Album review: The 2nd Law

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor  Ω

The sixth album from Britain’s epic-space-funk-rock trio Muse is, as fans expected, a mixture of styles all done to big, bombastic scale.

The 2nd Law, an apocalyptic reference to the second law of thermodynamics, stretches across genres, reaching operatic-stadium rock with “Survival” (the official song of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London) to techno-bluesy soft-funk “Madness” (the second single).

Many critics and fans were concerned this would see a much more electronic Muse relying on symphonic bluesy-funk, drifting from early work powered by guitar-driven tracks accompanied by dynamic vocals and energetic keys. While “Follow Me” does have some dubstep elements, “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” transitions deeper from symphony to dubstep.

The 2nd Law jumps off from Bond-esque “Supremacy” and banks into the aforementioned “Madness.” The listener then time-travels back to the 1980s with the white-boy funk of “Panic Station” and rises to the occasion through “Prelude.” The over-the-top pinnacle of “Survival” is a high point. From there it drops into the heartbeat-based driving electro-epic of “Follow Me,” takes fans back to Absolution-era Muse with “Animals,” moves into Black Holes and Revelations-era Muse with “Explores” and takes to some mid-1980s U2 with “Big Freeze.”

Matthew Bellamy takes a break from writing and vocals for a pair of songs, with Chris Wolstenholme contributing his first efforts on mike with the Shiny Toy Guns-esque “Save Me” and “Liquid State,” which is reminiscent of One by One-period Foo Fighters.

It finishes of with a duo of songs, “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,” the symphony-dubstep mash-up and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System,” an almost-instrumental with a techno beat and lots of strings, which builds quietly and melts slowly.

As with most Muse albums, there is a strong theme of authoritarian-questioning and conspiracy theories.

Bellamy sets the theme with the first verse, “Wake to see, your true emancipation is a fantasy,” and continues with the theme of individuals rising to think for themselves in the face of powerful interests. He also takes on the consumption-based culture centred around infinite resources and his usual questions about mass manipulation.

The 2nd Law is easily an album that may be too over-the-top and apocalyptic for many. Fans of epic music should be able to find something to their liking. While lyrical content can be a downer at times, it can also pump-up in a one-versus-the-world kind of way.