Album released this week in… 2003: Muse – Absolution
WHEN one thinks of the famous Teignmouth band that are Muse one of the first things that springs to mind is there dark, elaborate and often apocalyptic commentary. Their 2009 album The Resistance drew strongly from the idea civil war and rebellion, with 2012’s disappointing The 2nd Law expanding on this. However, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for 2003’s Absolution. The album sits in an odd spot in the history of Muse; it was released after fan favourite Origin of Symmetry but before Black Holes and Revelations, the album that would push them to new levels of fame. As a result, Absolution could be considered as a point of transition for the band.
Of course, it would be unfair to just pass over the album as a ‘transitional period’; Absolution is also an exceedingly important part of the Muse back catalogue. Due to disagreements with their label, Origin of Symmetry was given a delayed release in America. It was Absolution therefore that cemented a fan base across the pond. The album’s sound is also important to note. Unlike Black Holes and Revelations, Absolution continued Muse’s more thrash rock agenda, notably on ‘Time is Running Out’ and the classic ‘Hysteria’. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum however, we have the soft orchestral work, which intertwines beautifully with the instrumentation of Howard, Wolstenholme and Bellamy. This would go on to be a major influence on their future albums, especially ‘The Exogenesis Symphony’ on The Resistance, although nothing could really top the exquisite ‘Blackout’.
Many Muse fans stand beside Absolution and Origin of Symmetry as the best of Muse’s releases, before the band blew up. Indeed, there isn’t much on this album that feels as radio friendly as say, ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ or ‘Starlight’. That’s not to say that this album doesn’t have some corkers of tracks on there. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘The Small Print’ are incredibly fierce and driving, while ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ and ‘Endlessly’ show a calmer and slightly more reserved side of the band. Slightly bloated at 14 tracks long, listening to the album takes you through ups and downs of its music, leaving you slightly dizzy at the end.
Absolution represents a band on the brink of success. It stays within the sound they developed over a relatively short career, yet tentatively branches out to new grounds. Matt Bellamy’s apocalyptic lyrics would expand over time to new depths, as the music would become wilder and wilder, until the band even moved into dubstep in 2012. Storm Thorgerson’s intimidating artwork (one of his best in my opinion) seems to show something approaching Earth. It’s almost like a metaphor for the band’s music. Absolution was leading to something new; but what?
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