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on 7 January 2005
Muse remain the ultimate acquired taste. Bombastic, over-dramatic and often progressive in style, listeners usually decide to hate them with a passion, or pronounce them the greatest thing in the history of the world. Absolution is their third studio album, and while it's clear it will appear to more people (It seems to shed Origin Of Symmetry's raw edge), there is no sign that Muse are about to settle down and become complacent. Even if you do hate them.
Absolution's general theme is that the world is going to end and we are all going to die. This is reflected on the opening power-surge of "Apocalypse Please", with its driving, almost military drums, and panicking cries of "This Is The End/The End/Of The World". "Apocalypse Please" won't have done much to convince you otherwise if you thought Muse were a tad over-the-top before, but, if the rest of the album is anything to go by, Muse, or at least enigmatic frontman Bellamy, seem perfectly happy to be seen as eccentrics.
The next track comes in the form of the album's most hook-laden track; "Time Is Running Out". A brilliantly catchy pop-rock track, with a bassline to die for, it doesn't break any new ground, for sure, but if it doesn't stick in your head for the next week or two, there's something wrong with you.
This is followed by the magnificent "Sing For Absolution". This sweeping mini-epic is both beautiful and tragic, and marks a real songwriting development from the band who once rhymed "Happening Soon" with "My Direction".
Next up is "Stockholm Syndrome". This is one of Muse's heaviest tracks, an out-and-out rock track that screams panic, desertion and loneliness like Thom Yorke on speed. Again, you will love it, or loathe it with a passion. The falsetto will either drive you to kill or transport you to someplace else. We're sure Muse would be happy with either.
After the explosive outro to Stockholm Syndrome, an acoustic track turns up to politely put all the pieces back together, in the form of "Falling Away With You". The beautiful simplicity of this track's introduction, with Bellamy's soft and saddened vocals over a simple acoustic guitar allows listeners to catch their breath before a typically Muse bridge leads to plenty of distortion and a bellowing chorus. It isn't the greatest track on the album, but serves as a nice breather before the next track hits you.
There's a brief electric interlude before the pumping and aggressive bassline of the shallow but wholly enjoyable "Hysteria" comes crashing down on you. It's heavy, it's loud and it knows it's got no substance ("I want it now/I want it now/Give Me Your Heart And Your Soul") but if this doesn't get you moving, nothing else on this album will.
As with the "Stockholm Syndrome"/"Falling Away With You" contrast, "Hysteria" is followed by "Blackout". A slowly-building and simmering track, this showcases Bellamy's vocals at their finest, and his songwriting at it's most sensitive, "This Life's Too Good To Last/And I'm Too Old To Dream".
The true highlight of the album is to be found in the next track; "Butterflies and Hurricanes" is the epitome of everything Muse are about. It's five minutes long. It's got a huge classical piano solo for a bridge midway through. It's absolutely ridiculous. But it's also incredible listening. You can't deny that Bellamy, Wolstenholme and Howard are three of the finest musicians of the 21st century, and this song, with its hopeful, simple and powerful message "You've got to change the world/And Use This Chance To Be Heard/ Your Time Is Now" could be applied to Muse themselves, now standing on the edge of huge success or to anyone who's ever felt downtrodden. It takes a few listens to appreciate just how much there is going on in this track, but it's most certainly the best thing Muse have done, even surpassing "Citizen Erased", Origin Of Symmetry's most memorable track.
Of course, with such an incredible centre-piece, one would expect Muse to stumble and lose this momentum for the rest of the album. Not so. "The Smallprint" is an aggressive burst of well-refined punk power that sees Bellamy almost spit his lyrics over a chunky bass line and roaring guitar riff. In the most polite, Devon-raised way, of course. This is followed by arguably the album's weakest track, "Endlessly", a simple, electronica-inspired love song which, while good in its own right, feels rather out of place in the context of Absolution. Muse should be applauded for trying something different, but, at 14 tracks long, Absolution really doesn't need any filler.
The closing two tracks seem well coupled. "Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist" returns to the guitar-led paranoia, "It scares the hell out of me/ When the end is all I can see" with an excellent sense of rhythm and driving pace. "Ruled By Secrecy" is a - whisper it - Radiohead-style tale of Government oppression, mundane working conditions and piano-led crooning. It's all pretty haunting stuff, and the moment where the piano hits its climax is particularly powerful.
