Muse, Space, and Cydonia

Before Muse, I’d never heard of the genre “space rock” before. But after hearing it, it immediately made sense to me. Science fiction loving musicians trying to best replicate the themes of sci-fi and the sense of awe from the genre.

Album art for 2006’s Black Holes & Revelations

Muse, led by lead singer Matt Bellamy (and his love of magical mushrooms) write a lot about different science fiction ideas. Every Muse album is about a different way the world could end, from advancement of technology, drone warfare, dictatorships, and even the internet itself.

Their fourth studio album Black Holes & Revelations, released in 2006, is probably my favourite album of theirs. Equal parts a reaction to the Iraq War, the mood of the 2000s, and also a creative view on interstellar travel.

Starlight, one of the singles released from the album, is a double entendre. On the surface about missing family and homesickness when you travel, but on a deeper level about what interstellar life and being so far away from home on a galactic level would be like. Could we really deal with living light years away from our own floating rock in space we call Earth?

Supermassive Black Hole is a sexy, funky, and catchy tune which personifies space and the mystery of it all as an attractive and mysterious woman who you’ll never quite understand, but by god do you want to know her. Something about this is so interesting to me. The deep dark unexplored reaches of space are infinite and there’s a sort of rock and roll awesome factor to that in my view. We will never see all there is in space.

The most well-known and successful song off BH&R is the final track of the album, Knights of Cydonia. Voted as the Hottest Song of 2007 by Triple J, it’s a six minute space odyssey, which bassist Christopher Wolstenholme described as “40 years of rock history in six minutes”.

Photo taken by the Viking orbit mission in 1976, showing the “face of mars”.

The song is named after the region of Mars known as Cydonia, where the infamous “face of Mars” was found. Subject to countless conspiracy theories and speculation of some sort of civilisation living on Mars. The concept of an ancient civilisation on Mars is very science fiction, and very intriguing. It took over 20 years before the face was known in public knowledge to be a trick of shadow and light from the Sun.

Come ride with me
Through the veins of history
I’ll show you a god
Who falls asleep on the job
And how can we win
When fools can be kings?
Don’t waste your time
Or time will waste you

Muse create a scenario with the song that imagines the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as part of a secret society cult in Cydonia that act as judge, jury, and executioner for humanity, and the decider of what wars we fight and actions of nations. A metaphor for how the actions of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States conspired for a war in Iraq under false pretences.

It works as a call to action song, with the lyrics demanding that as individuals, normal people, we fight and challenge our governments and leaders on what they do. The chorus explains itself, and what the call to action is.

No one’s gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive
No one’s gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive

The grand, epic scale of this song has always made it one of my all-time favourite songs, and easily my favourite Muse song. It’s easy to see why it was voted the best song of 2007 by Triple J listeners. It’s one hell of a track to listen to, a real adventure, and as the final track of BH&R, it’s perfect. Good luck getting the idea of space travel out of your head after listening to the entire album.

Feature image credit:

Jamie Dunkin
Aspiring media hack and administrator of All Sides Of The Harbour.

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