Muse have said their new dystopian album «Will of the People» is a «greatest hits» type of record, a montage of the best of Muse, a combination of prog-metal, glam-rock, ballads and electro-pop. It is certainly a combination of those styles, but it is debatable whether the songs are the greatest examples of each of them.
The first single released from the record, «Won’t Stand Down», is a superb example of Muse’s heavier side, and is one of the strongest tracks on the album, along with «Kill or be Killed», which frontman Matt Bellamy has claimed is their heaviest song yet, describing it as «a modern metal sound featuring double bass drum action and even a death growl». However, to my ears at least, «Dead Star», on the double A-side single with «In Your World» (2002), is Muse at their heaviest. Still, it is easy to imagine «Kill or be Killed» becoming a fan favourite with the mosh pit at their live shows.
The title track is arena rock and is very similar to Marilyn Manson’s «Beautiful People» and also in subject matter and rhythmic pattern to «Uprising» from the band’s own fifth studio album, «The Resistance». Have Muse ripped themselves off? They are entitled to do that, but perhaps making it the title track of the album and a single was not a wise move, if they wanted to avoid appearing as parodies of themselves. «Uprising» is the «greatest hit» here, not «Will of the People», which doesn’t change pace or rhythm for the entire track. There is a feeling here that Muse have become too over the top, too cliched, too much of a pastiche of themselves.
On the poppier side we have «Compliance», which sounds like a bland synth track with unremarkable verses, although it does have an interesting and short bridge. Matt’s impressive vocal doesn’t save it from mundanity. (In the past Muse have written fantastic pop tracks, such as «Undisclosed Desires»). There’s also an overly grandiose West End musical song «Liberation», which is hard to take seriously in the context of the album, and piano balladry on «Ghosts». Have Muse become «middle-of-the-road»?
The low point of the record, where this writer literally covered their eyes and cringed while listening to it, is the dance rock «You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween», with bizarre short guitar passages that sound like they are attempting to rescue the song. It does make you feel like it’s Halloween, as it’s horrific.
Muse remain one of the best live bands in the world, with a high quality back catalogue, including albums I consider masterpieces. If you don’t take this particular album too seriously, you might avoid cringing like this writer and enjoy it more.
3/6 | Anne-Marie Forker
Release date: 26 August 2022