Not all the new music out there is synthesized pop and dance music, y’know. And it’s not just hard rock, dubstep or hip-hop, either. There’s still a hardy contingent of bands putting out what is known as progressive rock--which is experimental, technological and unorthodox in nature.
The work of pioneering prog-rock bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Rush laid the foundation for today’s increasingly popular crop of progressive rockers.
At the top of the prog-rock scene sits Muse, the band from Devon, UK, that has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, delivering their epic, rock-opera sounds across the globe with eight albums, three EPs and a host of charting singles.
The band was in the world’s spotlight during the 2012 London Olympic Games as they wrote and performed the theme song for the games, “Survival.” Muse also has seen airplay success associated with “Neutron Star Collision (Love is Forever)” from the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack.
Progressive rock is known for eschewing many of rock’s norms, including lyrical themes. Typical fare of love and relationships, dancing, etc. makes way for more eclectic themes, including literature, social commentary and science fiction.
So what’s Muse’s game? As Adam Holz of Plugged In states of the album The Resistance, “The ever-present specter of apocalypse yields pessimism, apathy and hopelessness on several tracks.”
But it’s not just the 2009 concept album that exhibits that hopelessness. “Stockholm Syndrome” from 2003’s Absolution states: “Look to the stars / let hope grow in your eyes / And we’ll love / And we’ll hate / And we’ll die / All to no avail.” On the new album, The 2nd Law, “Supremacy” eerily states, “You don’t have long / I am on to you / The time, it has come to destroy.”
The band’s pessimism is accompanied by a skeptical-at-best, antagonistic-at-worst view of faith and religion. “No religion or mind virus / Is there a hope that the facts will ever find us? / Just make sure that you’re looking out for number one,” rings the self-preservation anthem of “Unnatural Selection.” “Destroy this City of Delusion / Break these walls down / I will avenge / Justify my reasons / With your blood,” sings “City of Delusion.” The aforementioned Olympic theme, “Survival,” carries a darker attitude than one of trying to best an opponent in competition: “Yes I am prepared / To stay live / And I won’t forgive / Vengeance is mine / And I won’t give in / Because I choose to thrive.”
Oh, and there’s also a smattering of four-letter words throughout.
With six full-length studio albums, there’s plenty more to dig into when checking out Muse. And at the end of the day, the feeling I get is similar to how I felt about Florence & The Machine: it’s really too bad such awesome-sounding music comes with such terrible themes.
So where is one to get a much-needed dose of delightful, positive progressive rock? Muse fans will likely find much to love with Columbus, Ohio’s House of Heroes.
Although the band has only just begun to come across the Christian rock radar, with five albums under their belt, the band almost has as many as Muse.
Let’s get this out in the open right now: The band’s latest offering, Cold Hard Want, sounds nothing like Muse. It’s quite a bit more mainstream rock-sounding than the band’s breakthrough albums. If you’re a fan of the progressive style, head right for the band’s fourth studio album, The End is Not the End.
This 2008 album seems to have been influenced by Muse’s 2005 album, The Origin of Symmetry. It’s probably no surprise that House of Heroes’ lead singer Tim Skipper counts Muse among his favorite bands and musical influences.
Standout Muse-like tracks include “In the Valley of the Dying Sun”, “Code Name: Raven” and “Baby’s A Red.” On the band’s 2010 album, Suburba, House of Heroes incorporates more electronic elements into their songs, introducing progressive-sounding songs like “Relentless”, “Disappear” and “Burn Me Down.”
You’ll find the vocal harmonies, the unorthodox song structure and rhythms, but you’ll also find a band inspired by their faith in God.
“All through the night I was falling / Straining to hear your voice calling / You never gave up, never gave in, never quite gave up on me / You are my constant,” Skipper sings on “Constant,” a song that clearly offers the hope that Muse songs lack.
Even in struggle, House of Heroes acknowledges hope. With a nod to Jacob/Israel’s experience in Genesis 32, “In the Valley of the Dying Sun” resounds: “All through the night / I wrestled the angel / To undo the curse / That’s burdened me all of my life / And for the first time I could see / That God was not my enemy.”
It’s quite a different approach than Muse’s view expressed in “Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture),” which includes the line, “Trapped in God’s program / Oh, I can’t escape.”
There’s a better way to be a-Muse’d than a steady diet of hopelessness. If you haven’t yet discovered House of Heroes, now’s the time.
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NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Community Life Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, Ore. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.