When all's said and done, Muse have made an epic record. It's a rollercoaster of human emotion. It's equal parts loud and proud, equal parts sensitive and vulnerable. It is the end of the world, and a celebration of life on one flat, blue disk. It's a brilliant record. At times the scale of it is simply staggering. The thought that this was the brainchild of three incredibly talented Brits is something to be very proud of. Sure, it's not a perfect record. But Muse really can only go onto bigger, better, and perhaps sillier things from here.
Whether you choose to celebrate or loathe them for it is totally up to you.
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on 9 September 2003
I was delighted to get this album prior to its commercial release, and so far I must confess it's the best thing I've heard this year. It truly is the spawn of its predecessors. The 'Radiohead imitators' from Showbiz don't collide with the revelation of Origin Of Symmetry, they marry them and have babies! The union of these style is shown no better than Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist, which sounds like a wonderful combination of Plug In Baby and Sunburn.
The album opens with a short track, Intro, where you hear soldiers marching. In retrospect, this is the sound of the Nazi’s invading Poland as Muse decide to stand defiant for the following 50 minutes. I doubt many bands could title a song Apocalypse Please, yet sound as uplifting. The piano laden intro bears resemblance to Politik by Coldplay, not surprising when Chris Martin consulted Matt Bellamy during the recording of A Rush Of Blood To The Head. When Bellamy declares that "This is the end of the world" , it makes for a glorious, bounce around the room sing along. Only 5 minutes into the album and Muse have transformed themselves into the most astonishing band in Britain today. Once you hear this album, you’ll see what I mean. Butterflies and Hurricanes sees Muse hit mantra like levels with Bellamy repeatedly singing “Best, got to be the best” but having the feel of New Born to it. An almost trance like riff bubbles below the surface, begging to be let loose like Bliss, but restrained by tight drumming and highly skilled orchestration.
To their credit, Muse aren’t afraid of their heroes. Time Is Running Out is tied to the late Jeff Buckley with its piano interlude bearing a similarity to Nightmares By The Sea. Rachmaninov is stamped all over Blackout, probably the finest piece of pseudo classical music you’ll find by a modern artist who isn’t named Jason Pierce. Hysteria contains a riff Tom Morello would be proud of before hitting one of the guitar solos which induces an indescribable euphoria. But whereas RATM get angry and sometimes sacrificed the song for the message, Muse don’t. “Take all you need, and I’ll compensate your greed with broken hearts.” Zach De La Rocha would like to claim the line from Tsp, but he can’t.
Muse have hit a new level. They’ve produced an album so deep, pure and mind blowing that, to borrow a line from Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist:
"It scares the hell out of me"
Buy it.
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on 1 March 2004
Absolution is a really terrific record by a top flight band. The fact that Muse have generally lost out at the Brits and other award ceremonies to retro-rockers the Darkness is just another sad instance of the British love of mediocrity.
Muse are basically a guitar three piece. Chris Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) are an excellent rhythm section: they make sure that Muse's music always rocks hard (compare with pretty-but-drippy Coldplay, for example, and you will see what I mean). But what sets the band apart is the extraordinary Matt Bellamy.
The little s.o.b. can play the keyboards and the guitar and sing up a storm too. Musicians everywhere gnash their teeth in jealousy at this sort of raw talent. On a couple of tracks in this album he wails an E over top C - out of the range even of the most demanding tenor arias. OK, it is hardly bel canto, but in the overblown but glorious Muse mix, it works. Chuck in some virtuoso guitar work and great deal of mucking about with arpeggiators and you have a instantly identifiable and distinct sound.
Matt is evidently in love with romantic composers from the turn of the century, great music if not always in perfect taste. I like to think that Rachmaninov would approve of the results. Muse are often described as "prog rock". But I hated the prog rock of the 1970s and I love this. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, for example, aped the music of composers like Mussgorsky. But the result was flaccid pretension spread out over interminable double albums. In contrast, Muse write tight, intelligent songs with good chord progressions. But you can bang your head to the result with as much enthusiasm as to anything by AC/DC.
If I had to moan about something, it would be the lyrics, although even these have improved since the last Muse album "Origins of Symmetry". The lyrics to Stockholm Syndrome (the brilliant mushroom-fuelled video of which is easy to find on the Internet) almost make sense and even scan. If Muse ever learn to write words as well as they write music they will truly become a band for the ages.
Muse make rock music for the intelligent. This is a rare thing, so more power to them. I hope the dynamic Mr Bellamy and his mates achieve their evident ambition to conquer the musical universe. On the basis of this album, they deserve all the success they are now getting.
