Those who don’t listen to rock and instead live under one may have never heard of Muse, but the group is one of the biggest bands currently out there. Muse consists of vocalist, lead guitarist and primary songwriter Matt Bellamy, drummer Dominic Howard, and bassist Chris Wolstenholme. Known for their soul-splitting riffs, boundless creativity and eccentric stage presence, they’re a group with a notably passionate fanbase. So, with the recent announcement of their upcoming album “Will of the People,” the intense hype train that followed came as no surprise to anyone.
Adding to the hype, NME released an article claiming the group was “going back to their roots,” meaning they were focusing on the riff-heavy music they were originally known for. Since then, they have released three singles from the album for fans to listen to while they wait for the full release. And while the first track certainly has enough guitar power for fans to bang their heads to, the other two seem to leave fans scratching their heads instead.
With the release of the first single, “Won’t Stand Down,” this past January, the band seemed to be on track to create the riff-heavy record that fans were hoping for. While the song begins with a relatively light melody that lures listeners in, its tone quickly erupts into a soundscape so heavy that it could easily be mistaken for something off of the Doom Eternal soundtrack. Owing primarily to Bellamy’s crushing guitar riff — one that may be the heaviest in their discography — “Won’t Stand Down” quickly became one of the band’s most well-received tracks to date. Not only did it earn acclaim from several music websites, but it has also garnered upwards of 22 million streams on Spotify in the mere five months it’s been out.
Unfortunately, the successes of the first track didn’t quite carry over to the second one. Diverging completely from the intense, riff-centered structure featured in “Won’t Stand Down”, “Compliance” turns to a more synth-heavy pop sound that’s no more exciting than a Taylor Swift song. For a fairly lengthy track lasting just over four minutes, there is almost no musical progression.
Instead, the main hook is repeated several times and the vocals stay restrained. It’s almost like they forgot their own message from the first track and stood down to the pressures of the music industry when they wrote this snooze fest. But considering it’s literally titled “Compliance,” it may have been intentional. It could be the case that the track is bland by design to fit the narrative the album will eventually tell. Perhaps the release of the remaining tracks could even make it enjoyable to listen to. But since they released it as a single, it’s better not to get your hopes up.
After the second song was released, the hype train for the upcoming album understandably started to lose steam. On the band’s Reddit page, the fan reviews for “Compliance” were overwhelmingly negative. One long-time fan went as far as saying “the lyrics are f—in terrible, as if a bot wrote them.” Another scathingly called it “flash mob music.” Even new fans of the band noticed a discernable difference between the first single and the second, with one specifically voicing their disappointment with the contrasting sounds.
Although there was widespread dissatisfaction with the second track, the band’s previous work was enough to keep most fans hopeful. That hope lasted a whopping two months. On June 1, the third single and title track of the album was released. Letting down their fans once again, “Will of the People” is just as poppy as the second track, featuring a corny chant that is enough to ruin the song alone.
What better way to destroy the hope of your fans than by having a bunch of people chanting “the will of the people” over and over again in your song like they’re desperately trying to remind themselves that they have strength in numbers? It was an obvious attempt to recreate the powerful crowd interaction that they had with their second most-streamed song, “Uprising,” but the execution was horrible. Rather than rallying fans for a powerful uprising, “Will of The People” is barely interesting enough to get them out of bed.
In addition to the cringe-inducing chanting, the guitar riff played throughout is nowhere near as exciting as the riffs featured in earlier works. Instead of winding into a beautifully chaotic crescendo like the riffs in “Micro Cuts” and “Glorious,” the main riff only serves as a bridge between verses. It also just sounds like every other pop-rock riff that’s ever been released, leaving a very uncharacteristic sense of boredom looming over the track.
Of the current officially released tracks off the upcoming album, only one seems to live up to the riff-heavy genius of their earlier work. But despite the disappointing turnout of their current official lineup, Muse started playing an unofficially released fourth track from their album at their most recent live shows. To say this track features a killer guitar riff reminiscent of their prior albums would be an understatement. Clocking in at nearly six minutes, “Kill or Be Killed” is without a doubt one of the most captivating songs they have created in the past few years. Although an official release of the track has yet to hit streaming platforms, the enhanced audio version of their live performance on YouTube is enough to place it among Muse’s top tracks ever.
So far, “Will of the People” features two good songs and two bad songs. With two songs that do align with the heavier sound they promised and two songs that don’t, it’s hard to say whether or not Muse misled their fans. But if their will to produce rock songs isn’t enough to fill an entire album, then the will of their fans to show up to their entire concerts won’t be strong enough either.