Evolving from their late-’90s alt rock origins into a bombastic force that fused progressive rock, electronic, and pop, English trio Muse carved out a niche as a genre-blurring powerhouse that balanced intergalactic sci-fi and government-conspiracy-theory themes with yearning anthems of love and heartbreak. Initially plagued by Radiohead comparisons on debut Showbiz (1999), the trio steadily matured over a decade, incorporating a wide range of sonic inspirations ranging from the grandiose arena rock of Queen and the R&B-funk of Prince on Black Holes & Revelations (2006) to the dubstep grind of Skrillex on The 2nd Law (2012). In 2016, they scored their second Grammy win for Best Rock Album with the muscular, antiwar Drones, and in 2018 they issued the flashy, synth-heavy Simulation Theory. On 2022′s Will of the People, the band revisited their classic sounds for a set of fresh tracks that could have been a greatest-hits compilation. As their albums consistently topped international charts, Muse also built a reputation as a top live draw, with award-winning concerts that often featured big-budget, U2-esque stage setups, and sold out arenas and stadiums worldwide.
The band’s core comprises guitarist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme, and drummer Dominic Howard, a trio of friends who began playing music together in their hometown of Teignmouth, Devon. They started the first incarnation of the band at the age of 13, changing the name of the group from Gothic Plague to Fixed Penalty to Rocket Baby Dolls as time passed. By 1997, the bandmates settled on the name Muse and released their self-titled debut EP on Dangerous Records, followed by the Muscle Museum EP in 1998. The group’s emotive, passionate sound and live presence drew critical acclaim and industry buzz, which resulted in a deal with Maverick Records after a trip to New York’s CMJ Festival. The singles “Cave” and “Uno” preceded their debut full-length album, Showbiz, which was released toward the end of 1999. The effort went platinum and peaked inside the U.K. Top 30. Two years later, Muse issued Origin of Symmetry, which featured hit singles “New Born,” “Plug in Baby,” “Bliss,” and “Hyper Music,” which helped propel the album to multiplatinum status in the U.K. The following year, fans were treated to Hullabaloo Soundtrack, a combination of Showbiz/Origin rarities packaged with a Parisian live set that peaked at number ten in the U.K.
Muse returned in 2003 with their third album, Absolution, an apocalyptic sci-fi love epic that became the band’s big U.S. breakthrough and first U.K. number one. Featuring radio hits “Time Is Running Out” and “Hysteria,” Absolution eventually went platinum in the U.S. and triple-platinum back home. On their follow-up, they pushed further into outer space and incorporated more beat-driven influences. Released in 2006, Black Holes & Revelations marked the band’s brightest, most dynamic set of material to date, topping the U.K. album chart within its first week and earning Muse their second consecutive number one album at home. In America, the album broke into the Top Ten upon the strength of funky, Prince-indebted single “Supermassive Black Hole” and uplifting anthem “Starlight.” Taking advantage of their expanding international reach, the band toured Europe, America, Australia, and Asia in support of the effort, and their dynamic stage performance won the band multiple awards for Best Live Act, including accolades from the NME Awards, the Q Awards, and the Vodafone Live Music Awards. (It was also captured on 2008′s H.A.A.R.P. Live from Wembley.)
The trio spent the remainder of 2008, as well as the early part of 2009, in the recording studio, eventually emerging with The Resistance in September. Incorporating an epic orchestral scope on the album’s closing “Exogenesis” trilogy and channeling Depeche Mode and Queen elsewhere, the album hit number one in more than a dozen countries, while lead single “Uprising” became their highest-charting U.S. song to date. The band kicked off another world tour, headlining shows as well as supporting U2. In 2011, Bellamy and company were asked to write the official theme for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which were being held in London, and the band returned with the triumphant rock anthem “Survival.” The song also became the lead single of their next album, 2012′s The 2nd Law. An outlier in their catalog, the album featured the electronic pop single “Madness,” an experimental dubstep influence, and a pair of tracks written and sung by Wolstenholme. The road-hungry band undertook another large-scale tour to promote The 2nd Law, and their spectacular show at Rome’s Olympic Stadium — complete with pyrotechnics, video walls, and acrobats — was filmed in ultra-high definition for the concert movie Live at Rome Olympic Stadium, which was released in December 2013.
When Muse returned to the studio, they took a step back from the electronic textures of The 2nd Law, returning to a heavier rock sound. In early March 2015, Muse issued the singles “Psycho” and “Dead Inside,” the first offerings from their seventh studio long-player, Drones. Released in June of that year, the conceptual album was their fifth consecutive U.K. number one album and their first release to top the U.S. charts, netting them a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in February 2016. The accompanying Drones World Tour, which featured actual drones that flew over audiences, was captured on film and released to theaters in the summer of 2018. By that time, the band was already in the midst of promoting its neon-washed, ’80s-inspired eighth LP, Simulation Theory, with singles “Dig Down,” “Pressure,” and “Dark Side.” The effort was released that November and became their sixth consecutive U.K. chart-topper. An international tour occupied the band for much of 2019 and they closed the year with a massive box set that commemorated their Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry eras. Origin of Muse boasted nine CDs and four vinyl records, collecting the B-sides, demos, EPs, and some live tracks from each period. In 2021, Muse released a remixed and remastered version of their sophomore long-player titled Origin of Symmetry: XX Anniversary RemiXX. 2022 saw the release of the defiant, metalcore-leaning single “Won’t Stand Down,” the first taste of their ninth set, Will of the People. Originally conceived as a way to side-step their label’s request for a greatest-hits album, the band dug into their back catalog, writing fresh songs that sounded intentionally like old ones while touching upon familiar themes of rebellion, paranoia, and the state of the world. ~ Heather Phares & Neil Z. Yeung