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on 6 September 2003
If you thought 2001's 'Origin Of Symmetry' was grandiose, you're in for a shock. Muse have gone absolute prog on this album, and it ranks as one of the finest records of this or any other year. Undoubtedly not as heavy as its predecessor, Muse eschew most traces of metal on this album, and instead opt for the swooning beauty that graced tracks such as 'Bliss', 'Megalomania' and the ending of 'Citizen Erased'. And it pays dividends with an album that is sure to alienate a few narrow-minded fans but even more certain to gaojn them more admirers.
Following the brief intro, 'Apocalypse Please' comes belting in with a fantastic piano led intro, massive pounding drums and Matt Bellamy's beautiful voice crooning over the top. A recurring theme throughout this album is the imminent armageddon - and Bellamy & co. make no bones about it on this opener; 'This Is The End Of The World' is hardly a subtle hint! a superb track, one of the highlights. 'Magnificent single 'Time Is Running Out' follows, with its incredibly memorable bass riff, beautiful chorus and even better 'pseudochorus' (you know, the bit where Bellamy sings 'Oooh Ooh OooOooh Yeeaeee Yeeaee Yeeaee YeeaeeYeah... maybe not). If you haven't heard this one you have had your head under a rock.
'Sing For Absolution' is up next, and is a mournfully melancholy piece, with Matt Bellamy's simple piano weaving around perfectly constructed chords. This song is eerily reminiscent of some of the music to the film '28 Days Later', and sounds beautiful. Not content with letting you rest for a minute, the diversity shows no sign of letting up as the monstrous 'Stockholm Syndrome' comes thundering down next. This is undoubtedly the best single release of the year - I remember the first time I heard the track was on MTV2 - I can honestly say that I have NEVER been so blown away by a track in my life.
'Falling Away With You' follows, and is a uieter, more introspective moment. This is the track that is most similar to their first album, acoustic led with superb keyboards in the background, followed by a beautiful middle section with a fantastic chord change - this one is a definite single. A short track 'Interlude' follows, and is a nice dreamy piece. This could definitely have been worked into a full track, but it is typical of Muse's self-confidence that they felt able to just toss it away as a thirty second snippet.
If you were impressed up until now, prepare for the coup de grace - 'Hysteria' is so good it almost hurts. Another fantastic bass intro is followed by the catchiest song of the year. You WILL be humming this one for weeks on end after you've heard it. A special mention must go to the rhythm section here. Often overshadowed by Matt Bellamy's obvious genius, they are so good on this album its not even funny. The drums in particular on this track sound like they are being beaten by a Giant. And oh my God, when the riff breaks down in the middle section, you will wet yourself its that good!
'Blackout' is next and this is the one that will alienate many Muse fans. Its a lush, orchestral piece, slightly similar to 'Megalomania', but much, much more ambitious. It sounds like the soundtrack to an epic, sweeping movie - you can imagine it in Bladerunner. Incredible.
Another killer, 'Butterflies And Hurricanes' is next. A huge, all-encompassing opening, with a bloody choir of all things! A fantastic, thick sounding riff. A beautiful chorus. Matt bellamy deciding, seemingly on a whim in the middle of the song to play a classical piano solo. Ending with a riff of gargantuan proportions. You really run out of superlatives.
'TSP' is a bit of a comedown after that, but is still a killer track - typical Muse - with superb riffs, beautiful singing and a nice interesting arrangement. Its just a little lost after the magnificence of the previous three tracks. 'Endlessly' is another pretty decent rocker, with a great chorus. Muse are really maturing intoa band that simply don't write bad songs.
The second best track on the album is up next, in the shape of 'Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist'. Yes, its a crap title, sounding more than a little like a Morrissey effort, but Jesus Henry Christ, what a song! Bellamy indulges his Queen fantasies to the max here. This is very much faster than the majority of the album, pretty simplistic and extremely memorable. The chorus especially is a belter. There are moments when you first listen to this album that you think: 'Oh yes! I'll be humming that one for a while' This is one of them.
And then the album is gone, with the utterly, utterly beautiful 'Rule By Secrecy'. Along with Radiohead's 'Sail To The Moon', this is the most wonderfully sad piece of music this year - so layered you hear new things seemingly every time you listen, and with the most gorgeous singing since Jeff Buckley's Grace album.
Its not often that albums come along which really have no weak tracks on them, but trust me when I tell you that this has ABSOLUTELY NONE. Not a single one. Buy it on the day of release. Queue for it, in fact, round the block if you have to, at 12 o'clock at nighy. This is the best album of the year. Have I convinced you yet...?
