The Resistance - Muse

In 2006 as Muse were preparing their fourth album Black Holes & Revelations, Matt Bellamy hinted that the songs recorded in an isolated French chateau were just “too mental - even for us”. This was coming from a band that would go on to release a record influenced by everything from conspiracy theories to personal feelings to the oil crisis, dominated by calls to ‘shoot our leaders down’, set to a backdrop of sweeping strings, heavy guitar riffs and enough layers of synths and vocals to build a ladder to Cydonia itself. Either they’ve used these songs deemed ‘too mental’ on 5th album The Resistance, or, even more terrifyingly, there’s still a whole extra level of Muse still threatening to emerge.

A mere ten years after the release of their debut Showbiz, Muse are probably the biggest band in the world, and boy do they sound it. Here they’ve crafted songs which build and swell, before suddenly changing direction with little to no warning; symphonic rock soundscapes piled upon frenetic, hard-edged rhythms as though it’s the natural thing to do. Opening with the stomping glam-rock protest of Uprising, it leads through a further seven songs of such range and variance that would have been impossible to even imagine them pulling off a decade ago. The sultry, string-laden RnB of Undisclosed Desires pushes out even further than the disco beats of Supermassive Black Hole, while Resistance opens with an epic euro-trance intro before building up into a progressive rock love anthem, complete with raised fist. With certain lyrics containing so much fear and dread, conspiracy and regret, it’s all remarkably upbeat and an absolute joy to listen to. The histrionics and bizarre Eastern melodies on stand-out track United States of Eurasia manage to sit astride incredibly dark Orwellian imagery before fading beautifully into a rendition of Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major. And yet it works. The same mixture works magnificently too on the hard-hitting, heavier Unnatural Selection and the epic strains of MK Ultra; it shouldn’t, but it just does.

But it’s the 3-part 13 minute Exogenesis Symphony which concludes the album that really takes them off in a new direction. Having dabbled with orchestras in the past to dramatic effect (Butterflies & Hurricanes, Hoodoo), Bellamy has gone all out on The Resistance. Many songs here utilise it as a backdrop or in smaller parts (see: the ludicrous pomposity of the excellent I Belong to You), but with Exogenesis it makes the actual body of the track. It would sound beautiful without the distraction of a rock band, but together they do indeed make a pure modern masterpiece. After soaring effortlessly through the string sections and the orchestral swells, the track builds into a huge space-rock climax, combining classical music with heavy rock in ways few people have succeeded. Its different movements actually sound like its subject matter (humanity destroys the Earth so they have to re-start on a distant planet), propelling you through the atmosphere to escape an album filled with so much darkness and destruction, ready to set up a colony elsewhere in your psyche. In finally achieving his dream with the Symphony, Matt Bellamy could well join the ranks of great composers with whom he has always been so obsessed.

So not only is this album damn-near-perfect musically, but it’s also completely and utterly insane. You can just imagine Bellamy in the recording studio at times, roaring with delight, screaming “more cowbell!” and trying to physically insert a kitchen sink into the mixing deck. Alas this could well be the album that sees Muse split their fan base once and for all. Why this should prove to be the case is sheer idiocy; the more outrageous and camp Queen became, the more they were adulated and adored, and the same should be said for Muse here. The Resistance is incredibly audacious, bombastically camp and yet undeniably brilliant.
Posted on October 13th, 2009 at 11:38am

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