Muse - Simulation Theory - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Muse - Simulation Theory

by James Weiskittel Rating:5 Release Date:2018-11-09

Over a decade removed from the success of their fourth studio album Black Holes and Revelations (and it’s breakout single “Supermassive Black Hole”), Muse are still hell-bent on taking chances and challenging the expectations of their fanbase. And on the band’s latest release (and eighth album overall), Simulation Theory, the forward-thinking three-piece has managed to craft a collection of synth-pop songs that (for better or worse) stands in stark contrast to much of their prior work.

Simulation Theory draws heavily on an old-school new-wave aesthetic and is chock full of musical and lyrical nods to the totally awesome 80’s - (the band even went so far as to enlist the talents of Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert). But while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there’s a fine line between inspired and derivative. And it's that line that Muse finds itself walking for most of the album’s eleven tracks.

Keeping in line with the throwback theme, the production on Simulation Theory finds the band delving further into the realm of retro-sounding synths and drum machines. The album-opening “Algorithm” rides an electro-pulse backbeat through a handful of synth patches before finally giving way to singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy’s ever-dramatic croon. Unfortunately, while the song succeeds in implementing Tron-tastic embellishments, it fails to really go anywhere.

That being said, the two tracks that follow (the stage-ready “The Dark Side,” and the hand-clap-driven “Pressure”) feel much more in line with what long-time fans have come to expect from the band. From there, Simulation Theory is a steady mix of both new and old. Mid-tempo, production-driven numbers (“Break It To Me”, “Thought Contagion”) are strategically balanced out with yesteryear-leaning, guitar-driven tracks (“Get Up and Fight”, “Blockades”) before the album ultimately closes out with the “The Void”, a moody number that is easily one of the record's best tracks.

And while there are a few head-scratching moments (the ham-fisted “Propaganda” is a complete mess, and there’s a turntable solo on “Break It To Me” that’s so ill-advised it’s downright embarrassing), Simulation Theory is a far cry from total reinvention. But to that end, the unfocused nature of the record is also its biggest weakness.

There’s certainly enough here to please die-hard fans, but it’s hard to imagine anyone citing this as their favorite Muse album. While the '80’s nostalgia permeating much of Muse’s Simulation Theory was probably implemented with the best of intentions, unfortunately, it feels like little more than sonic window-dressing. And while the record ‘sounds’ incredible (the mix is crystal clear), the songs just aren’t there; a problem that not even a Flux Capacitor could fix.

Comments (1)

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This review is absolutely on point! As a big Muse fan, I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard this. And even after coming back to it several times, this album still does not give me anything at all. It is, bluntly put, boring. What a shame.

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