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on 23 September 2003
Gone are the Radiohead comparisons that dogged them in their early days and still nagged away during the Origin Of Symmetry era - Muse are like no other band out there. Awash with walls of strings as much as walls of guitars, the Devon trio have created a record of variety and above all quality that belies their relatively young age.
Much has been made of Matt's classical leanings, mainly his love of the Russian Sergei Rachmaninov's Romantic fireworks, and influences are clear throughout, whether you look at the thumping piano line in 'Apocalypse Please' or the rattling cadenza in the towering 'Butterflies and Hurricanes'. Writing as a band, the arrangements are tight, but there are no signs of giving up on the rock opera that worked so well on the exceptional Origin Of Symmetry. But anyone looking for the Muse that penned New Born and Plug In Baby have not been forgotten - 'Stockholm Syndrome' is a candidate for single of the year, with an overpowering opening riff and a soaring melody layered with 'strings and epic stuff' as Matt himself would put it. Second single 'Time Is Running Out' employs a sinewy bassline and crunchy power chords that would not be out of place on Showbiz, and is also one of the few tracks on the album not to employ a piano, an instrument that Matt seems to favour on this record. If you want Muse at their most explosive best, though, try 'Butterflies and Hurricanes', which may start innoculously but soon builds throughout its five minutes into almost a piano concerto. Prepare to be blown away by Matt's ridiculous solo, underlying his stature as the most consummate rock musician on the planet at the moment.
But they can do slow as well, and in greater quantities than either album before. 'Blackout' smacks more of a Puccini or Verdi barcarolle than twentieth-first century pomp rock, until you hear Matt's buzzing guitar climb over the swooning strings, and 'Sing For Absolution' revisits Showbiz to a degree, with echo all over the place and a wonderful final verse, where Matt cries out that 'our souls won't be exhumed'. Rather.
There are weaknesses, as there are in all albums, all to be found in the second side. I'm not a huge fan of 'Endlessly', which seems to lack direction, and 'Falling Away With You' seems to place effects ahead of a stand-out melody, but there is so much quality on this twelve-track CD (not including the Intro and Interlude) that you can overlook these tiny flaws in favour of a generally exceptional record. And if you like this album, why not try out Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, or even the monumentally challenging Third.
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on 2 March 2004
Muse are basically a three piece guitar band, with added synthesisers, keyboards and arpeggiators. But that description hardly does them justice.
The rhythm section (Chris Howard on bass and Dominic Wolstenhome on bass) are excellent. They ensure that however wild the frontman's flights of fancy, Muse will always rock. Compare them with a pretty but drippy band like Coldplay and you will hear the difference.
But what makes Muse truly special is the extraordinary Matt Bellamy. This demented pixie was born with more musical talent than is decent. He is a virtuoso guitarist, an excellent keyboard player and a truly remarkable vocalist. I have clocked him on the Absolution album singing an E over top C - higher than the most demanding note expectd of a tenor in an operatic aria. He should be apprehended for wailing in a built up area. OK, by the time he gets into batsqueak register it is hardly bel canto, but believe me it works. Bellamy is often compared as a singer with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, but Yorke's voice while beautiful has a far more limited range. Bellmay reminds me more of the late lamented Billy McKenzie of The Associates, which is good company to be in.
Bellamy is also conducting a well-documented love affair with classical composers of the turn of the century, and in particular Rachmaninov. Like Bellamy, I love Rachmaninov, but the old man's music was not always, shall we say, in the most perfect taste. Think up market Hollywood film music and you will not be too far off. The emotionalism and extravagance of such music lends its influence brilliantly to Muse's over the top sound. We get the arpeggios and runs of Russian piano music married to a powerful hard rock backing. This may seem unappetising to the uninitiated, but the result is both beautiful and utterly distinctive. Muse sound like no other band on the planet. The fact that they lost out at the Brit awards to cliche-fuelled retro-rockers The Darkness is just another sad instance of the British love of camp mediocrity.
There are numerous fine tracks on Absolution, but my personal favourite has to be Stockholm Syndrome. If you have never seen the video for this song - widely available on the Internet - do have a look at this extraordinary hallucinogenic film of the band in performance. It's certainly one of the best music videos I have ever seen. I suspect that Matt and the boys love their mushrooms as much as any hobbit.
