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Muse - Origin of Symmetry CD (album) cover




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3.97 | 427 ratings

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4 stars Muse provide another great addition to a prog collection, and improve on their debut in many ways, but push the edges of their creativity versus their abilities a bit too hard, and end up with a somewhat inconsistent effort that dazzles when it's good, and is slightly embarrassing when it's not so good.

On the whole, though, a throughly enjoyable romp through 3 reasonably creative and competant musicians that like to make a LOT of noise and make their presence felt without pushing hour-long solos down your throat.


"New Born" is a concerted break away from the Radiohead style that "Showbiz" threatened to sink into, and is fairly safely in Prog Rock territory. It's around 3:30 that Bellamy puts in one of his "anti-solos" and demonstrates that as a lead guitarist, he's a great pianist. The textures behind the music are the most startling aspect of this piece, although the chord progressions carry the quasi-classical and angular structures that are Muses' hallmark. The massive riff is the absolute highlight, of course - like Led Zeppelin at their most rockin' on steroids, this is a stonker.

"Bliss" begins with a surpising "New Age" kind of feel, but quickly drops into a more rock-oriented verse, with keyboard ostinatos and walking fuzz bass lines. The chorus is satisfyingly large and spacious, and is followed by some surprising rhythmic invention. As ever, it's the bridge I anticipate, and here, Muse return to the "New Age" feel - a keyboard ostinato reminiscent of Enya, but sadly (from a progressive point of view), build almost immediately back into the main verse/chorus. Great song, with wonderful progressive tendencies.

"Space Dementia" sets us up to expect more of the same - but listen carefully to Matt's developing piano style. There appears to be shades of Emerson creeping in there ( without the boxing gloves). This is more firmly in Prog territory, especially with the wonderful change around 2 minutes - hark! Are those Mellotrons? Mmmm!!! The ensuing section passes through some nice development and unexpected changes, using the intro piano ostinato for continuity. The dramatic tension is kept absolutely at a knife edge until just that moment that Muse choose to release it. There are plenty of subtle texture changes too - everything about this song would seem to fall into the category of 21st Century Prog Rock. Again, I wonder how 3 guys can make such a huge racket!!

I was wondering when Matt was going to begin torturing his guitar, and it's in the intro to "Hyper Music" that he does. This quickly drops into a Muse-style big riff, and surprisingly moves into a kind of funky passage for the verse. The transistions between the riffs are really quite masterful, and blur the standard structure underneath very well.

"Plug in Baby" is a frequent apparition to MTV watchers, and has a decidedly commercial slant, despite the heavy riffs, and shows why Muse have the respect they do in the industry - for daring to carve their own niche with their own style and approach. It's not a favourite song of mine, as it holds very little analytical interest, outside of Matt's falsetto masterclass, which is frankly awe-inspiring if you appreciate that sort of thing. My main gripe is that I find the repetitve rhythms a little on the annoying side.

"Citizen Erased" builds a massive groove in a fairly predictable style until the spine- chilling change around 1:30, which comes about in a smooth and subtle organic way. A wonderful ambient section follows, spoiled only by some guitar noodling from Matt that meanders around aimlessly. The return of the ambience is not far away, however, and the marvellous swirling organ layer combines perfectly with the walking bass and contrapuntal vocals. Then we smash back into the "massive groove" with some guitar work that sadly flounders quite a lot - Bellamy appears to be trying to imitate Johnny Greenwood, but lacks the latter's flair and feel. No matter, because the music returns to ambient textures - something that Muse as a band are exceptionally good at. The aggressive panning is a little uncomfortable for headphone wearers, but the developing music of the coda remains compelling.

Muse explore time signatures a little in "Micro Cuts", with convincing switches between 4/4 and 2/4, giving way to a solid 6/4 and back to 4/4 for the chorus. The quasi-classical influence pervades, and Muse get into the quiet and ambient/loud and crunchy patterns that they are so good at. The codetta is a little unconvincing in places, but with a riff from hell like that, you just gotta stick with it, and wish it was longer!!

A plethora of wierd noises - everything from wind chimes to bones and bubble wrap - begins "Screenager". Some inventive guitar and percussion work layer themselves over the drums, which have a kind of Tabala flavour. Around 1:30, the music takes on an almost Disney feeling - but in a dark way, if that makes sense... Reminiscent of "New Born", this pretends to build, with more falsetto, but drops back to the ambient.

"Darkshines" comes across initially as a kind of middle Eastern "Another One Bites the Dust", but Muse build the atmosphere well, and the big chorus is what we've been waiting for. An odd song, with odd instrumental passages, including what sounds like a distorted viola solo - but we like odd. Bellamy finally puts in some tasty little licks on the guitar, and the final codetta is a nice touch, if rhythmically a bit too repetitive for my tastes.

"Feeling Good" is a Muse-special power ballad... although the main riff is hardly original, Muse's treatment of it is, and Bellamy's already dynamic voice has rarely been quite so dynamic as here - he seems to be influenced by Janis Joplin in places.

Finally "Megalomania", an odd song, that begins with a kind of slow foxtrot, and moves towards a massive, anthemic chorus replete with church organ.

An odd way to finish - with 2 ballads back to back, and I had issues with the way "Showbiz" ended too. It's obvious by the way the tracks segue into each other, that Muse have attempted to present this album as a complete concept (as opposed to a concept album), and yet the overall shape of it doesn't quite work.

Apart from a few niggles with the music, it's quite obvious to me that this is an album at least as good as its predecessor - really, I couldn't choose between them. "Origins..." has more textural experimentation, and comes across as the more progressive, but "Showbiz" has an overall passion that puts "Origins..." very slightly in the shade.

Whatever, a good addition to any prog rock collection, let alone prog music. A very enjoyable and mainly accessible album with some genuinely nicely crafted touches and a huge amount of energy and conviction.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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