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MUSE - BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS Ė WARNER
Record Rating: ****

MUSE - BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS Since the release of their 1999 debut Showbiz, fans in the UK have been hailing Devon-based rock trio Muse as the next big thing. Billed as the more accessible alternative to Radiohead, the bandís classicist approach to progressive rock has earned them both critical praise and derision, and a slew of awards on their home turf.

Instead of moving away from whatís currently hip on an indie level, this group embraces it, growing consistently more adventurous and in some ways, consistently more obscure. 2003ís Absolution won them an audience in the US as well, thanks to its deceptively complex melodies that split the difference between prog-rock grandiosity and gloom-pop ennui.

As expected, latest release Black Holes and Revelations isnít exactly a paradigm of mainstream pop music. Propelled by front man/guitarist Matthew Bellamyís disconsolate delivery, not to mention his decidedly synaptic, tickling lyrics, the 11 tracks here zigzag through the listenerís consciousness, leaving a lingering unease and a desire for much more. So, itís not surprising, that with this record the band went to #1 on the UK charts. Layered in waves of synthesisers and percussion, the imagery captured on singles Starlight and Knights of Cydonia is exquisitely dark and artistically abrasive, and sets the tone for the rest of the disc.

With indie Łber-engineer Rich Costey guiding this set, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme are given a chance to shine brightly ~ particularly on the mellotron-driven Assasins and the Wishbone Ash-like soaring Supermassive Black Hole. Fortunately, they donít let themselves get pigeonholed into the 90s sound of their heroes Radiohead; instead they try to revitalise the genre with harder backbeats and louder guitars. The bandís inclinations towards making arena rock elevates them to the one to watch out for status, as this release hints of grander things in Museís future.

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