November 5, 2018 Muse – Simulation Theory (Album Review)
Muse are one of those bands that nearly everyone can agree on. Appealing to all kinds of listeners, in all areas around the globe, they are as close to a modern day mega band as we are going to get in 2018. After all, the music industry has fallen on hard times over the last decade, unable to keep up with the changing tides and capitalize on new media formats properly.
Amazingly enough, since forming in 1994, Muse has managed to sell over 20 million albums over the course of 7 LPs. Additionally, they have won numerous music awards including 2 Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, 5 MTV Europe Music Awards, 2 Brit Awards, 10 NME Awards and 7 Q Awards, plus more. Now they are looking to defy the odds once again with the release of their eighth overall studio album, Simulation Theory, due out on Friday, November 9, 2018 through Warner Bros. Records.
One may ask themselves, why are Muse’s accomplishments so impressive? Well, as briefly outlined, the climate of the music industry has been turbulent. Most consumers are not buying physical products anymore and now many are merely streaming music via the internet, in essence, merely just buying the rights to listen to the music and not actual own it.
A nearly impossible place for any artists to survive, Muse has continued to excel with each album release, consistently achieving top-selling status everywhere. Beyond that, they have built a reputation as a killer live band that justifiably play arenas to sold out crowds. How have they done it? Simple, they create music that is powerful, lively, and lyrically thought-provoking without being overtly political.
All this in mind, Simulation Theory comes a little over 3 years after their 2015 number 1 album Drones. Drones, a heavier Rock album with an intense sound, on Simulation Theory, Muse start with a clean slate once more. Notorious for shifting their style and approach record to record – prime examples would be 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations and 2012’s The 2nd Law – Muse is fearless in their artistic approach. With Simulation Theory, they pull out all the stops to create a complete package of visual and sonic qualities that engage the senses.
Consisting of 11 new songs, each of which will be accompanied by a video, it could be one of the biggest album productions in some time. Produced by the band themselves, along with several award-winning producers, including Rich Costey, Mike Elizondo, Shellback and Timbaland, the artwork was illustrated by Digital Artist Kyle Lambert, who has done the poster art for Stranger Things, plus many other films, while the Super Deluxe cover was illustrated by Paul Shipper, whose previous work includes 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Wait… Super Deluxe? How many editions of Simulation Theory are there exactly? A very good question, the album will be released in 3 formats – Standard, with the 11 tracks, Deluxe, with 5 additional versions of the songs, and yes, Super Deluxe, with a whopping 21 tracks, making it the most complete collection of the bunch.
All the technical details out of the way, the most important question anyone can ask is, how does Simulation Theory stack up against other Muse records? Well, as mentioned, the record is certainly less Rock guitar-oriented. This time around, Muse opt for a more futuristic, almost post-apocalyptic vibe that makes you feel like you have been completely thrust into Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner. At times ominous and quite dark, it does not lack color or life in any way. Yet very heavy with synths, the guitars are still very much present in the mix – just listen to “Pressure,” “Break it to Me,” as well as “Thought Contagion” for a more Rock fix. Amazingly with such a grand production, Muse manage to keep it all feeling very human and full of emotion throughout.
The synthesizers are quite warm, the drums live, and Matt Bellamy’s voice soars high throughout. These aspects in mind, each song has its own personality. For example, “Propaganda” stands out with a eclectic mix of Electronic, Blues, Soul, and Pop. This is while “Something Human” is a beautiful, silky smooth Synthpop. “Blockades” takes you on a trippy ride of heaviness along with more outstanding vocals from Bellamy, before the inspiring “Get Up and Fight.” Then there is the epic finale of “The Void,” which leaves you in a dark, futuristic place where you could imagine staring out into a desolate dark night. All unique and moving, still, perhaps the most impressive of all is the aforementioned “Thought Contagion” with its arena rousing vibe.
Painting cinematic imagery, without even having prior knowledge of the released or yet to be released music video to accompany each track, Simulation Theory is a masterful concept. Each song is carefully crafted to engage the listener to the fullest extent possible, but doing so without overstimulating them. What does this mean? It means the tracks are bountiful but not overcrowded or overproduced.
This all in mind, the last question on everyone’s mind is more than likely, what edition of Simulation Theory is right for me? Truthfully, the Super Deluxe edition would be the smart choice. Not merely a marketing plod to get you to spend more money, or something merely for super-fans, the alternative and acoustic recordings of the songs are well-worth listening to. In fact, the different mixes actually make each sound like completely different songs opposed to just some pointless bonus tracks. Simply put, Muse has done it again and topped their previous output. That is why CrypticRock proudly gives Simulation Theory 5 out of 5 stars.