If I had to whine about something it would be the lyrics, although even here there are clear signs of improvement over their previous Origins of Symmetry album (also brilliant, by the way). Some of Matt's lyrics now scan and there is even some sign of effective rhyme. I like the apocalyptic subject matter, and if he ever learns to write words as inspiring as the music, Muse will truly become a band for the ages.
Some have called Muse a "prog rock" band, and I doubt if this is intended as a compliment. But whereas the classical influences on 1970s bands like ELP tended to produce pretentious and flaccid "concept" double albums that rocked not a jot, Muse have a produced a powerful and tight single album that rocks as hards as anything by AC/DC. I have never seen them live, but from watching a filmed concert I conclude that they are likely to be awesome.
OK, Bellamy is a bit bonkers. Muse can be bombastic. But they are also brilliant. They are one of very few truly original bands now working in popular music and they deserve all the success they are now getting. Buy this record.
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on 8 October 2003
All of the above and so much more!!
For people that are already fans of Muse's individual style and enthusiasm for their art, then they will be pleased to know that Absolution is as good an improvement on Origin of Symmetry as Origin was on Showbiz. And Showbiz was fantastic in its own right.
If you are contemplating buying a Muse album for the first time then please do not hesitate, I don't think that there is any way that you can be disappointed. The way that Muse combine their exhilarating guitar rifts with classical and electro pop samples is truly awesome and unparalleled.
True enough that Muse's style is slightly different in this album with an overall more mellow sound and at first it takes a little getting used to but that does not detract from the fact that this is the best album that this inspiring band has produced.
Definitely the best album I have bought this year, and for some time before that too. I promise you wont be disappointed......
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on 1 September 2003
Its muse time again, watch out for the muse haters who dismiss muse as some sort of pomp rock monster. That really does miss the point completely for 2 reasons. Firstly why should'nt rock be grandiose? It should be big and clever or not at all. And secondly because part of their musical beauty is that only makes as much sense as you allow it. And Absolution if you allow it to will consume you.
right so track by track analysis then is it? righto.
First of all don't go expecting Plug in babys or New Borns. Bellamys done that, and its hardly encompassing if the next album was like the last one.
Intro. a very short very apt snippet wich leads to
Apocalypse Please. this crashes in and makes damn sure that you know muse have upped their act not that needed any upping. Heavy piano chords and fantastic drum charges. Bellamys voice is on fire as are the end of the world lyrics. The end of the song sound vaguely like bits of Rachmaniovs Prelude in C minor. A perfect stronf sounding song.
Time is Running Out. You should all know this, and so you'll know how eargasmic it is. Sounds different from other stuff they've done but done properly, with the drums from Billie Jean as well! Stunning stuff. And ends abruptly which is suprising and effective.
Sing for absolution. What a song. Bellamy uses such simple piano rythms around clever chords that the whole thing becomes a sort of fragile hymn. Very soft and strongely sung.
Stockholm Syndrome. Best single this year by far. Heavy but at the same time very experimental. mixing heavy metal riffs with operatic melodies should techniquly not actually work at all. and yet Bellamys genius works on the ground that he makes it work. Its similar to Queen on the grounds its a rock opera but with no campness.
Falling away with you. I have a feeling a lot of people won't like this. But please please give this one time. the verse is soo beautiful, so fragile and delicate and tender. And the chorus does one better and sounds like the entire universe opening up.
interlude. this is actually a fantastic track!
I only say this its fits so well with the mellower tracks. and is soothingly heavy its very dreamy and for 30 seconds you hear something you've never heard before.
at this point its clear that this is blatently better that origin of symmetry. while that was an amazing album, compared to absolution it sounds so painfully small and a bit like 3 students messing about. no actually thats far too harsh. Its an amazing album. Its just now diminished thanks to this monster.
muse are now making music that they want to make.

Hysteria. one of the best songs here. Amazing bass riff that fits around the connecting chords. And bellamys guitar sounds like hes strangling it but you know in a genius way. Very heavy and the drums....... oh my life, the drums sound fantastic. Dom howards drums really push the song to its limits.
Blackout - i don't think muse fans will like this one either. Very orchestral and slow. but I think its just super. its a different turn for muse and its done with a lot of care as well. sounds very Lord of the Rings soundtrackish. Very well produced.
and incredibly beautiful. watch out for the fuss guitar bit that amazing in that it matches the orchestra perfectly.
Butterflies and hurricanes. - Best song on the album . I believe it to be a boheiman rapshody for the new. Amazing guitars and piano that work well with the harmionics and gospel choir. everything is perfect on this track, the instruments, bellamy's voice, his lyrics are stunning. and then for seemingly no reason it winds down in the middle of the song, stops and bellamy just decides to play a piano solo, that would'nt be out of place in Rachmaniovs greatest compostions. And then it goes heavy again.
