Review: Muse, The 2nd Law

Whenever Muse release a new album it is always preceded by a lot of fuss; What’s it going to sound like? How much more can they push the boundaries? Will they have gone too far with sonic experimentation? The 2nd Law is their sixth studio album and sees them, once again, mash seemingly disparate genres of music together.

Muse stated that this album would be drawing a line under the band’s previous sound (their last tour was the last time they would play anything from the first two albums live) and move into a more electronic direction. Something that was met with mixed feelings by fans. Especially after the album trailer which fused classical strings to dubstep wobble bass and distorted electronic sounds.

The 2nd Law is their most eclectic sounding album with tracks that range from the Skrilllex sounding dubstep song, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable, right through to the out-and-out funk number Panic Station, which features musicians who played on Superstition by Stevie Wonder. Though, throughout, there is still the archetypal Muse sound and there are a few tracks on the album that sound like tracks from earlier albums.

Stand out tracks are, the bombastic (and surely an overlooked contender for Bond theme) Supremacy which melds metal style guitar riffs with orchestral stabs, Panic Station, which is a full-on funk song and the furthest away from a Muse song you could imagine (though that’s why it’s my favourite), Big Freeze, which is one of the more Muse-y songs on the album and Follow Me, an electronic song produced by Nero.

Surprisingly, there seem to be a couple of filler tracks on this album, possibly to do with the progressive nature of the album, but also because of the inclusion of two songs written and sung by bassist Chis Wolstenholme, Save Me and Liquid State, which are about his battle with alcoholism. But because of the difference in Matt and Chis’ voices they don’t really fit with the rest of the album. Explorers is a little dull too.

I will also say that as well as the eclectic genre sampling there are a few riffs and vocal melodies that have been sampled too. Supremacy has so many orchestral references to any Bond theme that it’s difficult to see past it being an audition piece for Skyfall that was pipped by Adele. The vocal melody of the chorus of Panic station is right out of Thriller by Micheal Jackson. The ludicrously over-produced Survival (the official song of London 2012) sounds like a cross between Electric Light Orchestra and Queen.

All this said, there isn’t a band like Muse out there and the world would be a poorer place if there weren’t. The 2nd Law is an incredible feat of prog rock inventiveness which will be hard to beat without alienating a mainstream audience. I think that they may have to reign in the range of crossing genres in future to avoid producing an album that sounds like a compilation or re-mix album, which this one does in places. But then it wouldn’t surprise me if the next album were recorded on Mars with the band playing all sorts of instruments (both terrestrial and extraterrestrial) being backed by a choir of aliens and all the orchestras on Earth!

Muse are a band whose scope knows no bounds and The 2nd Law is an album that is as far-reaching as it is possible to get. No matter which side of the fence you fall on – and it feels like this will be their most divisive album yet – you cannot help but admire the bravery of a band taking this many risks.

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