After embarking on one of their biggest and longest tours to date in support of their seventh album Drones, which saw Muse play more than 130 shows around the world, the Teignmouth trio were soon back at it in the studio and working on a follow-up.
The result is new album Simulation Theory, which makes its arrival in stores today. Here’s everything you need to know…
A little background…
If it feels like Muse’s eighth studio album has been a long time coming, that’s probably because the band have been teasing snippets of new music since as far back as April 2017, when Muse began posting short clips of them at work in the recording studio.
The album’s first single ‘Thought Contagion’ arrived all the way back in February this year and is one of five of the album’s 11 tracks already unveiled so far. Another single, ‘Something Human’, arrived in July and was followed in August by the announcement of the album’s title Simulation Theory, as well as the cover artwork for the new LP, designed by Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert.
Who’s producing it?
Longtime collaborator Rich Costey is one of several producers to have worked on the new album, along with Mike Elizondo, Swedish hitmaker Shellback and hip-hop legend Timbaland. Muse are also credited as producers on the new album.
Any special guests?
It’s pretty much just the three band members here, although Tove Lo does contribute some backing vocals to the Shellback-produced track ‘Get Up and Fight’.
What does it sound like?
After releasing three LPs that could all be described as concept albums, the band clearly wanted to try something different and step out of their comfort zone a little. That said, Simulation Theory is hardly what you’d call a radical departure from their usual sound, but there are moments on the new album that hint at a desire to change things up.
Sometimes this is very subtle, like the hints of trap-style drum machine patterns in opening verse of ‘Thought Contagion’, but elsewhere it’s much more overt. The decision to work with Timbaland seems like a conscious attempt to push themselves into new territory and while the resulting track, ‘Propaganda’, isn’t necessarily what you might expect, it does represent one of the album’s biggest stylistic departures and might well be the heaviest track o the new LP. By contrast, ‘Something Human’ sounds like a machine-led approximation of an acoustic folk song and is one of the more mellow moments on the new LP
On other tracks though Muse continue to do what they do best – ‘Dark Side’ sees the band succumb to their more operatic tendencies, only there are more synths where once their might have been guitars, while the glam-rock stomp of ‘Pressure’ sees the band dropping any hints of pretension and rocking out just for the fun of it.
Does it deliver?
It has become fashionable in recent years to mock Muse for their more overblown tendencies and quasi-political lyrical obsessions, but they remain one of the most accomplished live bands on the planet and there are plenty of songs on the new album that would add to their already impressive live sets.
Muse do seem to have made an effort to scale back on the grand concepts and political themes with the new album, stripping things down to the basics while still trying to push themselves forwards. On that basis you’d have to call Simulation Theory a success, one that’s bound to please their army of fans and might even snag a few new ones in the process.