Rating – 6.5/10
Since the band’s conception in 1994, Muse has been known for constantly updating and reinventing their sound, while still staying true to their specific style. The same can be said for ‘Simulation Theory’, the band’s eighth studio album released in November 2018. This lightly conceptual album tackles themes of modern technology, media, and augmented reality, and the instruments used compliment these themes nicely.
‘Simulation Theory’ blends physical and computer generated instruments seamlessly, mirroring the lyrics as singer Matt Bellamy talks about the physical and technological world becoming one. The distorted bass and occasional acoustic guitar retain the band’s hard rock roots, while the synthesizers and looped effects give the album an electronic/synth pop sound. The drums truly show off both sides of the instrumentation, as physical drums and drum machines switch out constantly on every song. Bellamy’s vocals are as big and operatic as ever, which truly makes ‘Simulation Theory’ sound like a Muse album first and foremost.
The album opens with “Algorithm”, a song which immediately sets the tone with a minute-and-a-half long electronic groove, before Bellamy comes in. As he sings “We are caged in simulations/Algorithms evolve/Push us aside and render us obsolete”, the main themes of ‘Simulation Theory’ become clear. These themes of technology and simulations taking over our lives continues in “Blockades”, “Propaganda”, and “The Void”.
‘Simulation Theory’ also contains several songs about the current state of the world today, with “Thought Contagion” and “Propaganda” warning against the spread of false ideas, and “Get Up And Fight” and “Dig Down” being encouraging calls to action in these seemingly dark times. Intra-and-interpersonal relationships are also put to the forefront in typical Muse fashion. “The Dark Side” talks about struggling with depression and isolation, while “Break It To Me” and “Something Human” conveys a desire for clear, honest relationships between people.
There is an over-the-top, almost ridiculous vibe throughout the album’s 42 minute runtime. From the cover art (designed by Stranger Things alum Kyle Lambert) to the liberal use of synthesizers, ‘Simulation Theory’ never lets you forget the “‘80’s futuristic” aesthetic that Muse attempts to blend with modern commentary. Whether it’s a critique of the news media or an observation of technology taking over the world, the lyrics are never nuanced or particularly clever, and can often come off as cheesy. The album strives to say something important, but never accomplishes this in a way that can be taken seriously.
‘Simulation Theory’ is an overall worthwhile experience, and fans of Muse, pop rock, or ‘80’s nostalgia will certainly enjoy this record. Despite its poorly conveyed themes and over-the-top presentation, ‘Simulation Theory’ has some genuinely solid tracks that show that even after 20 years, Muse can still create something fresh and different from their previous records.
Favorite Tracks: “Pressure”, “Thought Contagion”, “Something Human”
‘Simulation Theory’ is streaming everywhere now.