This week we take a test drive of “Origin of Symmetry”. Muse’s sophomore album was released in their native land of England in July of 2001, but it was only available as an import in the United States for nearly a decade, not seeing proper distribution until 2009. The album garnered the band much critical praise, and helped them grow their following considerably, despite the lack of access here in the states.
Muse’s distinct style, which takes on its true form on this album, is a unique blend of influences. From Rachmaninoff to Rage Against The Machine. But instead of Zach de la Rocha’s scorching raps, we get a dark symphonic sound, with painfully screeched lyrics courtesy of Matt Bellamy. Matt is the front man, pianist, guitarist, and chief songwriter. He is more influenced by Thom Yorke and Freddie Mercury, than Chuck D. and Bob Marley however and his style is sharpened on this record with brooding and building vocal runs that pair perfectly with the rest of the trio. Chris Wolstenholme thumps the bass, and Dominic Howard pounds the drums, providing a powerhouse rhythm section for Bellamy’s dark and deranged, baroque-musical-madness.
“Origin Of Symmetry” takes its name from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and stands as a musical metaphor for the evolution for the human condition, running headlong into, and sometimes through sonic walls. The album starts innocently enough with a childlike twinkle on the opening track “New Born”, but it quickly gives way to a punishing assault of heavy rock. And Muse hardly lets up to let you breath, except for a few tracks, but even those are stifled and short gasps of air. One of those brief inhales is a stark cover of an originally wrought and dramatic Nina Simone song, “Feeling Good”, which leaves the listener feeling anything but.
Despite all of the numerous Radiohead comparisons early in their career, “Origin of Symmetry” started the distancing and Muse never looked back. And Radiohead never rocked this hard, and they never would. Muse had created a monster that they have since maintained and upgraded, becoming one of the biggest and baddest bands in the world. They found a niche and found their voice and they took it from there with equally heavy follow ups. This album stands out as a turning point for the band and for their legions of fans. You could be one of them. If ambient yet abusive rock with strained and dark lyrics are your thing . . . then Muse is right for yous. But a mix tape of Queen, Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine and Rachmaninoff has about the same results. I give the “Origin Of Symmetry” 3 out of 5 stars. Add this to your collection at your own discretion.
But, if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. Muse’s music translates to a huge concert incredibly well. Stadiums shake and tremble under the power of their sound, and the rhythm of the fans.