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Muse - Origin of Symmetry CD (album) cover




Prog Related

3.97 | 427 ratings

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3 stars I'm continuing with my efforts to try to review Muse's entire studio discography in order. From Showbiz to Origin of Symmetry, Muse really began to coalesce into the band we know them as today. The most of the elements were there on Showbiz, but the chemical reaction hadn't taken place yet. The aptly name lead track New Born sounds similar to Showbiz, but rocks much harder than anything there. It sets the stage for a more, though not wholly, exploratory and entertaining album.

Origin of Symmetry is also where Muse began to take a more progressive route musically. I do agree with the assessment of the PA music ober-clerks and their opting to place it them in the Prog Related section rather than the mostly likely alternative of Crossover Prog. They are however one of the most adventurous groups of music makers today and probably the only one in the mainstream.

Why not all the way prog? Because, I get the sense that Muse have set boundaries for themselves that they have to date not quite been able to break free from. From Showbiz right on to Resistance there is continuity to their sound and aesthetic. A lot of people I know speak very highly of Muse, but I think they could really do themselves a favour by breaking out of this moody brooding behaviour his surfaces time and again.

I suppose I can't really argue though, they make a fine living making the music that they do, it just means they won't become my favourite band at this pace. Enough about that, on to the music! New Born as I mentioned before blasts off in a way which immediately breaks away from the preceding album. It has a calmer introduction which gives way into a pounding hard rock riff. It's head bangers paradise. I've never really been able to get my head all the way around Mathew Bellamy's singing style. It can be very good at times, but I find I tire of it quickly. The best part of the track is certainly instrumental rather than the vocals.

Following New Born is Bliss. Bliss starts with a by now trademarked piano introduction. The main portion of the song is an excellent mix of hard rock essentials with electronic music. Bliss ranks as one of my favourite Muse tracks and the best song on the album. Bliss' driving beat makes you feel like you are traveling at high speeds with some spacey interludes along the way.

After the head rush of Bliss and New Born comes Space Dementia. It's a tortured and lamented piece. It has a rapidly repeating piano scales underlying so heavy a fuzzy guitars. Especially when compared to the preceding tracks it feels like a bit of a relic from Showbiz. It more technically interesting and doesn't sound anywhere near as forced as anything from Showbiz though. It also does err more to the progressive than the first two tracks as well. I'd say it is roughly definitive Muse's general sound.

Hyper Music is another up tempo rocker set in a minor key. The guitar effect does make it sound brighter though. The main riff, smashing riff and pounding bass line reminds me a bit of Audioslave. From a vocal perspective they aren't quite in the same league though. Bellamy is screaming for most of the track where Cornell would likely be flexing his considerable vocal abilities. It's short and fairly standard but still good.

Plug in Baby is different than a lot of the other tracks on the album, because I get the sense the Bellamy is actually trying to sing for once and he's actually doing a half decent job of it at times. It rocks pretty hard, but it doesn't really stick its head out of the crowed on that front. Another not exceptional, but solid track which I'm happy to report doesn't actually sound like it's listened to by people who cut themselves!

Citizen Erased is the longest track on the album. It starts off heavily distorted guitar work and industrial strength synthesizers. A little more Audioslave is tucked in there too. The opening verse is fairly weak but Bellamy really shines when he hits his high falsetto. The fuzz melts into a softer jazzier portion which has him sounding interchangeably strong and weak. Loud and fast and soft and slow alternate again. Its highest point comes during the guitar solo in the second loud portion. The second soft portion sounds like something ELO might have done. It is piece which progresses pretty well but it does suffer from some inconsistencies.

Remember when I said I was happy to hear a song that didn't sound like it was written for the hardcore self loathing crowed. Well there's a song of them too on this album and it's Micro Cuts. It feels like a straight flashback to the worst parts of Showbiz. The vocals are blurry and distant. The song quite deliberately sounds like someone is being tortured. Sadly, I am being tortured too.

Screenager is a short track not a phenomenal one, but a well played one. It has some interesting percussion work. I like it mostly because it doesn't explode into another wall of fuzz like most of album is want to do. Dark Shines on the other hand is another pretty average Muse piece. Lots of angst and emotion and yes, walls of fuzz. It makes an all too brief foray into Doors territory, but it could have easily been dropped from the album and I don't think anyone would miss it.

Feeling Good fits into another Muse archetype which I brought up on Showbiz: James Bond Song Auditions. To me it sounds like its primary influence was probably Sheryl Crow's Tomorrow Never Dies. If by influence I of course mean straight rip off. Sorry boys, Sheryl did it better. Kept trying, maybe you'll pass the audition on the next album.

The last track on the album is Megalomania. It starts its life another film send up. Rather than James Bond, this time it's spaghetti westerns. It quickly looses interest and explodes, but this time it isn't the same old wall of fuzz. It's a much more welcome full pipe organ. Megalomania fits, even Rick Wakeman left it a few more albums before he went to the cathedral. I'm being harsh though. It's typical Muse, but the organ makes for a nice change of pace.

To me, Muse is best in small doses or when favourite tracks are cherry picked from the pack. By the point of Origin of Symmetry they still aren't quite capable of putting together a consistently excellent album. It is the beginning however of the tall poppies which I mentioned on my review of Showbiz. If they could have kept up on the pace they set on New Born and Bliss this album would certainly have warranted a four and maybe even a five. My feeling though places Origin of Symmetry squarely in three territory, good, but not essential.

R-A-N-M-A | 3/5 |


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