Drones (Muse album)

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Drones
MuseDronesCover.jpg
Studio album by Muse
Released 5 June 2015 (2015-06-05)
Recorded 3 October 2014 – 1 April 2015
Studio
Genre
Length 52:40
Label
Producer
Muse chronology
Live at Rome Olympic Stadium
(2013)
Drones
(2015)
Singles from Drones
  1. "Psycho"
    Released: 12 March 2015
  2. "Dead Inside"
    Released: 23 March 2015
  3. "Mercy"
    Released: 18 May 2015
  4. "Revolt"
    Released: 4 November 2015
  5. "Aftermath"
    Released: 11 March 2016[1]
  6. "Reapers"
    Released: 16 April 2016

Drones is the seventh studio album by English rock band Muse. It was released on 5 June 2015 in Europe and 8 June in the United Kingdom through Warner Bros. Records and Helium-3.

Drones is a concept album following a soldier from abandonment to indoctrination as a "human drone" and eventual defection. After their previous albums incorporated orchestral and electronic music, Muse aimed to return to a more straightforward rock sound. The album was recorded between October 2014 and April 2015 at the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, co-produced by the band and Robert John "Mutt" Lange.

Drones received mixed reviews; many critics praised the instrumentation but criticised the concept and lyrics. Drones debuted at number one in the UK Albums Chart (where it became Muse's fifth consecutive number-one album), the US Billboard 200 chart, and several other countries. It sold over a million copies worldwide in 2015, making it the 19th best-selling album of the year. At the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, it won the award for Best Rock Album.

Background[edit]

On their previous albums The Resistance (2009) and The 2nd Law (2012), Muse incorporated orchestral and electronic music.[2][3] In December 2013, Muse released a live album and video, Live at Rome Olympic Stadium; songwriter Matt Bellamy said the band wanted the release "to capture some of the extremes of what we've been doing since we want to go in a different direction in the future."[2]

Muse began writing their seventh album soon after the Rome concert. Bellamy stated that the album "should be something that really does strip away the additional things that we've experimented with on the last two albums... I kind of feel like it will be nice to reconnect and remind ourselves of just the basics of who we are."[2] The band felt that the electronic side of their music was becoming too dominant. According to bassist Chris Wolstenholme, "some of the music on [The 2nd Law] was somewhat of a bore to play live, and I’m not too certain how much of it worked for our shows ... The logical step was to strip away all the outer layers and go back to the way we started. Sometimes, making things simpler makes them more powerful."[4]

Recording[edit]

In October 2014, Muse entered the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver.[5][6][7] After having self-produced their previous two albums, Muse worked with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange to spend less time mixing and reviewing takes and focus on performance.[4] Tommaso Colliva and Rich Costey served as additional producers.[5] After having used several different bass guitars and effect pedals for The 2nd Law, Wolstenholme used only one bass guitar and a small number of pedals, hoping to find a cohesive sound.[4]

The first recording session ended on 19 October, with the band calling it "emotional".[8] Muse re-entered the studio in November 2014.[9] On 1 April 2015, drummer Dominic Howard and mixer Rich Costey indicated on their Instagram accounts that they had finished mixing the album.[10][11] The result was a simpler, more consistent rock sound with less elaborate production and less genre experimentation.[4][12][13]

Composition[edit]

Drones has been described as featuring alternative rock,[14] hard rock,[15] progressive rock,[16] and progressive metal.[17] It is a concept album about the dehumanisation of modern warfare.[18] The story begins with "Dead Inside", where the protagonist loses hope and becomes vulnerable to the dark forces of "Psycho". He eventually defects, revolts and overcomes his enemies.[19]

Answering fan questions on Twitter in September 2014, Bellamy said the album's themes include deep ecology, the empathy gap, and World War III.[20] In March 2015, he said:

In an interview in the same month, Bellamy described Drones as "a modern metaphor for what it is to lose empathy ... through modern technology, and obviously through drone warfare in particular, it's possible to actually do quite horrific things by remote control, at a great distance, without actually feeling any of the consequences, or even feeling responsible in some way."[22]

Promotion and release[edit]

On 26 January 2015, Muse revealed the album title in an Instagram video featuring a mixing desk with audio samples and a screen stating "Artist – Muse, Album – Drones."[23] Muse began using the hashtag "#MuseDrones" on Twitter and Instagram.[24] On 6 February, American artist Matt Mahurin announced that he had created artwork for the album.[25][26] On 8 March, the band shared a snippet of a new song, "Psycho", and mentioned "mixing with a very tight deadline".[27]

On 12 March, Muse released a lyric video for "Psycho" on their YouTube channel, and made the song available for download with the album pre-order.[28] From 15 to 24 March, the band played the Psycho UK Tour, six concerts in small venues in the UK.[21] On 23 March, "Dead Inside" was released as the album's lead single with a lyric video on Muse's YouTube channel.[29][30] On 18 May, Muse released a lyric video for "Mercy" and released the song on Spotify.[31] On 29 May, a lyric video for "Reapers" was released on YouTube,[32] followed by "The Handler" on 2 June[33] and "[JFK]" with "Defector" on 3 June.[34]

Drones was released on 5 June 2015 in Europe and 8 June in the United Kingdom[35] under Warner Bros. Records and Helium-3. On 3 November, Muse released "Revolt" as the third single from the album along with a music video on iTunes.[36] Starting with Radio 1's Big Weekend in May 2015, the band embarked on the Drones World Tour in support of the album. The fourth single "Aftermath" was released on March 11 2016 and Record Store Day 2016 "Reapers" was released as a 7" single and last single from the album on April 16 2016.[37]

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic63/100[38]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[18]
The Daily Telegraph4/5 stars[39]
Entertainment WeeklyC[40]
The Guardian3/5 stars[41]
Los Angeles Times1.5/4 stars[42]
NME7/10[43]
Pitchfork4.5/10[44]
Q4/5 stars[45]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[17]
Spin5/10[16]

At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, Drones has an average score of 63 based on 25 reviews.

