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Muse: A Complete Overview

James Glover celebrates alternative rock band, Muse, going through their extensive history from formation until their most recent album

A lot of people think of ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ when they think of Muse, but this band has a more-than-impressive track record.

Muse is an alternative rock band that formed in 1994 and originates from Devon. The band consists of three persistent members: Matt Bellamy (vocals/guitar), Chris Wolstenholm (bass guitar), and Dom Howard (drums). Since 1999’s ‘Showbiz’, they have released a total of nine studio albums, the most recent being ‘Will of The People in 2022.

Though they are broadly defined as being firmly within the genre of alt-rock, the band has ventured into progressive rock, synth-, alternative metal, and even classical and dubstep tunes. This genre-bending approach makes them more diverse and interesting to listen to.

Meet the Band

Matt Bellamy Dom Howard Chris Wolstenholm

Discover the Albums

Muse's debut album ‘Showbiz’ marked their start with a primal energy that captivated a cult following from the get-go. ‘Showbiz’ is an album that firmly established Muse as a band to attentively follow within the alt-rock scene. Singles like "Sunburn," "Unintended," and "Muscle Museum" all clawed their way into the Top 30 of the Official Charts, testaments to the band's undeniable magnetism.

From the melancholy opening piano melody of ‘Sunburn’ to the closing perfect cadence in ‘Hate This and I’ll Love You’, Showbiz is a thrilling glance at the genre-defining (and defying) heights that their following three albums would reach.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Sunburn’, ‘Muscle Museum’, ‘Unintended’, ‘Showbiz’, ‘Uno’.

After the success of ‘Showbiz’, Muse would greatly expanded their sound to encompass a wide range of contrasting genres. From the futuristic piano loop in ‘Bliss’ to the all-out rage of ‘Hyper Music’ to progressive rock masterpiece ‘Citizen Erazed’ to the bluesy ‘Feeling Good’, it was abundantly clear that Muse wasn’t sticking to a single genre anymore.

This expansion in sound resulted in further commercial success with singles ‘Plug in Baby’ and ‘New Born’ peaking at numbers 11 and 12 respectively on official charts.

In 2021, the album was remixed with some elements even receiving re-recordings to bring them up to modern-day standards under the subtitle ‘XX Anniversary Remix’.

Must-listen tracks: ‘New Born’, ‘Bliss’, ‘Plug in Baby’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Citizen Erased’.

Absolution was when Muse began their commercial peak with a more accessible, mainstream sound than what had come before. The lead single, ‘Time is Running Out’, an alternative rock anthem with clear pop and electronic influences rocketed to number 8 on the Official Top 40 charts. Alongside it, ‘Hysteria’, a hard rock anthem, ‘Sing for Absolution’, a space rock ballad, and ‘Butterflies And Hurricanes’, an inspirational prog-rock piece, all of which made it to the top 20.

It was also their first album to chart in the US, which resulted in a significant fanbase expansion that would shape the rest of their career. Also notable is ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ a manic alt-metal cult classic.

The album is also known for its inclusion of both intro and interlude tracks, directly leading into ‘Apocalypse Please’ and ‘Hysteria’ respectively, which became recurring trend in later albums, such as ‘The 2nd Law’ and ‘Drones’. The album also marked the start of Muse’s seven-album streak of reaching no.1 on the Official Top 40 charts. Like its predecessor, it received a celebratory ‘XX Anniversary Remix’ in 2023.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Hysteria’, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, ‘Sing for Absolution’, ‘Endlessly’, ‘Time Is Running Out’.

After captivating a global audience, Muse created a political prog-rock Western epic that pushed their original rock sound to the absolute limit.

‘Supermassive Black Hole’, an experimental alt-rock anthem, reached number 4 on the charts and was featured in the controversial supernatural romance film ‘Twilight.’ Meanwhile, the Western space rock odyssey ‘Knights of Cydonia reached made it to number 10 on the charts, the pop-rock anthem ‘Starlight’ ranked at 13, while the overlooked electronic rock ‘Map Of The Problematique’ ranked at 18, making the album a huge commercial success.

The closing three tracks, ‘City of Delusion’, ‘Hoodoo’, and ‘Knights of Cydonia’, particularly stand out through a unique hybrid of electronic, rock, and Western music, never touched on again by the band. Also worth mentioning are ‘Assassin’ and "Stockholm Syndrome,’ both offering critiques of power structures. Then there's ‘Exo-Politics,’ an alt-rock odyssey fuelled by paranoia, ripping the veil off the shadowy underbelly of the political machine.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Starlight’, ‘Map of The Problematique’, ‘Assassin’, ‘Knights of Cydonia’, ‘Supermassive Black Hole’.

‘The Resistance’ sees Muse move away from the alternative rock of their first four albums with a greater focus on the electronic elements of ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ as well as treading into more classical territory with the ‘Exogenesis Symphony’.

