Muse – Absolution

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

As Muse’s third album opens with the superbly-named APOCALYPSE PLEASE, a breathtaking barrage of stomping piano and driving bass that plunges you headfirst into the end of the world, you can assume that this is going to be a thrilling ride.

Sure enough, all the qualities that make their songs, especially those on 2001’s awesome ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY, such a rollercoaster are here – hyper-fast guitars, swirling space-rock electronics and Matt Bellamy’s soaring vocals – but by reining in some of their previous excesses Muse have grown, evolved into a band that now touch the heart as well as the hairs on the back of your neck.

From the album title to that thrilling curtain-raiser, it is clear that a combination of precarious world events and upheaval in his personal life (the end of one long-term relationship and the beginning of another) have given Bellamy a new perspective on his life, prompting him to look inward at the things that really matter.

So, in amongst the frantic cyber-rock of HYSTERIA, THE SMALL PRINT and previous internet-only single STOCKHOLM SYNDROME, you’ll find beautiful, almost delicate ballads like the lovelorn FALLING AWAY FROM YOU, the skittering electropop of ENDLESSLY and the tear-stained finale of RULED BY SECRECY.

The production, this time in collaboration with Rich Costey (Rage Against The Machine, The Mars Volta, Philip Glass), is stunning. BLACKOUT, for example, rides on waves of gorgeous strings and what sounds like a balalaika, while SING FOR ABSOLUTION builds from haunting keyboards into a glorious feedback-enhanced catharsis.

But the centrepiece of the album is undoubtedly the incredible BUTTERFLIES AND HURRICANES, a towering colossus of electronics and thunderous piano that builds and builds before breaking into a giddy rolling Rachmaninov break-down, then exploding into a thrilling all-too-brief crescendo that leaves you wanting more. It is possibly one of the most thrilling five minutes of music I have ever heard.

Not for nothing is the penultimate song called THOUGHTS OF A DYING ATHEIST – this is absolution, but not necessarily from God. Muse clearly believe in the redemptive power of music, and after hearing this album, so will you.

6 stars