Kerrang! gave Drones a perfect score, calling it "a claustrophobic classic that sharpens the focus of what is possible in the name of high-minded rock."[38] Q wrote that despite Muse's stated goal of returning to their roots, "Drones is anything but back-to-basics garage rock... befitting of its proggy conceptual narrative about state mind control, it's an album of rambling interests."[45] David Fricke of Rolling Stone called the album "a truly guilty pleasure" and praised its "chunky update of the guitar-bass-drums charge" of the band's earlier albums as "what Muse do best."[17] The NME wrote that the album's "trademark Muse themes of brainwashing, warmongering superpowers, suppression of The Truth and the urgent need to fight the hand that bleeds us still resonate in 2015, but obliquely ... Muse's music once more matches [Bellamy's] adventurous intrigue."[43]

AllMusic wrote that "it's hard to avoid [Muse's] conclusion that war is bad, but this inclination to write everything in bold, italicized capital letters is an asset when it comes to music."[18] Kitty Empire of The Observer wrote that despite the "trite" lyrics and "confusing" plot, some of Drones was "fist-pumpingly ace; a timely restatement of the need for popular music to evoke both thought and dopamine rush."[46] Ian Cohen of Pitchfork found Drones lacked subtlety and criticised its lyrics, writing: "Whatever pleasure can be generated from Bellamy's admirable melodic sense and overblown hooks is negated by Muse's insistence that they're profound rather than fun."[44] Oliver Keens of Time Out London called the album's handling of the drones subject matter "tactless and crass" and its story "as dull as dog food – told with the wishy-washy flim-flam of a frothing conspiracy theorist ... We used to moan that musicians didn't write about politics anymore. Based on this effort, maybe that's for the best."[47]

Commercial[edit]

On the UK Albums Chart, Drones opened at number one with sales of 72,863 copies, the third-highest opening of 2015 up to that point. It was Muse's fifth consecutive number-one album in the UK.[48] It remained at number one in the second week, selling 24,445 copies (996 from streaming), bringing total sales to 97,308.[49][50] It sold 1,100,000 copies worldwide in 2015 and was the 19th best-selling album of the year.[51] By 2016, it had sold approximately 170,000 copies in UK, 230,000 copies in the US, and 192,000 copies in France.[52]

Drones debuted at number one the US Billboard 200 chart in the week ending 14 June, earning 84,200 album-equivalent units in its first week (including 79,400 copies on traditional sales, 26,000 on single sales and 3.3 million on single streams), surpassing estimations.[53] Drones replaced How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence and the Machine in the previous week, the first time two British artists had debuted consecutively at number one on the US chart since 1956. Its traditional sales took Drones to number one of the Top Album Sales.[54] The following week it fell to #19, tying with Bon Jovi's The Circle and Sia's 1000 Forms of Fear for the tenth-largest drop from #1 on the Billboard 200 as of January 2017.

The album also debuted at number 1 in 21 countries around the world including France, Japan (Int'l Chart), Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Hong Kong (Int'l Chart), Korea (Int'l Chart), Portugal, Russia (main chart), Singapore, and Taiwan (main chart). It also debuted at the top 3 in Italy, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Greece, Germany, and Indonesia.

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Dead Inside"Matthew Bellamy4:22
2."[Drill Sergeant]"Bellamy0:21
3."Psycho"Bellamy5:16
4."Mercy"Bellamy3:51
5."Reapers"Bellamy5:59
6."The Handler"Bellamy4:33
7."[JFK]"Bellamy0:54
8."Defector"Bellamy4:33
9."Revolt"Bellamy4:05
10."Aftermath"Bellamy5:47
11."The Globalist"Bellamy / Edward Elgar10:07
12."Drones"Bellamy / Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina2:49
Total length:52:40

Notes

Personnel[edit]

All personnel adapted from album liner notes.[5]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[97] Gold 35,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[98] Gold 7,500*
Belgium (BEA)[99] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[100] Platinum 80,000^
France (SNEP)[101] 2× Platinum 200,000*
Italy (FIMI)[102] Gold 25,000*
Mexico (AMPROFON)[103] Gold 30,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[104] Gold 20,000^
Russia (NFPF)[105] Platinum 10,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[106] Platinum 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[107] Gold 230,213^
Worldwide (IFPI) N/A 1,100,000+[108]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Australia[109] 5 June 2015
  • CD
  • CD+DVD
  • LP
  • CD+DVD+LP
  • digital download
Warner Bros.
Austria[110]
Finland[111]
Germany[112]
Ireland[113]
Netherlands[114]
New Zealand[115]
Switzerland[116]
United Kingdom[35] 8 June 2015
France[117]
Poland[118]
Canada[119] 9 June 2015
Italy[120]
Spain[121]
United States[122]
Japan[123] 10 June 2015
Norway[124]
Sweden[125]

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