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THE 2ND LAW

Muse

 

Prog Related

3.28 | 148 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Muse have excelled on their latest release "The 2nd Law" featuring some mind blowing songs that have a colossal epic sound with infectious melodies and powerhouse vocals. Bellamy is simply wonderful on this album, crystal clear emotive vocals that move into falsetto high register effortlessly. His guitar work is astonishing and on this release there is a symphonic quality that resonates in a cinematic soundscape. The concept of the album deals with a world in turmoil where its occupants are under constant surveillance and the threat of a police state domination looms as the government tightens its grip on a frightened populace.

The opening track 'Supremacy' is a stunning composition that has a very distinct James Bond musical foundation. It would work beautifully with the next Bond film "Skyfall". The guitars are heavy on the low end with an odd signature and the ending phrase is lifted directly from the James Bond school of thought.

This is followed by the hit single 'Madness' with a Dubstep techno repetitive figure and Bellamy solid on silky smooth vocals. The rhythm is measured and the melodic sound overall is reminiscent of a synthesized version of Queen.

Next is the blindingly brilliant 'Panic Station' that floored me on first listen and then grew on my like Osmosis. Wolstenhole's bass figure is funkadelic and the rhythm is at first akin to INXS' 'Suicide Blonde'. It is a danceable number with a profound funky groove that reminds me more and more of Stevie Wonder's retro classic 'Superstition'. In the mid-section is an ascending psychedelic sound that is joined by a phased guitar motif.

After this wonderful start 'Prelude' comes in which is a peaceful piano and strings instrumental with angelic choral intonations. It leads into 'Survival' that is the world famous 2012 Olympics theme, that I liked when hearing it during the opening ceremony. It loses some of its majesty here but is still endearing though bombastic with those choir sections. The guitar is tremendous with an old school style, almost like a parody of a western theme. The huge choir voice sections are a little too bombastic for my tastes. It is followed by 'Follow Me' with a nice clean synth sound and Bellamy's accomplished vocals that have a melancholy feel here. A catchy melody is driven by buzzing synth pulses and an atmosphere of grandeur.

'Animals' begins with electric piano and Howard's steady percussion. The vocals are laid back and echoed with gorgeous guitar licks. This song sounds like it may have been lifted from "Absolution" or "Origin of Symmetry" with that signature Muse sound, building gradually to the instrumental break. The guitar work is superb as always complimenting the bass and drums. It builds to a loud coda with angry voices, sounding like the recording of a riot, perhaps paying homage to the recent riots that have taken place in the UK.

A gentle keyboard is accompanied by very soft vocals on 'Explorers', "don't give in, we can walk through the fields, and fill in nature's glow, but all the land is old, there's none left for you or for me". The chorus is uplifting with the soul stirring lyrics sung so emotionally as Bellamy pleads, "free me from this world, I don't belong here, it was a mistake, a prison in my soul, can you free me, free me from this world". It sounds very much like Radiohead and I noticed Bellamy has lost a lot of his intakes of breaths between phrases that punctuated the earlier Muse albums. At the end of the song the song goes up a key for one more chorus and a lilting piano closes it off.

'Big Freeze' follows, with a 4/4 beat and some glorious lead guitar passages. The vocals are more forced on this song and it settles into a sustained string bend at the end which is effective. 'Save Me' is more serene with sanguine vocals sung beautifully by Wolstenholme with elongated phrases over a reverberated guitar sound. It breaks out into a syncopated faster tempo by Howard, and then an odd time signature locks in to drive it to its conclusion, accompanied by Bellamy's guitar arpeggios.

A heavier distorted riff crunches on 'Liquid State', one of the highlights on the album. It is refreshing to hear a chunk of metal guitar palm mutes after all the ambience and melancholy preceding. Wolsteholme has a more aggressive vocal style and the theme deals with the hard knocks of life, "kick me when I'm down, feed me poison, fill me till I drown." The chunky riffs grind throughout and really kick this along superbly.

The next song has fast violin serrations and epic atmospherics. 'The 2nd Law: Unsustainable' has a cinematic quality and some intriguing narratives about conserving energy and entropy. The next section is deliriously off kilter with a robotic voice and weird sonic guitar slides and electronic pitches. It comes out of nowhere as a distinct sound and then Bellamy joins in with intonations. This is followed by 'The 2nd Law: Isolated System' with piano chimes and angelic guitar sounds. It builds with violins and more narrative voice overs about finding a solution to the world's problems, namely the countdown to complete shutdown.

"The 2nd Law" album starts off brilliantly with 4 powerhouse songs and then afterwards tends to sound more pedestrian; catchy songs but nothing outstanding. The last 3 songs are excellent and bring it back to its masterful quality. This is certainly one of Muse's most innovative albums, though I am still more inclined towards their earlier material. The sound is more diverse and they take more risks on this, delving into a myriad of musical genres, from Dubstep to 80s techno, channelling Queen, Radiohead, and Coldplay, and implementing an incredible degree of experimentation. It is not a full blown progressive experience and most songs would fit comfortably onto an alternative radio playlist, but it delivers a sizeable impact and grows on the listener. None of the tracks are particularly lengthy or complex in structure, but I enjoyed it more than "The Resistance". In any case it is definitely well worth a listen and no doubt the Muse fanbase will be absolutely delighted with this excellent album.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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