Soaring orchestral backing, pounding bass, vocals emotional enough to make you want to tear your own heart out...
"Absolution" is the long-awaited third studio album by Muse, and it really was worth the wait. Muse have made a distinct change in direction on this album, using far more strings and piano, less guitar and distortion, and showing an all together mellower side to the band who brought us such aggressive tracks as "Cave" and "Plug in Baby". That's not to say that this new-found softer side is a bad thing. "Absolution" provides the perfect contrast to the angry, loud and sometimes disturbing sound of both "Showbiz" and "Origin of Symmetry". It shows that Muse are more than the screaming rock band that many have type-faced them to be, and proves to critics and cynics alike that they are long past the "Radiohead tribute band" comments made about them in the past.
Intro and Apocalypse Please - The perfect entrance to an album with the title "Absolution". This song provides our first taste of the end-of-the-world theme, which is present throughout the album. The intro (reminiscent of marching armies) sets the scene for the screaming vocals provided by Matt Bellamy, and the overall effect is one which cannot fail to paint pictures of a burning world slowly crumbling.
Time is Running Out - The first shop release single from "Absolution", and it is easy to see why. Catchy, cleverly written with contrasting verse and chorus, and impossible to get out of your head, TIRO is possibly the most accessible track on the album. Unfortunately, this accessibility means that TIRO is by no means the most thought provoking song that Muse have written. The lack of thought required to listen to this song (especially having been placed next to Apocalypse now), though adding a touch of the commercially acceptable, makes it one of the low points of the album.
Sing for Absolution - The title track of the album. "Sing..." carries a dark, almost frightening style to each verse, which leaves the listener slightly unsettled. Strangely though, it is not a depressing song. The chorus is uplifting enough to lift the entire song. I found myself smiling as I listened. The first of a series of slower tracks on "Absolution", "Sing..." could easily be added to the list of classic Muse songs, right beside "Unintended".
Stockholm Syndrome - If any song could define the traditional Muse sound, this is the one. The first single to be taken from the album, on download only, SS sees a typically layered, violent sound, with the trademark Bellamy vocals wailing in the foreground. The hardest track on "Absolution", SS is great stuff.
Falling Away - Slow, pretty Good..
Hysteria - With a title that once again portrays the idea of a world ending, "Hysteria" is by no means the loud, brash, unordered song that the title suggests. "Hysteria" is a highly melodic, ordered song, with well thought out lyrics, supplied as always by Bellamy. With such a melodic song, there was a risk that "Hysteria" could have been over produced, but Muse (and their production team) have succeeded in avoiding this. The static base and build up give way to what can only be described as an excellent piece of music, with just enough of an edge to be interesting, without seeming out of place next to falling away.
Blackout - A candle lit room filled with incense smoke, the flickering on the walls, the mellow atmosphere... if blackout fitted in any one place, it would be that room. The chilled sound would filter perfectly through the darkness. A stunning string arrangement that sends shivers up the spine, twinned with gentle drumming and flowing vocals, makes "Blackout" not only the ultimate chill-out song, but also a wonderful piece of writing and production.
Butterflies and Hurricanes - Once again, an orchestral section is well placed in this song. The synth gives the impression of a band moving towards the future, and allows for a build up to be proud of. The piano in this track is also very well placed, and though subtle, gives and edge which makes "Butterflies..." one of the stand out tracks of "Absolution".
The Small Print - Is a crashing, soaring, pounding track, which is a lyrical masterpiece. It is also highly thought provoking towards human nature and society. TSP and SS are the loudest songs of the album, and provide a welcome break from the gentle side of Muse.
Endlessly - With synth that any dance track would die to have, "Endlessly" is another truly pretty song. It makes a refreshing addition to the album to hear a song which relies so heavily on synth, but in my opinion, one song is enough. Not one of the best songs on the album for me, but a song that has already gathered a huge fan base.
Thoughts of a Dying Atheist - My personal favourite. Fantastic distorted guitar, and the catchiest line on the album in "scares the hell out of me". I cannot wait to hear this song live, as I get the impression that it will be a true crowd pleaser. The reflective quality of the lyrics in this song, and the guitar solo make this song a stand-out track, which orders every listener to stand up and take notice.
Ruled by Secrecy - Is to "Absolution" what "Megalomania" was to "Origin...". A very mellow, contemplative ending to the album, "Ruled..." just begs for the listener to take a step back and truly think about life as a whole. It closes the album in such a way that it reminds me of a parting goodbye from a long-lost friend.
Butterflies And Hurricanes