The British rock trio Muse has done it again. The 2nd Law, the group’s sixth studio album, borrows heavily from their earlier work, while at the same time weaving widely varying styles from track to track. Front man Matt Bellamy stated that the album takes cues from Queen and David Bowie amongst others. From the first listen to the album, the influences are certainly apparent on several tracks. The genius of The 2nd Law, besides the reference to the laws of thermodynamics, is the pacing, jumping from massive auditory explosion to slower synthpop and back again. Epic rock anthems and potential action franchise theme songs abound from start to finish of The 2nd Law.
The album begins with the rapturous “Supremacy,” which bears a striking resemblance to a big James Bond theme, even utilizing a familiar riff in the background of many sections of the track. “Supremacy” builds to its climax before utilizing a crescendo to finish with a familiar exclamation point. It is quite easy to imagine the first track as the theme for the upcoming Skyfall film due out in November. Muse knows how to lead off an album with such previous track one classics as “Uprising” and “New Born.”
Film scores aside, The 2nd Law slows down considerably with “Madness,” the second single released so far. The ballad like synthpop song quietly pleases listeners with its Queen influenced theme.
“Panic Station” is up third on the track, with a smashing baseline very reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ work from “Blood Sugar, Sex Magic.” The early 90’s sound works well with Bellamy channeling his many vocal talents into a hair band like sound with brass accompaniment.
A short “Prelude” acts as an intro for The 2nd Law’s first single “Survival,” The official anthem of the 2012 London Olympics doesn’t disappoint for those who enjoy stadium rock. At the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremonies Bellamy and company drew from their British rock roots to electrify the crowd of over 80,000. The song is a spectacle in and of itself, but live is even more impressive.
“Follow Me” is a less impressive track when compared to the rest of the album. It seems very much like an extra track from the Origin of Symmetry album, but with a dance beat added for effect.
The median track of The 2nd Law takes a number of different stylistic turns throughout. “Animals” uses a blues guitar style similar to that of the early work of Carlos Santana but jumps it up a bit with that classic Muse sound. It is certainly an adventurous track that switched style repeatedly and yet still manages to succeed as a singular piece of music. Matt Bellamy’s creative mind was certainly at work during its composition.
“Explorers” seems like an extension of Guiding Light from 2009’s Uprising mixed with a just a tad of the James Bond theme song “Nobody Does it Better.” Someone must be exciting for the upcoming Bond film, but then again who could blame them.
“Big Freeze” and “Save Me” could be considered filler songs, certainly listenable, but they fail to standout in comparison to the other offers on the album.
The 2nd Law picks up its final act beginning with the 11th track “Liquid State.” It builds impressively with a choral harmony contrasted by deep minor chords and driving baseline.
Much like the three part symphony “Exogenesis” from The Uprising, the final two tracks of The 2nd Law are paired.
“The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” begin with a fast paced string accompaniment while the second law of thermodynamics is recited. Out of nowhere Dubstep makes its first appearance in a Muse track, dropping the beat and throwing the song into an amusing controlled chaos. “Unsustainable” features very few familiar Bellamy vocals, however the piece of music has a whole does seem perfectly Muse through and through.
“Isolated System” allowed Matt Bellamy to display his classical piano ability paired with strings once again. It is an interesting way to end an album with the climax occurring in the previous track. The 2nd Law winds down nicely much like an epilogue to a novel or final emotional scene and credit roll in a film.
As an entire piece of music, The 2nd Law hits many highs, while stepping back just a tad after the midpoint. Its rip-roaring start and surprising finish make it one of Muse’s top albums and arguably surpasses The Resistance in scope and variety. One can only hope the forthcoming tour will deliver on as high a level.
The 2nd Law is due for US release on October 2nd.