Black Holes and Revelations

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Black Holes and Revelations
The band sitting a a table outdoors, surrounded by barren land.
Studio album by Muse
Released 3 July 2006 (2006-07-03)
Recorded August–December 2005 at Miraval Studios, S. France; Avatar Studios, New York City; Electric Lady Studios, New York; Officine Meccaniche Studios, Milan; Townhouse Studios, London
Genre Alternative rock, new prog, progressive metal, space rock, electronic rock
Length 45:28
Label Warner Bros., Helium-3
Producer Rich Costey, Muse
Muse chronology
Absolution
(2003)
Black Holes and Revelations
(2006)
HAARP
(2008)
Singles from Black Holes and Revelations
  1. "Supermassive Black Hole"
    Released: 19 June 2006
  2. "Starlight"
    Released: 4 September 2006
  3. "Knights of Cydonia"
    Released: 27 November 2006
  4. "Invincible"
    Released: 9 April 2007
  5. "Map of the Problematique"
    Released: 18 June 2007

Black Holes and Revelations is the fourth studio album by English alternative rock band Muse, released on 28 June 2006 in Japan, and on 3 July 2006 in the United Kingdom. It gets its title from a line in the song "Starlight" which is the second track on the album. Recording was split between New York and France, and it was the first time Muse had taken a more active role in the album's production. The album was a change in style from Muse's previous albums, and the band cited influences that included Depeche Mode, Millionaire, Lightning Bolt, Sly and the Family Stone, and music from southern Italy.[1]

Black Holes and Revelations was placed at #34 in a public vote conducted by Q magazine for "The Best British Albums of all time" in February 2008.

Like their two previous albums, Black Holes and Revelations has political and science-fiction undertones, with the lyrics covering topics as varied as political corruption, alien invasion, revolution and New World Order conspiracies as well as more conventional love songs.

Background and recording[edit]

Muse's previous album, Absolution, was released in 2003 to critical acclaim. Absolution had brought the band mainstream exposure in the United States for the first time.[2]

The band retired to an old château in France to write for a new album.[1] Lead singer Matthew Bellamy said that this was because the band wanted to be free from distractions so that they could "concentrate, spend time and be surrounded by different musical influences".[1] The album was partially recorded in the same studio in France as Pink Floyd's album The Wall, of which fact Wolstenholme said it was a "great feeling to know that something big had been done [there]".[3] However, the band found recording there very slow and had difficulties deciding which songs to include on the album.[1] They travelled to New York to finish the recording.[1]

Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme considered writing and recording for Black Holes and Revelations more relaxed than it had been for previous albums, as the band did not have a deadline to work to.[3] It was the first time they had learned about the technology in the studio, having previously left the use of it to the sound engineers.[3] Bellamy said that this was the first time Muse made an album without being concerned about how they would play it live.[4]

"Soldier's Poem", stood out as being "quite unlike anything [they'd] ever done before".[5] Drummer Dominic Howard said they were originally going to record it with a "massive, epic" approach, but then decided to strip it down and record it in a small studio with vintage equipment and a few microphones.[5] Muse were pleased with the result and Howard described it as a "real highlight", describing the vocals as "some of the most amazing vocals I've ever heard Matt do".[5]

Lyrical content[edit]

Black Holes and Revelations was said by some reviewers to carry a political message.[6] The album begins with the track "Take a Bow", which is an "attack on an all but unnamed political leader", incorporating lyrics such as "Corrupt, you're corrupt and bring corruption to all that you touch".[6] These themes are carried through the album in the tracks "Exo-Politics" and "Assassin".[6] The album often touches on controversial subject matters, such as "The New World Order conspiracy, unjustifiable war, abusive power, conspiratorial manipulation and populist revolt,"[7] and is influenced by the conspiracy theories that the band are interested in.[5] Matt Bellamy stated that he finds "the unknown in general a stimulating area for the imagination",[7] and this interest is reflected throughout the album, which features alien invasion (in "Exo-Politics")[4] and rebellious paranoia (particularly during "Assassin").[6] The album also includes more emotional themes, including regret, ambition,[6] and love.[8]

The title, taken from lyrics in "Starlight", is explained by Matthew Bellamy in his September 2006 interview for Q magazine: "Black holes and revelations – they're the two areas of songwriting for me that make up the majority of this album. A revelation about yourself, something personal, something genuine of an everyday nature that maybe people can relate to. Then the black holes are these songs that are from the more ... unknown regions of the imagination."[9]

