Ahead of starting their seventh album, Muse looked across their career and asked themselves, “What’s been our best work?” Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dom Howard began homing in on the forceful alchemy they had summoned with guitar, bass, and drums over the course of their first three records and felt that it was a sound they wanted to reconnect with. Drum machines, programming, and electronic flourishes had taken increasing prevalence in Muse’s music over a run of albums from 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations to 2012’s The 2nd Law and the trio had begun to feel more like producers than performers when it came to studio work. Drones realigned their focus back onto being one of the world’s most rip-roaring rock bands. It’s why they chose to bring in an outside producer after two records of doing the job themselves—and who better when you want to make earth-shaking rock music than Mutt Lange? Setting the band to work at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, Canada, the Def Leppard and AC/DC collaborator helped Muse craft a muscular, dynamic album that sought to marry old-school, amped-up hard rock with forward-thinking sensibilities. For Bellamy, the idea of reconnecting to the sound of a band playing together in a room was a perfect reflection for the concepts running through Drones, a record exploring the idea of humanity’s empathy versus the calculated efficiency of technology. That the theme of losing control of your life recurs throughout the record was no accident—coming out of a breakup with his fiancée, Kate Hudson, Bellamy intended the record’s conceptual narrative to work as a parallel arc to the turbulence in his own life at the time. Away from the intertwining dystopian drama and personal turmoil, Drones is simply a boisterous and bristling rock record that pairs Muse’s refined songcraft and anthemic sing-alongs with a series of searing riffs and pummeling grooves. “Psycho” builds a powerhouse rhythm around a barbed, bluesy lick, “Reapers” is all guitar virtuosity and ELO-meets-Metallica flamboyance, while a callback to the title track from their 1999 debut Showbiz halfway through “The Handler”’s foreboding march feels like Muse taking their rock vows again. Released in June 2015, Drones topped both the UK and US Billboard charts, winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2016. Almost as if they’d proved a point to themselves by revisiting the sounds of their past, Muse would go more electronic than ever on their next record. Drones had already done its job, though. This was the album that reminded the band who they were, an act of renewal. Muse had given themselves the license to go wherever they wanted next.

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