Over their long career, Muse has matured and developed their sound while maintaining the raw power and precision their early songs held. However, their eighth album, Simulation Theory, fell flat of the usual power their songs pack. As an arena rock band that has always embraced electronic elements, Muse took it a little too far on their latest album, creating an over-produced and artificial sound. Muse has jumped on the 80s pop-culture craze (the cover art was designed by Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert), but instead of a well-incorporated mix of the old and the new, Muse ended up with an album that at times sounded like a Tron knock off, especially the song “The Dark Side,” which consists of an uninspired synthesizer solo.
Simulation Theory also reaches a wider range of genres than most previous Muse albums. “Propaganda” sounds like a mix of Prince and Skrillex with country-sounding guitar in the bridge,“Break it to Me” has a mix of hip-hop and EDM, and “Get Up and Fight” is a pure pop rock anthem. While fans have come to expect experimentation from Muse, many of the songs on this album sound like a haphazard attempt to strive for a new genre for the band. One glaring example of this is “Something Human,” which sounds like aliens are invading an acoustic ballad.
The highlights of the album are among the singles that were released prior to the album: “Pressure,” “Dig Down,” and “Thought Contagion.” “Thought Contagion” and “Dig Down” are also among the songs on the album that contain lyrics with political undertones, “Dig Down” using the lyrics “when a clown takes the thrones we must find a way.” “Thought Contagion,” one of the few songs on the album with a more traditional Muse sound, takes an especially bleak look at the political climate, with lyrics like “brian cleansed fractured identity” and “brace for the final solution.”
While not altogether a bad album, Simulation Theory, lacks some of the combination of raw power, precision, and cohesiveness that fans have come to expect from Muse albums.