Stunning. you have to hear this track. its incredible.
TSP the smallprint. another heavy one. sounds quite very well muse! only muse would come up with something this grandiose and pull it off. Come to think of it, it does sound quite Pixiesesque
but only in the chord structure. A future favorite
Endlessly. The only weak song on the album but thats like saying
theres a room in a perfect house you don't go in very often. Very hymn like again. but still quite quite beautiful.
Thoughts of a dying atheist. Quite a good title that one. Very upbeat. And quite rock and roll queen ish. Not one of the better ones but still far far better then average. So well written.
contains the only guitar solo you are ever likely to hear Bellamy play. really really superb.
Ruled by secrecy. And the album ends with a utterly fantastic sombre song. very hard to get into but seriously do give it a chance. Bellamy croons above a lovely temder piano apprego chord structure. some of you might say its boring, but its got so many layers to it especially on the 6 or 7 th listen. three minutes in it goes more grandiose and is saturated with splendor. Unbelieveable track. and fantastic way to end an amazing album.
I think a few muse fans who liked the band for their heavyness will have a hard time with this but stick with it, because it will reward with spades. One of the greatest albums ever made. And thats a sentance which is delivered too often with any decent album these days. Muse should be applauded that they have created an album with so many layers and meanings and ideas. Its an album that can only be made every 5 years. a rare one indeed.
Please give muse the attention they deserve. buy this album and dedicate all your life to it.
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VINE VOICEon 30 June 2007
The first Muse album I heard was BH&R which I gave 5 stars simply for the overblown cheek of the thing. Well I have to say this album is even better. It is the same eclectic synthesis of virtually every rock genre you can name, prog, metal, punk, grunge, britpop, stadium rock, new miserabalism (radiohead, coldplay) but has more subtlety. I particularly like to emotion of Sing for Absolution, the sturm und drang of Stockholm Syndrome, the gentle funk of Endlessly and the upbeat terror of Thoughts of a Dying Atheist.

If you like rock music, you'll like this album. Fully Recommended
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Apparently the third time was the charm -- Brit-rock band Muse's third album was the one to break out in the US, and solidified their position in the UK. "Absolution" is definitely a dark little gem -- the songs focus on deterioration and lost love, set against classical-sounding rock.

"And pull us through/And this is the end/This is the end of the world." An ominous piano crashes into "Apocalypse," which is only one of several songs with a deathly edge, such as the epic "Time is Running Out" or the soaring "Butterflies and Hurricanes" ("Fights and battles have begun/Revenge will surely come/Your hard times are ahead..."). Even the most intimate song is the thoughts of a dying atheist, afraid of what is -- and isn't -- after death.

But Muse is also focusing on love. Dead loves, lost loves, and the idea of loves that can't or won't last out. The delicate, bittersweet "Sing for Absolution" is perhaps the purest example of this -- a love song for a woman who is apparently dead. Other songs focus on the mix of love and hate, and the feeling of love crumbling away.

That focus of death and love -- or both together -- is what makes "Absolution" so compelling. Muse is often written off as a Radiohead clone, but their sound is more complex, and their focus is darker. A riff here and there echoes of Radiohead, and Matt Bellamy's voice echoes that of Thom Yorke. But that's about all.

There's nothing spacey or eerie about Muse's brand of rock. Instead, they opt for a soaring, rich sound, with orchestral melodies. It's obvious that Bellamy has studied not just rock, but classical as well -- he integrates the epic quality of classical music into a melody written for guitar, bass, piano and drums. At times the sound is so massive -- not loud, but massive -- that it sounds like the speakers are going to explode.

With music like that, one would think that Bellamy's voice would get lost in the mix. Surprisingly he doesn't -- he's no Jose Carreras, but his voice has gained new maturity, able to be a standard rock voice one moment, and then a pure choral vocalist the next. He brings across the heartbreak and anguish in the songs with startling purity, as if he means every word.

In fact, those songs are the one weak spot -- they aren't as big or as rich as the music, which makes them sound a bit tepid. They're not bad. But they simply don't measure up to the musical genius. So ignore the words, and just listen to Bellamy and the music.

The orchestral wall-of-sound has been Muse's trademark, and they are in fine form in their third album. Beautiful, rich and heartbreaking, this is one to keep.
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