Artwork[edit]

The sleeve's designer Storm Thorgerson said: "This design was executed on location in Bardenas… The central motif came from 'galloping' horses ('Knights of Cydonia', 'Invincible') and from the biblical allusion to horsemen, namely the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, now represented in contemporary mode."[10]

Release[edit]

The album was released on 3 July 2006 in the UK, followed by releases in the USA, Australia, Taiwan and Japan. The album was also available as a limited edition CD/DVD combination, that featured videos and live renditions of the band playing "Supermassive Black Hole", "Knights of Cydonia" and "Starlight". In addition, the album was re-released in the USA on vinyl LP on 18 August 2009. The album received double platinum certification in the UK on 22 December 2006[11] and triple platinum on 6 December 2010. Singles were released in both the UK and the US, though they were released in different orders in each country. All singles excepting "Map of the Problematique" were available on vinyl LP, CD, DVD (containing the music video for the single) and as a digital download.

In the UK, the first single from the album was "Supermassive Black Hole" and it was released prior to the album, on 19 June 2006. The single reached number four in the UK Singles Chart, making it the highest charting single in the UK for the band to date. The single was followed by "Starlight", "Knights of Cydonia", "Invincible" and "Map of the Problematique", the only one of which to reach the top 10 was "Knights of Cydonia" at number ten.[12] The album itself charted at number one for two straight weeks in the UK album chart, with the band's largest sales up to that point.

The first single released in the U.S. was "Knights of Cydonia", on 13 June 2006, which peaked at #10 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It was followed by "Starlight" and "Supermassive Black Hole". "Starlight" was their most popular single in the U.S. at that point, reaching number two on the Modern Rock Tracks.[13] The album became Muse's first top ten entry in the U.S., debuting at number nine.

Reception[edit]

Commercial[edit]

The album sold 115,144 copies in its first week in the UK,[14] which was more than the first week sales of Muse's previous album, Absolution. The album is also a BPI triple platinum album, and was nominated for a Mercury Prize.[11] Five singles were released in the UK, of which three were released in the US. A world tour followed the release of the album that included dates in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and most of Europe and Asia.[15]

Critical[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 75/100[16]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[17]
Alternative Press 5/5 stars[18]
Drowned in Sound 9/10[19]
Entertainment Weekly B+[20]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[21]
Melodic 4/5 stars[22]
NME 9/10[23]
Q 5/5 stars[24]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars [25]
Spin 4/10[26]

Black Holes and Revelations was met with mostly positive reviews from critics. Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating based on a range of reviews from mainstream critics, aggregated the album's average review score to 75%, based on 35 reviews.[16] The album received top ratings from Observer Music Monthly,[27] Q,[24] and Alternative Press.[18] Planet Sound named Black Holes and Revelations their Album of the Year for 2006 and the album was placed third in the NME Albums of the Year list for 2006,[28] as well as being named Q's second-best album of the year.[29] The album also received a Mercury Prize nomination. It was featured in the updated 2007 version of the music reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, edited by Robert Dimery. The album was named as one of Classic Rock‘s 10 essential progressive rock albums of the decade.[30]

In contrast, several critics called the album "overblown", including RTÉ's Bill Lehane,[31] NME's Anthony Thornton,[23] and Rolling Stone's Chris Hoard.[25] Hoard went on to describe "Knights of Cydonia" and "City of Delusion" "ridiculous", but concluded that it was "surprising", that the album worked.[25] The A.V. Club, on the other hand, gave the band credit for reworking themselves, but called the album a "nightmare" and gave it a D+.[32] The album also garnered some crossover appeal, with Oakland hip hop group Zion I releasing a notable remix of "Knights of Cydonia" in 2008.[33]

Tour[edit]

See caption.
Acrobats suspended from giant white balloons float above the audience in the first, sellout night of Muse's Wembley gigs

In July 2006 the band announced that they would be going on their "biggest ever tour" in support of the album.[34] The first shows included the Leeds and Reading Carling Weekend festivals, followed by a tour that visited most of the world's major continents.[34] The tour saw them travelling over most of the world, including countries such as the UK, most of Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, China and Korea.[15] Some dates that were booked to play in support of My Chemical Romance in the USA were cancelled after members of both bands were affected by food poisoning.[35] The USA stretch of the tour included dates at Madison Square Garden and a headlining slot at Lollapalooza.[36]

