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Re-Ranking Muse

Absolution ends up being the perfect balance between technical guitar/instrumental work and listenable music. One can just as easily be impressed with the technical aspects of the album as they can sing along to the catchy verses and choruses. Muse experiments in classical music considerably more than they do on prior releases, while simultaneously living up to the lofty guitar riff expectations set by Origin of Symmetry. The concept of the album may be somewhat generic, but few artists have accomplished it with as much musical craftsmanship as Muse.
Origin of Symmetry

This album certainly does not lack in musicianship or quality song crafting. Origin of Symmetry accomplishes everything that it possibly could in such a short period of time to help Muse distinguish themselves as unique artists. Matthew Bellamy puts on quite a display of talent, manning lead vocals, lead guitars, and piano/keyboard. The opening minutes of “Bliss” show off some of his strongest piano work to date, while “Hyper Music” and "Citizen Erased" show him unleashing more of a wild, uncontrollable side with scratchy, abrasive sounding riffs. “Feeling Good” shows Muse dabble in more of a soulful funk-style ballad, which Bellamy nails vocally from start to finish. He essentially takes what Showbiz hinted at, fully develops it, and refuses to hold back on the whirlwind of progressive styles created just for this album. The result is an atmospheric and truly breathtaking record that many fans consider to be their best.
Black Holes & Revelations

As a whole, Black Holes and Revelations is a polarizing album. It brings many new aspects to Muse’s sound, but it also trades-off by eliminating some of the things that fans loved most about the band. However, the main changes ultimately point Muse in a more accessible, mainstream direction. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, seeing as their tunes are as interesting and catchy as ever. Despite the transformations in Muse’s sound, they also still retain enough craftsmanship to claim that they haven’t gone completely soft on their original fan base. Therefore, Black Holes and Revelations marks a controversial but successful evolution in Muse’s sound that, love it or hate it, offers quite the enjoyable listening experience.

Showbiz is a very focused debut album. In fact, it may be so focused at times that it forgets to branch out. While this may serve as one of the album’s few downsides, it also shows that Muse has the patience to construct quality songs that do not always attempt to rush to the climax, creating a more enjoyable listen in the process. Through the many talents of frontman Matthew Bellamy, as well as near-flawless execution from the entire band, Showbiz displays a great deal of the diverse talents possessed by each member of the band. Perhaps more importantly, it gave Muse a solid foundation to start from as they began to ascend towards prominence.

There’s no doubt that Drones contains flashes of Muse at their absolute best. Moments like ‘Reapers’ make me want to proclaim it to be an absolute triumph, but unfortunately there are just too many glaring (and at times mind boggling) lapses in judgment. If nothing else, Drones should have regained the respect of those who left them for dead following The Resistance and The 2nd Law.
Simulation Theory

Simulation Theory is the most honest album that Muse has created in quite some time. It’s clearly leagues below what they’re capable of, but they’re at least moving forward with the styles of music that they want to create, uninhibited by expectations rooted in the past. This is essentially a synth-pop album, one that is at times exciting and unconventional and at other times tasteless and rudimentary. At the very least, Simulation Theory makes it clear that Muse actually does have some worthwhile ideas outside of strictly rock. If they’re not going to play to their obvious strengths and fully invest in a return to the days of Absolution, then they should continue to submit to their whims and explore new territory – as they do here. Simulation Theory is still a massive underachievement with respect to the band’s talent level, but at least they’re not lying to us about who they are anymore.
The 2nd Law

An island of misfit ideas. This album isn't as bland as The Resistance, but it lacks the cohesiveness of a record like Simulation Theory. The infusion of electronic elements is hit-or-miss, as is the entire album. It lacks an acceptable level of instrumental ability/utilization compared to Black Holes or anything prior. In essence, this is their weirdest record - there's a surprising track here or there that sounds kind of cool, but the rest of it is all too easy to disregard.
The Resistance

The Resistance is essentially a grandiose, symphonic, full-blown attempt at creating a magnum opus. Whereas Muse’s over-the-top nature normally serves to their benefit, this time there is simply not enough quality material to back up the massive hype. Sure, there are a few catchy numbers such as “Uprising” and “Undisclosed Desires”, but even they severely pale in comparison to past hits such as “Plug in Baby” and “Time is Running Out.” In addition, Muse fails to back these songs up with anything remotely interesting from an instrumental perspective. From the extremely basic drum beats of the aforementioned “Uprising” to the near absence of anything resembling a guitar riff over the course of the entire album, it is clear that Muse has taken a tremendous step back instrumentally. Black Holes and Revelations hinted at a movement in the mainstream direction, but even the most wildly pessimistic fans could not have anticipated the sheer lack of ingenuity present on The Resistance.
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