Muse's ‘Will of the People’ review: over the top, ludicrous but occasionally thrilling

Even after 30 years, the British group still leave us wondering

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 21:  Matt Bellamy of Muse performs on stage during day two of Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 21, 2019 in Singapore.  (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
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Nearly thirty years into their acclaimed career, it's still hard to fathom whether Muse are taking us for a ride.

Such is their propensity to go the extra mile with bombastic production, dystopian subject matter and revolutionary fervour that it's hard to discern if all that rage is actually real.

Then again, does it matter when the turbo-charged riffs are heavy and the endorphin-releasing drumming is thunderous?

'Will of the People'

Artist: Muse
Label: Warner
Rating: 2.5/5

Will of the People is another viscerally charged collection of songs where singer and chief songwriter Matt Bellamy catalogues a litany of dangers facing us today.

It’s a bleak outlook: tsunamis are on the rise, viruses are here to stay, big tech controls us and we the “sheeple” are letting it all happen.

The subjects are relatively timely, but delivered with all the nuance and depth of a protest placard.

Fortunately, a lot of the leaden lyrical material is saved by the flamboyance — thrilling and, at times, ludicrous — of the arrangements and the album’s brevity.

The title track and lead single is a head-banging monster.

Carried by marching drum beats, strident guitar riffs and robotic backing vocals, Bellamy rails against a shadowy entity and promises "we're going to smash your nation to pieces".

Compliance is more clear in target. Over bright synths recalling the early work of English band Depeche Mode, he examines the tension between regulations and “our own internal voice of reason and compassion".

It also has Bellamy’s best vocal turn on the album, with his tenor sounding fierce and fragile.

Kill or Be Killed is what you imagine it to be: an uncompromising cyclone of rapid fire riffs, air raid sirens and double-bass drums — it is destined to be a live favourite of future tours.

The track also thrills because Bellamy steps off the soap box and actually sounds like he is having fun.

The opposite of which is the dreary Liberation, filled with such over excessive vocal orchestration and trite sloganeering ("you stole the airwaves, but the air belongs to us") that it takes you back to wondering if Muse is playing it up for show.

At about 40 minutes and featuring some genuinely thrilling moments, Will of the People does enough to suspend that debate until the next album comes along.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 6:02 PM
'Will of the People'

Artist: Muse
Label: Warner
Rating: 2.5/5