Call it a split decision

Muse

"Black Holes and Revelations" (Warner Bros.)

* * *

ON its three previous releases, this English rock outfit seemed like a casserole stuffed with the leftover vocal stylings of Radiohead and the thundering drums and shredding guitar of Tool. An interesting mix of flavors, but the notes felt so familiar that the result was ultimately unsatisfying.

The trio has apparently let new sounds simmer after a yearlong hiatus, and while "Black Holes and Revelations" (in stores Tuesday) is yet another sonic melange, its elements are fresher. The album opens with tickles of synth, and the first four tracks carry a decidedly more poppy, electronic feel. The first single, "Supermassive Black Hole," is a jaw-dropping departure, boasting a baffling, Justin Timberlake-like falsetto, a bizarrely danceable beat and infectious, cheeky riffs.

But the album's second half, curiously, abandons the techno elements of the first and starkly revisits the harder guitar and double bass drums of Muse's past, most notably on "Assassin." The closing track, "Knights of Cydonia," then delivers hints of surf guitar and a choral arrangement reminiscent of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Overall, "Black Holes and Revelations" offers a refreshing revamp, but the jarring contrast between its new and vintage sounds comes off as slightly half-baked.

-- Alie Ward

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