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...?