On 'Black Holes and Revelations' Muse show that their music continues to mix the dark and ominous with the purely playful to enjoyable effect.

'Take A Bow' announces the arrival of their fourth album with rising power chords, batches of synthesised loops and harmonised vocals of damnation. Taken together it's an aural onslaught that almost sounds overblown enough to make the composer of the 'Flash Gordon' theme tune blush; pure Muse in other words.

Skyward piano notes and shuttle engine guitars launch 'Starlight', a sweet-sounding space rock love song that is entirely irony-free. It's as if The Darkness had never existed.

While much has been reported of Muse taking on a new found funk style, in truth this is only in evidence on the Prince-like 'Supermassive Black Hole'. If it wasn't for the vocoder, guitar effects pedals and apocalyptic theme this groovy, syncopated shuffle could sit comfortably on a Franz Ferdinand album.

You could be forgiven for humming REM's 'Everybody Hurts' at the start of 'Soldier's Poem', a meditation on the war in Iraq taken from the lesser heard perspective of a British soldier. It shows Muse can hold back the instrumentation and create a plaintive political statement.

The relative calm is fleeting however. As if to bridge the gap back into normal service, a military drum beat opens 'Invincible', a slow burning romance that is classic Muse material, combining ascending guitars, crashing percussion and roaring vocals.

Perhaps the main difference between this album and Muse's popular last outing, 'Absolution', is the group's relative restraint on string arrangements. Having said this, there is a string section, both unplugged and plugged guitars and a trumpet on another highlight, 'City Of Delusion', an unashamedly prog rock track that boasts couplets like "I choose to hide from the All Seeing Eye/Destroy this city of Delusion".

And if this was not evidence enough of their prog rock credentials, the sleeve notes mention 'antique crushing' alongside more regular instrumental credits. Without the flaming comet of Muse, the galaxy of mainstream rock would be a dull place indeed.

Bill Lehane