Review Summary: The album that pushed Muse into the mainstream. Will resonate with many for a long time.
Thump, Thump...Thump, Thump, Thump Absolution begins. Almost like the footsteps of a band on the verge of greatness. Origin of Symmetry had become a cult classic to their die hard fans but partly because of the American record label's reluctance to release it, the album hadn't become the success it deserved to be. In Britain we'd already heard the hysterical madness of Muse but they needed an album that could break them abroad and Absolution provided the key.
Bellamy's fascination with armageddon is made apparent on the official opening, Apocalypse Please, and shows Muse's greatest strengths to the maximum. The piano opening is nicely pulled off while Bellamy's charisma shines through his demented lyrics of "This is the end of the world" to accomplish something that few Rock acts can obtain, total obedience despite the morbidness of the lyrics. Time Is Running Out's lyrics are just as angsty as AP but the song is much poppier with a groovy bassline that was always going to win new fans. The simple, rhythmic drumming compliments their slow build up into a chorus perfectly before the screaming of "Our time is running out and our time is running out, we can't push it underground, can't stop it screaming out."
A few years before this album Muse's softer tracks would be met with disdain but Sing For Absolution sounds like Muse are inviting the listener to go on a journey and we duly oblige. The sensitivity of the lyrics show a new dimension to the band that we'd not seen before and the variety on this album is called out again on Stockholm Syndrome with a headbanging riff and sing-a-long chorus.
Falling Away With You hits the same buttons Sing For Absolution hit, if not more, and reveals more and more of the band's nature to the listener. Bellamy's singing seems to have no bounds and as well as screaming at us in falsetto in songs such as Micro Cuts he is able to whisper out a voice of sensitivity and regret. It leads warmly into a guitar interlude that is followed by a high point of the album.
Hysteria is aptly named with a perfectly fit drum beat complimenting a guitar slide and bass line that can be called nothing short of world class. It only gets better as the guitar slide becomes a guitar riff, and a darned good one at that. Bellamy sings of madness and the pain of lacking his desires and our own desires are answered with a terrific solo and head banging finish. It proves yet again that Muse can manage the balance between guitar and piano led tracks just fine.
Blackout is a nice respite and sounds very refreshing with the strings arrangement in the back. It is yet another dimension added and something that would be unheard of on their first album, Showbiz. Butterflies and Hurricanes follows and is a track that you could use to perfectly sum up Muse in one. Their aspiring chorus of "You've got to be the best" is met with a solid bassline and Bellamy even throws a classical piano interlude in the middle which shows how talented he really is at the instrument. It's an awe inspiring moment and it doesn't end there as he bursts back into the chorus with little hesitation.
Here, many would expect the album to fade but Muse keep the tempo going well and continue with one of their more Rage Against The Machine style numbers with a fast guitar riff and chorus exclaiming "Say, he'll make you insane." Muse show they've still not abandoned those beautiful piano numbers with Endlessly and Ruled by Secrecy while taking a poke at a common worry in Thoughts of a Dying Atheist.
It's no more than any fan could ask for after the thrills of Origin of Symmetry and it's a close run thing to which is the better album. This one is certainly one to show your friends who haven't heard of the band. There really is a song here for everyone. Those into darker stuff will enjoy Sing For Absolution and Apocalypse Please, new rock fans will enjoy the riffs in Hysteria and The Small Print while Ruled by Secrecy and Butterflies and Hurricanes present the classical dimension of the band to the appreciative minority.