Muse – The 2nd Law
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
English trio Muse is one of those bands that people seem to love or hate, and there’s no gray area; I was always impartial to them because I had never given them a proper listen. Well, out on a whim, I purchased their sixth studio album The 2nd Law. I must say, it’s quite an interesting record. It’s not what I expected, and that’s a good thing, as well as a bad thing. I had heard this was a concept record, and that leads me to my first problem with it. Before you even look at the album as a whole, or look at every individual song, the album itself is supposed to be a concept record. Well, when I first listened to it all the way through, I didn’t quite hear that; if anything, the record seemed loose, and just a mix of 13 different songs. It wasn’t cohesive, and compared to other “concept” records, like the new Between the Buried and Me record, it’s rather sloppy. The new Between the Buried and Me record actually flows quite cohesively, and I didn’t get that vibe from The 2nd Law whatsoever. The songs individually are not half bad, save for a few I didn’t quite care for, but if they were trying to go for a concept record, it fell flat. If this wasn’t a concept record, it would be just fine, and I’d have no issue with it, however, because they were, it’s a bit bothersome. There were a few other problems I had with this record, but that was the main one, and it’s not actually related to any of the songs, which is the reason I brought that up first.
The record starts out with “Supremacy,” and the song starts off with a very bluesy guitar riff from vocalist/guitarist Matthew Bellamy, as well as some orchestral instrumentation, which is very interesting. Suddenly, at about a minute in, Bellamy’s vocals kick in, and while his voice is not the best, it seems to fit the music that’s being presented. This is one of the best songs on the record, and this is one song where Bellamy’s vocals shine. He can reach some very high notes, and a few points in the song, he does. In fact, the first three songs have a quite similar sound – they’re synth-rock, classical, and alternative rock all mixed together. “Supremacy” is a very strong opening track, and “Madness” is a nice following track. Both songs are quite wonderful, and two of my favorites. Third track “Panic Station” doesn’t stray from the sound the first two tracks have, but it doesn’t really do that much for me. It’s not an awful track, but not the best, either. The next track is aptly named “Prelude”, and it doesn’t make sense, because why would a prelude be four songs into an album? It leads into fifth track “Survival,” and at this point, there seems to be two parts to the album so far. The first part is the classical/orchestral part of the album with “Supremacy,” “Madness,” and “Panic Station,” “Prelude,” and “Survival.” “Survival” is quite an interesting track, because it features a choir-like harmony while Bellamy sings. His vocals also shine quite a bit. Now the second part is the more “indie” part, with the next six songs or so. A few songs are a bit different, but they do have a more indie/alternative sound. Sadly, this is where the album starts to fall a bit flat. While “Survival” had an arena-rock sound (as most of this album has), the next track is bit more, dare I say, generic. “Follow Me” seems to be like a clichéd track that we’ve heard a million times over by various bands. It just builds up with nowhere to go, really. Seventh track, “Animals,” is another rather forgettable track, but not terrible, either. It just doesn’t really contribute a lot, aside from a really interesting guitar solo by Bellamy towards the tail half, and more interesting instrumentation after that.
At this point, the next few tracks are a bit lackluster, for the lack of a better word. They’re not terrible, but just rather boring. Eighth track, “Explorers,” is the longest song of the album, clocking in at about six minutes, but surprisingly, it sounds quite boring. The main reason the next few tracks they sound rather boring is because Bellamy’s voice barely changes throughout the next few tracks, so they all sound very similar. The instrumentation may be different, but his vocal delivery sounds quite similar. In no way are these tracks terrible, but they’re just lacking that spark the first half of the album did. Ninth track “Big Freeze” is a good track, surprisingly. Bellamy’s voice does sound a bit different, and it has that arena-rock sound the earlier half of the album did. Sadly, the rest of the album is rather lackluster until the twelfth song, “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable.” This is a fun track, because this is the first song they released from the album, and it’s created some controversy for featuring dubstep. However, it’s not only dubstep. It blends a few interesting things here, like dubstep, alternative rock, and a fictional newscast is woven into the song to make things a bit more creepy. The dubstep only appears at a couple moments, and it’s a bit of an instrumental track. The last track, and the second “part” to the track prior, “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” is a dubstep-less version of this track, essentially. It’s much softer, but still has that creepiness with more fictional news broadcasts. This is where the “concept” of the album comes in, but by the end, it’s a bit lost among the last 40 minutes or so. The last song is also an instrumental, so it closes out the album on an interesting note, literally.
Overall, the album seems to suffer in the middle; the beginning is quite strong, and the end is a bit strong as well. It’s just the middle is a bit boring, in all honesty. A lot of the songs sound similar, save for a few of them. While Bellamy has an interesting voice, it doesn’t change pitch much throughout the album, so it almost sounds like the same song over and over. Very rarely does it change, especially in the beginning of the album. The first few songs seem to showcase his voice much better. Thankfully, the album does close out nicely, but for those of you who won’t give it a chance because there’s a hint of dubstep on it, that’s a shame, because you’re definitely missing out.