The biggest concert of the tour was the two nights that they played in the new Wembley Stadium on 16 and 17 June 2007. They were the first band to sell-out the newly built stadium and play there.[37] The show incorporated extensive special effects that included huge satellite dishes, "futuristic" antennas, giant white balls and thousands of lights.[37] The encore featured two acrobats that floated high above the crowd suspended on floating white balloons.[37] Footage of the latter concert was released on DVD whilst a live CD album contained a selection of recorded tracks from the two nights. Both discs were released as a joint package under the title HAARP.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Matthew Bellamy.

No. Title Length
1. "Take a Bow"   4:35
2. "Starlight"   3:59
3. "Supermassive Black Hole"   3:29
4. "Map of the Problematique"   4:18
5. "Soldier's Poem"   2:03
6. "Invincible"   5:00
7. "Assassin"   3:31
8. "Exo-Politics"   3:53
9. "City of Delusion"   4:48
10. "Hoodoo"   3:43
11. "Knights of Cydonia"   6:06

Tracks featured on limited edition DVDs[edit]

  • "Supermassive Black Hole" (video)
  • "Starlight" (video)
  • "Knights of Cydonia" (video)
  • "Supermassive Black Hole" (Live from Paris)
  • "Starlight" (Live from Copenhagen at the MTV Awards)
  • "Knights of Cydonia" (Live from London)

A longer and heavier version of "Assassin", dubbed the "Grand Omega Bosses Version" was also recorded and is available on the vinyl issue of "Knights of Cydonia" single.

In the media[edit]

"Take a Bow" was featured on an episode of Top Gear, when Richard Hammond tested the Noble M15. The song also featured prominently in the second released trailer for Watchmen.[38] "Knights of Cydonia" was featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and "Assassin" was featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero World Tour. Knights of Cydonia was also featured in a trailer for Series 5 of the TV show Merlin. "Assassin" was also featured in the Torchwood episode entitled "Combat". "Supermassive Black Hole" was featured at the start of the Series 6 Doctor Who episode, "The Rebel Flesh", in the baseball scene of the film Twilight, and in the season 2 episode of Supernatural (U.S. TV series), "Hunted". "Map of the Problematique" was featured in trailer for The Tourist.

Personnel[edit]

Muse
  • Matthew Bellamy – lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, piano, synthesizers, production
  • Christopher Wolstenholme – bass, backing vocals, double bass on "Soldier's Poem", some synthesizers on "Map of the Problematique" and "Hoodoo", production
  • Dominic Howard – drums, percussion, brief vocals and electronic drums on "Supermassive Black Hole", Buchla 200e on "Take a Bow", production
Additional musicians and personnel
  • Rich Costey – production
  • Marco Brioschi – trumpet on "City of Delusion" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Around Art – strings on "Take a Bow", "City of Delusion", "Hoodoo" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Edoardo de Angelis – first violin on "Take a Bow", "City of Delusion", "Hoodoo" and "Knights of Cydonia"
  • Mauro Paganistring arrangements, string conductor
  • Audrey Riley – string arrangements, string conductor
  • Tom Kirk – antique items crushed on "Exo-Politics"
  • Storm Thorgerson – cover photo
  • Rupert Truman – cover photo
  • Derrick Santini – photography
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Vlado Meller – mastering
  • Roger Lian – mastering assistant
  • Tommaso Colliva – engineer
  • Myriam Correge – assistant engineer
  • Ryan Simms – assistant engineer
  • Ross Peterson – assistant engineer
  • Max Dingle – mixing assistant
  • Mark Rinaldi – mixing assistant

Charts and certifications[edit]

Single releases[edit]

Title Release date UK Singles
Chart
Billboard Modern
Rock Tracks
"Supermassive Black Hole" 19 June 2006 (UK) #4 #6
"Starlight" 4 September 2006 (UK) #13 #2
"Knights of Cydonia" 27 November 2006 (UK) #10 #10
"Invincible" 9 April 2007 (UK) #21
"Map of the Problematique" 18 June 2007 (UK) #18

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Liberation Transmission by Lostprophets
UK number one album
9–22 July 2006
Succeeded by
Razorlight by Razorlight