Muse have become increasingly ambitious and bombastic with each new album. After they broke into the mainstream with 2003′s Absolution, they have taken risk after risk with their music and have managed to get away with it relatively unscathed. With their sixth studio release, The 2nd Law, the Teignmouth trio have taken things a step further to produce their most experimental album thus far, infusing dubstep, electronica, and funk rock into their already progressive sound.
The 2nd Law refers to the Second Law of Thermodynamics where, within a closed system, the energy contained within will eventually degrade until the system itself decays and becomes nonexistent. The album opens in style with the dramatic high-energy track “Supremacy,” fit for a movie, and is followed by “Madness,” the radio-friendly second single.
In the middle of the album, listeners will be familiar with the theme for the 2012 London Olympics, “Survival.” Here, it is paired with “Prelude,” which serves well as a build up to the appropriately charged anthem for the pursuit of success.
Bassist Chris Wolstenholme marks his first songwriting contribution to the album with “Save Me” and “Liquid State”, two haunting remembrances of his past battles with alcoholism. Suitably, these two tracks hearken back to the raw and less polished sound that Muse built their reputation on.
One must mention “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,” which drops into a Skrillex-esque breakdown after opening with a rather pleasant classical rock homage. The influences and direction that Muse has chosen to take is far more evident here than it has shown in the previous half of the album. It is rounded out by last track “Isolated System,” and here the album closer is reminiscent of The Resistance’s operatic epic three-part symphony “Exogenesis”. It provides an introspective closure to the record; the ultimate degradation of the system, if you will. Matt Bellamy has frequently tackled environmental issues, conspiracy theories, religious opinions, and seems to have finally refined the art of bringing the heavy weight down to rest.
The 2nd Law is a very smooth, well-produced studio album; definitely listen to it with headphones to gain the best full listening experience from this. In a way, Muse’s musical progression from album to album is a system of its own, and will eventually be unsustainable. It will be interesting to see where the band takes their music next. So give it a listen!
Standout tracks: Supremacy, Panic Station, Animals, Liquid State