Being a fan of Muse, I’d been waiting for a long while to see how they’d be able to follow up in 2007. With rumors and interviews about how they wanted to try something different in their next album with either more electronic tones or classic instruments, it seemed either too ambitious or that they’d come out with something incomprehensible. Luckily, their ambition and work sounds like it has paid off in as listeners are treated to an album of beautiful, sometimes quirky, songs.
For the most part, we hear much less of Matt Bellamy’s talented guitar skills and much more of his piano work, which works especially well when he’s at a grand piano. His vocals are certainly different from previous albums, not in a bad way, but perhaps in a more mature manner without any of the banshee shrieks and warbling from songs like “Shrinking Universe” or “Stockholm Syndrome.”
The album’s aptly titled opener “Uprising” starts with an eerie bit of guitar work and plenty of synthesizer work to kick things off. The lyrics here also set the tone for pretty much the rest of the album and echo themes from earlier albums, with allusions to conspiracies, rebellion, victory over oppression and so on.
The titular “Resistance” slows things down considerably with a haunting intro, picking up quickly with a galloping drum beat and more of Bellamy’s piano work. It seems to me that some parts of this song sound similar to something from Queen, and that’s hardly a bad thing when one hears it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Freddie Mercury was an influence in this album with the voice work that Bellamy does.
“Undisclosed Desires” is very minimalist at first, very subdued. However, the chorus line picks up in a manner somewhat similar to what you’d hear in a Depeche Mode song, with a mixture of echoing lyrics and synthesizer. There’s also the mild introduction of string here, with the trend continuing on for a more epic tone later on. While a love song through and through, it’s still a pleasant listen.
“United States of Eurasia” is a bit of an oddity among Muse’s work, playing far more into the tone of Queen after a quiet bit of piano and vocals in the intro, climaxing into a particularly fanciful, Egyptian sort of theme to underscore the title more than likely. However, a pleasant piece of this song is Bellamy’s piano, particularly toward the end when the song fades into a piece from Chopin, with the almost inaudible sounds of children playing and a rocket or plane. The piano piece certainly sets a melancholy tone to finish the song off, with an accompaniment of strings.
Up next is “Guiding Light,” which immediately sounds more hopeful than the previous entries by Bellamy’s uplifting tone, even though the lyrics bring a sense of loss and abandonment. Also something to note is that one Bellamy’s guitar solos makes an appearance here, though not nearly as complex and wild as some of his older guitar bits.
“Unnatural Selection” begins unusually with an organ piano taking part in the intro, followed closely by a much faster, more intense beat and guitar work that makes it stand out in the album. Present in the lyrics are more on the theme of conspiracies against the people and rebellion, which fits just perfectly with the aggressive, combative style of the song. There comes an unexpected, lengthy lull around the middle of the song, with some of the guitar chords here bringing back memories of “Knights of Cydonia” from the last album.
“MK Ultra” is another song with a lively beat, the guitar mixed with some synthesizer during the intro, and Bellamy doing well to keep up with the energetic pace in vocals. A slow moment comes around the middle with a selection of strings playing hauntingly in the background to match his tone, along with some computerized speech in the lyrics to add a psychedelic touch.
“I Belong To You” brings yet another surprise to the album, though it seems like few of these songs have much in common with one another by way of how they sound. Driven by a piano here rather than a guitar, it comes through as something that you might hear in a jazz club or French cafe at first. Considering that Muse is particularly popular in France, they might be thrilled to hear some of the lyrics in that language, which really does make it sound like a lonesome tune that one could hear in a Paris cafe toward the middle of the song, rising and falling with the beat of the drums and bass throughout the latter half.
Then comes the grand, multi-part orchestrated work known as “Exogenesis Symphony” split into three separate parts that span over thirteen minutes. Consisting of over forty different musicians and instruments, this truly deserves merit by way of their ambition and composition. The first part, the Overture, sends tingles down my back when I hear the strings playing in an almost outlandish range of notes to match Bellamy’s long, breathy pitch with a eerie, intense guitar solo coming out of nowhere add to it all. Part two brings Bellamy’s piano skills back to the front, a subtle and pleasant intro to be played on a grand piano. The slow pace goes out the window soon enough however, driven by the drums and still carried by the orchestra, the lyrics bringing thoughts of some sort of space opera to mind that’s in the midst of being performed. The final part concludes the song in a manner that’s fitting for a band that wants to push the envelope on a number of levels, starting first with a piano piece that’s similar to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” depressing and calm, with the rest of the instruments coming into play one by one to build on this tone.
Whether this is their swan song or an attempt to break out of even more conventions from their older albums, certainly throws fans a curve-ball and will no doubt intrigue new listeners. As much as I liked , Muse’s body of work just got better with the release of this album. I feel like Muse is certainly going to have quite a turnout on Oct. 6 when they come to the Georgia Dome.