review: muse’s “the 2nd law”

By Cody Robinson on 11/19/2012

British prog-rock group Muse are back with their first studio album in three years. Their latest offering, called The 2nd Law, steps away from the band’s tried and true doomsayer style and into the realm of EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Muse have a history of incorporating synthesizers into their music, but now they sound more digital than ever.

Artist: Muse (previous: 2009’s The Resistance)                                                    Release Date: October 1, 2012     Details: Muse’s sixth studio album, The 2nd Law was recorded in London (and described by frontman Matt Bellamy as a “christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia”)                                         Dingo Dictum: B-

 

Tracks like “Madness” and “Follow Me” – which was produced by British drum and bass/dubstep trio Nero – are quite a departure from the apocalyptic sound they first introduced on Absolution, and some fans may feel disillusioned. The band seem to approach some kind of electro-funk with “Panic Station,” and even go so far as to introduce their own dubstep on “The 2nd Law – Unsustainable.” Clearly, these guys were trying to think outside the box.

Also new on this record are the first couple of contributions from bassist Christopher Wolstenholme, “Save Me” and “Liquid State,” both of which he penned about his struggle with alcoholism. On both tracks he takes over lead vocals from front man Matt Bellamy. It’s not that the songs aren’t good, but I pity anyone who has to follow Bellamy on the mic; not to mention the two tracks are squished conspicuously next to one another and pushed towards the end of the album – not exactly where you place the real winners.

Noticeably absent from the record are Dominic Howard’s usually awe-inspiring poundings of a drum kit, which are thrown aside in favor of simpler, often computerized beats. I suppose the beats used throughout work well enough within their context, but I hate to see good drumming go to waste.

The album isn’t entirely bad, however – it’s just not up to par with their last three records (Absolution, Black Holes and Revelations, and The Resistance), which, admittedly, were near superb. “Supremacy,” the album opener, hearkens back to their old grandeur, and it’s one of their best to date. Other standouts include the chilled-out track “Animals” and “Big Freeze,” which may be the best song in the bunch.

It’s not their usual sound, but give it a listen – you may actually find that you like what you hear.  Δ

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