It also focuses on the dystopian element of their songwriting, with the band citing the classic dystopian novel ‘1984’ as inspiration. The album’s opening three tracks ‘Uprising’, ‘Resistance’, and ‘Undisclosed Desires’ ranked number 9, 38, and 49 respectively, marking a notable decline in popularity in comparison to the chart-topping singles of the previous album, though the album was the third in a row to climb up to number 1 on the charts.

Like previous work, the album features much genre-defying and mixing from the electronic pop ballads of ‘Undisclosed Desires’ and ‘Guiding Light’ to the epic prog-rock of ‘MK Ultra’ and ‘Unnatural Selection’ to the epic and tragic ‘Exogenesis Symphony’ to the scattershot oddness of ‘I Belong To You (+Mon Coeur S’Ouvre a Ta Voix)’, which is featured in the divisive ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon.’ In short, there is no easily definable genre for the album as whole.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Resistance’, ‘Undisclosed Desires’, ‘MK Ultra’, ‘Unnatural Selection’, ‘United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)’.

‘The 2nd Law’ is revolves around the second law of thermodynamics, linking it to global warming and the irreversibility of our continuing impact. Opening with the Bond-like symphonic rock epic ‘Supremacy’, followed by the synth-pop ballad ‘Madness’, and then the funky ‘Panic Station’, ‘The 2nd Law’ is an album that struggles to find its identity in a good way. It follows in the footsteps of ‘The Resistance’ for albums to end with a multi-part piece consisting of The 2nd Law: Unsustainable, a symphonic dubstep genre-bend, and The 2nd Law: Isolated System, an intense instrumental electronic piano outro. The latter was featured in the film ‘World War Z.’

The album’s singles topped the charts, soundtracking the official London 2012 Olympic’s with their prog-rock grandeur. ‘Survival,’ the prelude at the Games, ranked 22 on the charts. ‘Madness’ made it to 25, and ‘Supremacy’ reached 58.

The album showcased bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s vocal abilities, as it featured two songs sung by him – ‘Save Me’ and ‘Liquid State.’

Must-listen tracks: ‘Panic Station’, ‘Madness’, ‘Supremacy’, ‘Big Freeze’, ‘Animals’

Drones is an ambitious concept album that revisits similar themes to ‘The Resistance.’

This time, Muse dives into a dystopia run by drones who aim to turn people to drones as well. The album allows us to follow the protagonists journey to indoctrination as a human drone.

It also marks a return to the alternative rock of their first four albums, though with a hard rock edge to it. The album includes many fan-favourites, such as the synth-pop ballad ‘Dead Inside’, the hard hitter ‘Reapers’, and the ambitious progressive metal marathon ‘The Globalist’. It wasn’t, however, as big of a commercial success in terms of singles with hard rock anthem ‘Psycho’ making it to 55 and ‘Dead Inside’ to 71. It was, on the other hand, the fifth album in a row to reach no.1 on the charts.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Dead Inside’, ‘Reapers’, ‘The Globalist’, ‘The Handler’, ‘Defector’.

‘Simulation Theory’ is the album where Muse fully embraces their electronic side, shown in previous work. Here, they swapped guitars for synthesizers and acoustic drums for e-drums.

The album explores the idea that reality is a simulation and that we are all lines of code controlled by a higher power, but does so with a lighter tone than previous albums, playing with 80s culture and sci-fi.

From the synth-rock of ‘The Dark Side’ to the acoustic pop of ‘Something Human’ to the industrial hip-hop of ‘Break It Me’, ‘Simulation Theory’ is Muse at their most electronic and pop. The singles ‘Thought Contagion’, ‘Pressure’, and ‘Algorithm’ made it to 76, 96, and 97 on the charts, making it their least successful album commercially despite the music being of a more mainstream nature.

Also notable is that deluxe versions of the album include an ‘Alternate Reality Version” for each track, offering a different perspective on the album.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Thought Contagion’, ‘The Dark Side’, ‘Pressure’, ‘Blockades’, ‘The Void’.

Muse’s most recent album, ‘Will Of the People,’ encompasses the band’s entire discography – a greatest hits collection entirely made up of original music. The first track, named after the album, recaptures the magic of ‘Uprising,’ while ‘Compliance’ feels like a misguided mix between ‘The Resistance’ and the electronic synth-pop of ‘Simulation Theory’.

It’s not all middle of the road ,though, as ‘Liberation’, a Queen-inspired opera rock song, rivals the magic of ‘The Resistance.’ Meanwhile, ‘Kill or Be Killed’ is a fresh take on the nu-metal formula that feels true to Muse’s discography. ‘Euphoria’ masterfully weaves together the progressive rock elements of ‘The Resistance,’ ‘BH&R,’ and ‘Drones.’

One single, ‘Won’t Stand Down’, was released from the album and peaked at 54 on the charts, while the album itself secured Muses’ seventh number 1 spot on the albums chart.

Must-listen tracks: ‘Liberation’, ‘Kill Or Be Killed’, ‘Euphoria’, ‘Won’t Stand Down’, ‘You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween’.

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