Review Summary: Incredible. Includes a few pointless tracks, but overall a good original effort from Muse.
I'll have to admit, I'm rather new to Muse.
The first work that I heard from this band came from their previous album, "The Resistance", which offered a variety of sounds from the dance styled "Undisclosed Desires" to the rock ballad/eastern "United States Of Eurasia".
I then did some exploration into this band and discovered their earlier music, which falls more under rock than the new, alternative style which can be heard on "The Resistance"
Even so, I don't want to talk about how "The 2nd Law" relates to Muse's older music. I'd rather talk about this album on its own and how each song hit me, track by track.
"Supremacy" is quite obviously inspired by previous James Bond film-themes, and drummer Dom Howard even stated that he would have liked to see it involved in the latest installment, "Skyfall". The song starts off with a slick guitar and simple yet driving bass drum, later accompanied by trumpets and other orchestral elements. The first verse, however, offers a contrast and introduces a slower melody with strings.
When singer Matthew Bellamy cries the title word (in an incredible falsetto) the music switches back to the guitar and drum beat, which offers that bad ass Bond side of it. I would've liked it even more if the second verse wasn't made up entirely of a guitar solo, which imitates the melody done by Bellamy in the first verse. I feel like better ideas for the final parts of the song would have improved it even more. 8/10
"Madness" is a good example of a modern-day Queen song, in terms of style. A simple electronic tune stays audible throughout the song, and every now and then as the song builds up another instrument or layer is added. The climax of the song has Bellamy's voice soaring high as opposed to being rather soft for the most of the song.
This disappointed me slightly, because the rest of the album (and other Muse music) is evidence that Bellamy has an exceptionally powerful voice, but intentionally gave a whisper like, hoarse delivery for "Madness". The percussion in this song is pretty much the same throughout, with a strong fill thrown in once or twice. I think that a slightly more complicated or faster pattern should have been used during that climax. 8/10
3. Panic Station
Some Muse fans make it clear that they don't like this song. It's an upbeat funk-rock style song, giving off the image of Michael Jackson-kind of dancing. It's quite interesting and very unlike the rest of the album, and is also responsible for the Explicit Lyric sticker which "The 2nd Law" owns. As a song, I suggest not over-thinking this one.
It's fun and catchy, and offers an interesting side of Muse, not quite seen before. However, the lyrics are still a bit inconsistent, making it difficult to understand just exactly what the song is about. 6/10
Prelude is actually more of a dramatic introduction for the following track, "Survival", but is still a nice, amorous melody to enjoy.
The Olympic song. To be honest, the song's detached piano beginning lifted my hopes for this song a bit too much. As soon as the first vocal part begins, it feels like the song has turned another way. At first, the choir which joins Bellamy was a bit annoying but eventually it grew onto me. I enjoyed the build up the song gives, and the dialogue between the guitar parts and the choir just before Bellamy's final "Yes, I'm going to win."
The song doesn't start off as a rock song but definitely evolves into one, with the hammering guitar and drum fills which carry the song through to the point where the choir is heard shouting "Five, four, three, two, one...". 7/10
6. Follow Me
This song starts off rather slow, with Matthew Bellamy singing a reassuring lyric above a quiet violin and heartbeat. A percussive, staccato electronic melody is added and looped, sparking a slow build up for the song. More electronic synths and sounds join the pool, and then as the words "follow me..." are first sung, the song explodes into a semi-Dubstep style. The rest of the song stays more or less on that same level.
The song ends with a large wall of of sound slowly echoing away, which sounds very much like U2. I like this type of song; short, energetic yet versatile in style. 8/10
A simple, chilled vibe is given off by the guitar riff and keyboard melody which the song rides on. "Animals" also builds up, vocally and with instruments, to the point where it reaches a climax and abruptly cuts to an audio recording of a rather violent Wall Street Trading Floor. Adding a few more layers of instruments and other elements to the end of this song would have improved it. I like the short guitar riffs which take place at intervals between the lyrics. The song is about greed and selfishness, ending with the harsh lyric: "Kill yourself, come on and do us all a favor." 7/10
This song reveals yet again how Muse is influenced by Queen, melodywise. Unfortunately, the song never escalates to much more than a piano melody with strings, and some drums. Despite the enjoyable, simple melody the song feels like it should become more than it does. Otherwise, I haven't got much to say about it, because it feels a bit like a filler song. 6/10
9. Big Freeze
I quite like this song. It possesses an upbeat tempo and uses a positive-feeling guitar melody. The song never goes too fast and doesn't become over the top. However, what this song lacks is a better effort at writing more imaginative lyrics, as the message of "Big Freeze" is rather unclear. This is a shame, because musically it needs no improvement. 8/10
10. Save Me
Written and performed by Chris Wolstenholme, the band's bassist. I feel like the album didn't need this song. I like that it is about a slightly more serious topic (Wolstenholme's battle against alcohol), but musically the song doesn't do Muse any justice. The melody is too boring for the song to be as long as it is (over 5 minutes) and although I do like Wolstenholme's calm voice, it doesn't save "Save Me' from being what it is: bland. 5/10
11. Liquid State
Also done by Wolstenholme. "Liquid State" is heavier than most of the rest of the album, being mostly edgy-guitar based. However, Wolstenholme's voice doesn't suit this type of song, and the song could have been something much more if the vocal part was improved. Fortunately it is short, and not certainly not boring. 6/10
12. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
"Unsustainable" starts off as an orchestral piece, with a large string arrangement. A woman's voice comes to the foreground, explaining how the second law of thermodynamics applies to the economy. "An economy based on endless growth is unsustainable" is the sentence which suddenly throws the song in another direction. A high energy Dubstep (good Dubstep, done with instruments as opposed to a computer program) section follows. The song switches back and forth between these two genres. It is very interesting and I would describe the orchestral arrangement following the Dubstep bit as "epic". 8/10
13. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
This instrumental is a chilled finale for "The 2nd Law", using a consistent piano melody which is eventually accompanied by different elements as the song builds up. I would describe this instrumental as a haunting trans song, thanks to the electronic side of it (bass drum and synths). Its a strangely appropriate ending to this musical story, being unlike and like the other songs at the same time. 7/10
Overall, I think that "The 2nd Law" is a good album to own, whether you like "old muse" or not. It's very rare for a flawless album to exist, especially when there is a large mixture of genres included. However, when putting out an album, the best idea to keep in mind is quality over quantity, and "The 2nd Law" possesses several pointless filler tracks which could have been left out of the record. Still, it's definitely an album which will be played and listened to by me several times in the future.
The 2nd Law: 8/10