Get ready to have your mind blown, ladies and gentlemen. The Englishmen have returned with their sixth studio album, and Muse has spared no ounce of shredding guitars, falsetto or social commentary with the borderline epic “2nd Law.”
Give it 28 seconds. That’s all you need to remember why Muse is the best at what they do. Unlike 2006’s “Black Holes & Revelations,” there is no buildup song for the introduction to the album. Muse comes bursting out of the gates with “Supremacy” and it sets the tone for the rest of the story to be told on “2nd law” of unbridled energy and over the top indulgence.
The album is reminiscent of English kings of glam rock and dramatics, Queen. Freddie Mercury would be proud of tracks like “Panic Station” which features bass slapping 70’s style beats. It is a little random as far as lyrics go, but it is a high energy romp that still contains Matt Bellamy’s unreal guitar shredding, because it wouldn’t be a Muse song without it.
One of my favorite tracks on the album has to be “Madness,” as much as I didn’t want to love it. It is one of those ‘will be a hit single’ tracks, and Muse knows it and pokes fun at it. Another Mercuryesque track, Bellamy glides along with synths and harmonies that are somewhat electrifying. The song is about a relationship that has simply become a confusing mess. Are they staying together because they’re actually in love? Or are they simply staying afloat from the madness they feel together? Bellamy explains a predicament that is all too familiar in relationships these days, singing “I, I can’t get these memories out of my mind/And some kind of madness has started to evolve/I, I tried so hard to let you go/ But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole.” Think electrical wire during an ice storm. “Madness” has that exact sound and feeling until it peaks with a dramatic rise near the end. A Queen style guitar riff leads into the final chorus, with Bellamy crooning “And now I have finally seen the end/And I’m not expecting you to care/But I have finally seen the light/I have finally realized/I need to love.”
When listening to “2nd Law” there are two important things to keep in mind. One, you need to listen to this all the way through at least once; in the order it is presented in. Two, the story that this album represents has something to do with the second law of thermodynamics. If you’ve ever listened to a Muse album before, you know that the band is all about social commentary, even down to their love songs. The second law essentially states that if no energy enters or exits the system during an exchange, the potential energy of state will always be less than that of its original state, which makes it unsustainable. That is why the album is organized the way it is. Tons of energy at the beginning and slowing down to the end. It is a metaphor for economies, for governments, for the world in general. We keep adding, but our growth will become stagnant. Muse is definitely planning for a complete world apocalypse.
The final two tracks explain this in a rock opera format, complete with dubstep. Normally, a band I love and respect using dubstep would skeeze me out, but it actually works for the most part in the songs it is used in. They are essential to understanding the album, and they will take awhile to grow on people who are expecting “The Resistance,” but it is a fitting end to the album.
This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the standouts of this album. The Olympic theme song “Survival” rings out as the biggest battle cry of “2nd Law” with debatable meanings. On one hand, it could continue with Muse’s parody of fat cat government and economic greed with cut throat people doing whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter who or what they have to step on.
On the other hand, it could signify the band’s fight to rise to fame in a tough industry and their resolution to stay there. No matter what it means, it is one of the most dramatic, progressive rock songs on the entire album. Bellamy again shines with searing guitar solos and powerful vocals that will make you want to fight for something and survive too.
If this was their battle cry while writing the album, it worked. Muse has produced something powerful and worthy of their reputation.