones is the seventh release and the first conceptual album by Muse. The concept of Drones centres on a protagonist who gets indoctrinated into joining corrupt government operations to then eventually defect and revolt against these authoritative figures. Bellamy also addresses the question of how ethical it is to incorporate autonomous drones in modern society, which is a central theme throughout the album.
Drones kicks off with electronic number Dead Inside. The track revolves around the protagonist who has lost hope and begins to feel vulnerable to the dark forces. The groovy bass line and plucked violin phrases gives a nod to artists such as Prince and Depeche Mode.
Psycho is where the protagonist becomes an asset of war. The track itself has been in the making for an extraordinary sixteen years as the guitar riff has been floating about in many of Muse’s live concerts! With the song chugging along to it’s bluesy guitar riff and pounding drum beat it allows Bellamy to pour his political paranoia into lyrics “And I’m the virus, I’m changing the station, I’ll improve your threshold, I’ll turn you into a super drone.” The clever play on lyrics implies that Bellamy is suggesting that soldiers of war are a metaphor for drones.
With the distorted bass line and soft yet dazzling piano chord progression, you can almost feel Chris Wolstenholme’s dexterity on the bass guitar in Mercy. The track really shows how effortless it is in the way it is able to transition musically as the verses are soft and quite poppy in comparison to the choruses with there thunderous crescendos and heavy staccato.
Reapers showcases Matt Bellamy as a virtuoso. With the face melting tapping guitar riff, even Eddie Van Halen would give Bellamy the thumbs up for his playing. There is no doubt that this is producer Robert “Mutt” Lange’s (AC/DC, Def Leppard) staple on Drones. There is an interesting music production technique that is used in the chorus, where you can hear a vocoder like effect when the electronic vocals in the background sing “You can run but you’re never gonna hide.”
The Handler is based on the protagonist coming to self-realisation about these corrupt organisations. The track shows the insane falsetto of Bellamy and the heavy, gigantic sound from the rest of the instruments. After the mesmerising guitar solo, the track climaxes wonderfully from this point onwards as you can feel the protagonist’s story getting more intense due to Bellamy channelling the emotion so well when he belts out lyrics “Let me go, let me be/I’m escaping from your grip, you will never hurt me again.”
The musical diversity in ten-minute epic The Globalist pinpoints how well Muse can invest into niche genres and create something spontaneous out of it. The result of it is like if Ennio Morricone, Metallica and Queen made music together. The track is based around the story of the dictator, which is a self-contained narrative. It is similar to the first half of the concept album but instead of the protagonist eventually defecting and finding love they instead become a power hungry maniac and decide to go on a destructive journey.
Overall Drones is a revival of those rock elements where most fans have felt that aspect has been missing from the last two entries. Drones is often described as a back to basics album due to the stripping down of orchestras and synthesisers. In conclusion the band have achieved that successfully by embodying the spirit of rock while also being able to present a more realistic concept compared to the George Orwell themes found in their previous work. However on the other hand, some will disagree that Drones isn’t stripped back enough for it to be a consistent rock record. But considering this, it’s okay for Muse to do this because that’s what they do best, they experiment in diverse music genres.