REVIEW: Muse – ‘The 2nd Law’
Muse’s latest album, The 2nd Law, will be released October 1st, and trust me, it is worth the wait. Muse explores every sound imaginable while constructing a cohesive, beautifully produced album that takes you on an unpredictable musical journey.
“Supremacy” opens the album with a heavy, chugging guitar with orchestral accompaniment reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. You can’t open an album like that without meaning serious business, and luckily for Muse, they do. Matthew Bellamy’s ability to speak to the listener is featured in this song, with the opening lyrics “wait to see, your true emancipation is a fantasy”. Stylistically, Muse switches back and forth flawlessly between utilizing space and filling in the gaps to keep “Supremacy” full of energy. When you start to get enough of one style, the song drops in just what you want to hear to keep it fresh. “Supremacy” features a combination of animated strings and Matthew Bellamy’s falsetto range that drive this song until the very end. “Supremacy” foreshadows that The 2nd Law is not going to be an album intended to have all of its tracks played on the radio, but that it is to be a thematic album to be reflected upon.
The second song on the album, “Madness”, takes you in a completely different direction than “Supremacy”. This song is the modern day, “I Want to Break Free”. Muse conquers the song’s style with full harmonies accompanying Bellamy’s high-toned voice as he sings, “our love is madness”. The variance between the styles shows the band’s ability to transition from a complicated epic song to a simpler, catchy song with ease. The song features one of Bellamy’s guitar solos that cuts right through to the soul of the listener. The lyrics leave hope in sight, “I have finally seen the light, and I have finally realized, I need your love”. Overall, the song hits you with that feel-good vibe that I thought only Queen could produce so naturally.
“Panic Station” opens with a very 80s power rock feel to it. Again, Muse comes in with a groove that you didn’t know they had in them. Stylistically, the song sounds like a fusion between old school Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince. Bellamy approaches the lyrics with the exaggerated pronunciation that the early 80s featured, and Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme have no problem keeping up with the style on drums and bass. With yet another guitar solo done in a different style, Bellamy seems to really be pushing himself on this album, refusing to shy away from any opportunity to play.
The fourth song, “Survival Prelude”, takes the energy of “Panic Station” and converts it into a beautiful classical composition. The orchestration is composed extremely well, and the moving prelude ultimately leads us to the centerpiece of the album, “Survival”. The transition from “Survival Prelude” to “Survival” is uniquely dramatic. The prelude ends with a powerful build, and “Survival” opens with nothing but snapping fingers, “oohs”, and piano stabs. What makes the transition so dramatic and well executed is that despite the shift in instrumentation, the drive behind the prelude is still felt. To say the song is one giant build is an absolute understatement; this song is spiteful, vengeful celebration. “Survival” has the ability to take you to a peak, and then make you realize that you’re nowhere near the top. By the time this song is finished, it has transitioned from a basic song with a heavy groove to a dramatic opus that leaves you full of adrenaline.
Up to this point in The 2nd Law, each song has been interesting and unique, and “Follow Me” is no exception. With a progressive electronic beat holding the song down, dancing becomes the automatic reaction once this song starts running. Muse uses “Follow Me” to show that The 2nd Law embraces the electronic crowd as well, with a mixture of drops and pulsing beats that keep you grooving throughout the song.
“Animals”, the seventh track, emphasizes the band’s ability to play any style they can imagine with finesse and certainty. In a 5/4 time signature, “Animals” demands your attention as it sticks out dramatically from the feel of the previous songs. The lyrics are a reflection on the money hungry attitude our society can produce, “analyze, franchise, spread out, kill the competitions, and buy yourself an ocean”. We need bands like Muse that sing meaningful, reflective lyrics that can reach a mainstream audience. With complicated rhythms and sincere, worthwhile lyrics, this is a song for fans of the band’s musicianship as well as fans of the band’s ability to write poetry. Samples of the Wall Street Trade Floor are dubbed over the beat and then hauntingly isolated at the end of the song, allowing the listener to reflect on how animalistic we can be as a society.
Muse visits their cosmic sound in the eighth song, “Explorers”. Bellamy’s high, swooping voice accented by Wolstenholme moving freely on the upper register on bass creates a dream like quality to the song that can’t be ignored. This song is an anthem for all those that long to live in a care-free world where freedom and happiness abound. “Explorers” builds on itself, igniting a solid groove about halfway through while managing to keep that same dreamy sound found in the song’s introduction. Bellamy uses his voice with expertise, knowing just what notes to accent to send chills down your spine. As a whole, the orchestration on The 2nd Law is brilliant, and “Explorers” straddles the line between foreground and background especially well.
The ninth song, “Big Freeze” has that simple, but powerful, 4-chord pop song vibe found only in the likes of David Bowie songs. The simplicity of the chord structure is juxtaposed against passionate lyrics. You feel the desire to reach through to the person Bellamy is singing to, and the success of the song is dependent on his ability to relay those emotions to the listener. The fact that this song, with minimal instrumentation, can evoke as much emotion out of the listener as their songs that go full force, is impressive.
Bassist, Chris Wolstenholme, sings the tenth and eleventh songs on The 2nd Law. These tracks give the album such a different feel that it almost sounds like a separate band. “Save Me” is a very reflective sounding song, with Wolstenholme singing the verses in an upper octave. The song has a really nice ¾ breakdown that grooves nicely to a solid ending. The eleventh track, “Liquid State”, explores the pop-punk side of Muse. A listener can’t help but feel that this song sounds a little out of place, as it is more straightforward in it’s feel than any other track on the album. The tricks and rhythmic changes featured in the previous songs are absent in “Liquid State”, and while it might not flow very well in regards to the rest of the album, the song itself is well performed.
The twelfth and thirteenth tracks are a two part series entitled “The Second Law: Unsustainable” and “The Second Law: Isolated System”. If you close your eyes during the introduction of “Unsustainable”, you can’t help but imagine an intense Hollywood-style chase scene. The choir and orchestra crescendo to an amazing build until… the drop hits. A beautiful introduction that can be picked apart one line at a time is dramatically interrupted by a ferocious, overwhelming drop into the chaotic world of dubstep. In terms of relevance to the message of the song, dubstep is the perfect unexpected transition to insert. The sound is used to relay the chaos that would be experienced in a society that is living in unsustainable conditions, naively refusing to adapt to their environment and heading towards a dramatic, powerful shift in lifestyle. Muse’s ability to play dubstep is as impressive as it was unexpected. They make the style their own, and they flaunt their talent relentlessly. The song’s counterpart, “Isolation” is a reflection of just the opposite effect. The song focuses on the phrase “entropy”, and uses the music to create that feeling. We have been taken from the chaos in “Unsustainable” to a dazed state of degradation. A house beat comes in with a mild pulse over a low energy song that explores the tranquil state felt after surviving a trying experience. The song ends with a short circuiting computer repeating the term “isolated system” until the pumps have nothing left to beat, and the generator driving the band throughout the album finally runs out of gas.
The 2nd Law acts as an overall fusion of Muse’s previous cosmic, anthemic, and hard rocking sounds, and marries them flawlessly. Their ability to play such complex styles while establishing their own sound is inspiring. The album is also uniquely universal because it explores, in detail, the complex emotions felt in situations from love to politics. The 2nd Law is an album worth waiting for because of how much effort was put into it. Everything was left on the table, and the result was a beautiful masterpiece that will be discussed for years to come.
Editors Note: It is not normal for us to have multiple staff members review an album, but this album was that good – we wanted to get multiple takes on it. REVIEW #2: by Kaitlin Duffy