Album : The 2nd Law
Artist : Muse
Genre : Alternative Rock, Progressive Rock, Electronic Rock
Length : 54 minutes
Producers : Nero
Label : Warner, Helium 3
Band Line-up : Matthew Bellamy (Lead Vocals, Guitars, Synthesizers, Keyboards), Christopher Wolstenholme (Bass Guitars, Backing Vocals, Synthesizers), Dominic Howard (Drums, Percussion, Synthesizers)
English rock trio Muse are out with their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law. The band has spent the three years since their last release, The Resistance, in developing their new electronic sound. The title ‘The 2nd Law’ refers to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a statement of which is heard on the track ‘The 2ndLaw : Unsustainable’. This intriguing new album is definitely Muse’s most experimental work. They incorporate various musical styles and elements throughout the album – 80’s pop/pop-rock, dubstep, electronic rock, and of course, their trademark style of symphonic-progressive-space rock. The writing of this album has been influenced by numerous artists – Queen, Skrillex (check out the final two tracks, and ‘Madness’), Michael Jackson (‘Panic Station’), U2 (‘Big Freeze’) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (‘Panic Station’, ‘Survival’).
|The 2nd Law : Unsustainable||
|The 2nd Law : Isolated System||
The opening track would leave listeners with the impression that there’s a major change in Muse’s musical style. ‘Supremacy’ starts off with a blast (of sorts) – distorted guitars which are soon joined by drums and symphonic elements. This is a powerful and versatile song, with a blend of various musical elements (marching drums, trumpets etc.), switching tempos and great vocals.
This was the first single released off the album, and it quickly reached the #1 spot on the US Rock Songs Billboard. ‘Madness’ is a groovy pop-rock song; it usessynthesizers beats, and there are traces of dubstep elements (Skrillex influence) which add a funky feel to it. There are unmistakable signs of Queen inspired song writing on this track.
‘Panic Station’ sounds like a rock version of a Michael Jackson song (Thriller) combined with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ groovy bass lines. This is a lively and funky song, with a very catchy chorus. It’s definitely one of the songs to look forward to on this album.
As the title suggests, this short and soothing symphonic instrumental is a prelude to the remainder of the album; itsmoothens the transition from ‘Panic Station’ to ‘Survival’.
This is a typical Muse song, and is among the best on the album. Here we once again see the influence Queen has had on the band’s musical style. Starting off with a piano-pop intro, ‘Survival’ soon builds up into a majestic song with perfectly fitting choir background vocals, and some of the best guitar work on the album. Bellamy’s powerful vocals stand out on this song.
This is another synthesizer based song, like ‘Madness’, but is far more electronic and funky, with quicker beats and a strong dubstep influence. The lyrics of ‘Follow Me’ talk about Bellamy’s protectiveness of his new-born son (‘You Can Follow Me, I will keep you safe, I will protect you’), and he does a great job of capturing these emotions with his vocals.
This is another typical Muse song, and bears a lot of similarities with their earlier works (especially Absolution). It uses a different time-signature than the rest of the tracks on ‘The 2nd Law’.
‘Explorers’ is a soulfulpop-ballad, which sounds Christian Rock-like at times (maybe it’s just the lyrics). Bellamy’s tender vocalsblend perfectly with the sombre mood set by the song. The female background vocals add a nice touch to it. The writing of this song seems to be majorly influenced by Queen (yet again).
This time, the band influencing the song writing is U2. Bellamy has said that U2’s early work has played a role in defining Muse’s style for this new album. ‘Big Freeze’ seems to borrow elements from U2’s ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’. Bellamy’s style of vocals on this song is very similar to that of Bono.
‘Save Me’ doesn’t sound like Muse at all, and here’s why – the vocalist for this song isn’t Bellamy, but bassist Christopher Wolstenholme. This is Wolstenholme’s first attempt at the lead vocals, and he does a good job in creating a gloomy atmosphere throughout the song. Overall, this track would have been much better if it was shorter in length; it gets too repetitive at times.
This is a typical Muse rocker (similarities to ‘Black Holes and Revelations’). This too features Wolstenholme as the lead vocalist. It is faster and more aggressive than most of the tracks on this album.
The 2nd Law – Unsustainable
This is one of Muse’s most experimental. The song begins with a symphonic intro, followed by a statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and then enters the world of dubstep. This is a must hear – Muse have to put in a lot of effort to combine their alternative rock style with dubstep, and the resultant sound is exciting.
The 2nd Law – Isolated System
The closing track is a soft and moody instrumental. This too, like the previous track, is a versatile song, combining synthesizers, piano, strings and dubstep. ‘Isolated System’ vaguely summarizes the results of Muse’s musical experiments on this album.
‘The 2nd Law’ is an ambitious album, with the band trying to break the barriers between alternative rock and EDM. Muse’s new electronic rock sound is very exciting, and there is a lot of scope to grow in this musical direction. As far as fans are concerned, those who were into old-school Muse might feel betrayed due to the band’s foray into the EDM world. For the rest of us, this is a great new album with a lot of interesting ideas; it shows us that electronic rock is going to become really big. There just seems to be one problem with the album – few of the songs sound like a rehash of existing songs along with Muse-elements and synthesizers. You can hear Queen in at least half the songs; other bands like U2 and RHCP have also influenced the song writing. Muse needs to find their own distinct sound, and they surely will do so in the coming years.
Best Songs on the album : Madness, Survival, Panic Station, The 2nd Law – Unsustainable.
Verdict : This is a must hear, especially if you’re into electronic and experimental rock. If not, there are still tracks like ‘Madness’ and ‘Panic Station’ that’ll get you hooked!