“Metal Muse!” cried Opera Rock Twitter when the first snippet of the Teignmouth behemoths’ latest direction appeared on Instagram, being ‘road-tested’ by Matt Bellamy alongside a passenger trying to headbang their way clean through the dashboard. The hardcore wouldn’t have been surprised, though. Having taken the ‘80s aesthetic to its Weird Science extreme on 2018’s ‘Simulation Theory’, Bellamy told NME in 2020, “I like the idea of totally resetting and going back to where we come from… as in, physically moving back to our hometown and getting back to how we used to be at square one”.
A return to the passions of their gnarlier teenage days – when, among indier acts, they bonded over Primus, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine – was clearly in the stars.
‘Won’t Stand Down’ goes back to Muse’s roots with an expert archaeologist’s touch. The pop synthetics and funk/R&B tempos they’ve been fusing into their DNA for over a decade ease us into the verses, even as dense, elemental crunches of space bass, stomping around like an evil Transformer, make it clear we’re not listening to ‘Madness’ anymore, Toto.
Then the chorus lifts off into prime Muse rock stratospheres, throwing back not so much to their formative hardcore obsessions as the slicker mutant variant they perfected on 2003’s ‘Absolution’ and last year’s reimagining ‘Origin Of Symmetry: XX Anniversary RemiXX’ – and with an utterly classic tune to match, making great use of a pair of tonsils capable of launching a billionaire into space on the cheap. That it then descends into ferocious metal power-chugging reflects a revived intensity in the band, firing harder than at any point since ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
But it’s not – surprisingly, considering his previous themes – any sort of Great Reset pandemic Truthing that’s got Bellamy so riled up, as much as we’d love to hear his thoughts on What’s Really Happening rendered in rock aria. Instead, there’s a personal battle underway: Matt has become the victim of “a user and an abuser”, refuses to take any more of their shit and declares “a psychological war… I’ll shoot you before you take aim”. Which officially makes Ian Brown the new Matt Bellamy and Muse the new metal Kill Bill…