Review Summary: I feel sick.
I feel like I’m being gutted with every word I write, because I’m tearing so deeply into a piece of my own upbringing. The passage of time has become a cruel sadist, strangling me with the fretboard of my own guitar as I hear the pieces I practiced so diligently in my adolescence. It’s sickening, but only because of how brilliant and addicting the original experience was at one point. It’s sickening, because I can still recite every fucking word of something that I can’t connect to anymore. The pedestal that shouldered this old giant has since become dusty, long abandoned as newer acts have built their own pantheon from scratch, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. They sang thoughtfully about revolution and social/political corruption. They incorporated beautiful classical flourishes in their energetic brand of alternative rock. They had a charismatic frontman who was proficient in countless different musical fields.
But, again, the passage of time can be cruel.
Much like Muse’s relevance, the quality of their peak era has seemed to decay with every passing year. What once seemed thought-provoking now reeks of a horrible sense of pomp and self-importance that puts their sincerity in question. What seemed so beautifully elaborate and intricate now sounds derivative and dated. What seemed like a modern-day rock opera of progressive rock grandeur and propulsive flights of metal fancy has now devolved into something that is simply a dull homogeneous slog. The same things that once distinguished Absolution
as a modern classic have now somehow worked against it, to the point that many of its tracks are practically unlistenable now. I can’t get through “Falling Away with You,” with its blend of overly melodramatic croons and repetitive melodies, and the horrendously overblown piano theatrics of “Apocalypse Please” become a chore to endure for even the mere four minutes of its runtime. Even a lot of the more uptempo pieces feel a bit lifeless today, and tricks that seemed so impressive to my teenage mind - particularly the piano solo in “Butterflies and Hurricanes” - seem more gimmicky than beneficial to the music now. Adapting influences from Sergei Rachmaninoff into rock music may be cool on a superficial level, but not when it creates a disjointed and disorganized piece of work. The worst thing about all this is that, with a handful of experiences here, I can still sense how much effort and passion were thrown in. “Hysteria” is still a beautifully uplifting alternative rock classic, and the pulse-pounding heavy metal riffage of “Stockholm Syndrome” can still bring the chills. But taken holistically, it all falls apart very quickly. There’s diversity here; I’ll give the band that. We get everything from alternative metal (“Hysteria,” “Stockholm Syndrome”), to symphonic rock (“Butterflies and Hurricanes,” “Blackout”) to even some slices of melodic punk (“Thoughts of a Dying Atheist,” “The Small Print”). But it plays out like a smorgasbord of musical stylings that never comes together in a meaningful fashion. The diversity is more scattershot than complementary, and having Matt Bellamy doing his irritating “operatic” wailing over every different genre doesn’t help matters. This is musical Attention Deficit Disorder disguised as variation.
None of this is pleasurable at all to write, as it definitely hurts removing rose-colored glasses to see how gutting reality can be. But listening to Absolution
again was eye-opening (or ear-opening) for all the wrong reasons. Hearing it again is like meeting with a friend after years of distance, only to realize you took completely different paths and pursued completely different interests in the meantime. Deep down, there will always be that bitter disappointment when contemplating what could have been a fantastic reunion, and all that remains is an awkward reminder of how young and naive you both used to be. That, more or less, is the feeling I have now. And I also feel sick.