Review Summary: The most cohesive Muse album, Absolution expands on newer sounds and improves on others. However, some songs are just obvious flaws and fail to keep it from becoming a classic.
There comes a turning point in everyone’s life where something changes them completely and restructures their life entirely. For many people, there is more than one event. Even in my 15 years of life, I went through a few of these events. The first came with the divorce of my parents, which restructured my life with obvious consequences. The second came when my director asked me to play bass guitar for the jazz band in 7th grade. I’d been in the band playing the baritone horn for a couple of years and filled an empty trombone spot in the jazz band the previous year. However, the older bass player moved on to high school and I filled the spot. Once I started playing, I found a newfound love for music. At that point, I decided to find music I really enjoyed rather than going along with the top hits of the day. Muse, with Absolution, led that experiment. I even found Sputnik through searching reviews for Absolution.
Oddly enough, I discovered Muse through the radio. I heard Hysteria
through my local alternative station and the sound blew me away. The distorted bassline jumped out at me and caught my attention while the catchy guitar riffs and vocals peaked my interest further. I had to check out this band further. A few weeks later, I grabbed Absolution and found myself even further blown away. The album made the perfect transition from my days of musical ignorance to understanding more of what music is. Absolution is undeniably catchy yet it shows great musicianship and varies in style, from heavy, spastic rock to soft, orchestrated ballads.
Throughout Muse’s previous career, they hinted at making great songs that strayed away from their typical guitar rock. The organ led Megalomaniac
, the jazzy cover Feeling Good
, and the piano rocker Sunburn
all stand out as fantastic tracks. However, Muse pushed their multiple sounds to a new level on Absolution, and it becomes immediately apparent on the song that fades in from the intro, Apocalypse Please
. Highlighted with powerful piano chords, the song launches into an epic strike that sets the tone and concept of the album perfectly. Muse put together Absolution as a collection of songs about the apocalypse. With the opening lyrics “Declare this an emergency/Come on and spread a sense of urgency,” pianist, guitarist, and vocalist Matt Bellamy shows his evolution from a Thom Yorke replica to a less melancholic and more powerful singer. The song moves along through its verse and chorus themes and the song builds to a brilliant climax of greatly voiced piano chords. Dom Howard’s simple but effective drumming stands out as some of his best on the album and adds further to the epic quality.
However, Muse still comes back to their typical guitar oriented sound, highlighted with Stockholm Syndrome
. Often called the song that defines Muse, Stockholm Syndrome
features great guitar and bass riffs, including a prechorus that simply strums a low drop-D chord but it crescendos with a cymbal swell into an unforgettable chorus. Matt’s falsetto, the beautiful synthesizer swells, and simple piano melody create an amazing rush of melodies. Stockholm Syndrome
also shows some of Muse’s typical flaws. The song reaches a guitar solo where Matt essentially plays the main riff over again. The Small Print
falls in the same vein with weaker riffs, an even weaker guitar solo, and less contrast. It detracts from the album just as much as Stockholm Syndrome
makes the album great.
On their first two albums, Muse consistently failed to make an effective ballad, but Absolution sees the ballads as some of the best on the album. Ruled By Secrecy
features the piano once again, but in a much more longing and beautiful way. Matt shows off his soprano range falsetto for nearly the entire song, but in a much more tasteful way than on the operatic Micro Cuts
from Origin of Symmetry. He almost hushes the words, singing just enough to have his tone heard. The song builds to yet another piano climax that builds fantastic contrast, the quietest moment on the album to one of the most epic. Blackout
, a representation of a blackout before an apocalypse and the quiet realization that life is over, features a string orchestra. The first time Muse incorporated strings into their music, it proved to be a great experience as it made a much larger appearance on Black Holes and Revelations. It shows in the track as well, one of the most beautiful songs Muse ever created.
The album steps into other sounds with Butterflies and Hurricanes
, which features a simply amazing piano solo from Matt. Endlessly is a dance track with easily the most cliché lyrics on the album: “Hopelessly, I’ll love you endlessly.” It has some good aspects, but overall the song is just a let down. Overall, the album features some unforgettable tracks, many great tracks but incomparable to the best, and a few obvious let downs. Absolution is the most cohesive and drawn together Muse album to date. Some of their greatest songs appear on the album and overall, it is a fantastic listen. With personal relevance to me, it is still one of my favorite albums ever but its weak points keep it from being the classic I once thought it was.
Butterflies and Hurricanes
Thoughts of a Dying Atheist
Ruled By Secrecy