20 Years On: Muse – Origin of Symmetry

For many, Muse are musical saviours, providing an endless flourish of inspiration. Their faithful followers observe the band as one of rock’s very best, with 2001’s seminal album, Origin of Symmetry, sitting pride of place.

Fresher than a wide-eyed university fresher at a fresher’s fayre, Muse welcomed the globe with their second – and more commercially successful – studio album. Critically acclaimed at the time and, with the passing of two decades, heralded as one of the greatest rock albums of the 21st century, Origin of Symmetry sounded so vastly different to Muse’s contemporaries of distortion and overdrive. the Teignmouth trio did things their way, and did so with aplomb.

First track, New Born, comprises an opening bass line and keys phrase so simple yet irrefutably insidious, it evokes the feeling of a stranger walking behind you in a pitch-black night – unnerving and exciting in equal measure. The guitar riff and big drums then resolve and engulf the intro with such gusto, the hairs on the back of your neck will not only stand up, they’ll fall out! Never relenting, New Born thrashes on until the end, producing a six-minute marvel.

Bliss, is indeed a blissful listen – the synth tones and pining lyrics beautifully guide the song in a sensual manner. The heavy guitar riffing – one might think – could detract from the emotion of the number, but it simply adds to the power. Bellamy’s siren-like voice completes the piece. Follow-up track, Space Dementia, is another belter. Operatic in essence, and showcasing Bellamy’s virtuoso skills as a pianistic, and architect of imaginative Prog and Space Rock.

Hyper Music starts with a scratchy and frantic, Tom Morello-esque guitar display. The evidence of Morello’s inspiration is further presented in a chorus comprising a high-pitched riff, before settling into a hard rock, early 90s renaissance. The instrument of note on this track, however, is the bass; propelling this number with its helter-skelter timbre. Despite just over three minutes in length, Hyper Music packs a lot! A song worthy of recognition.

As the first single release of the album, Plug in Baby would have been many people’s introduction to the band – the lucky devils! The sinewy opening riff goes down as one of the greats. Imitated by an army of aspiring guitar-playing adolescents, the track is instantly recognisable, and unabashedly Muse. The desperation in Bellamy’s trembling tenor is felt with such authenticity, even the Muse sceptics could appreciate its appeal.

Standing at more than seven minutes in length, Citizen Erased is perhaps the pinnacle of the album. The main riff is as raw as it is catchy. The track very much feels like a cutting-of-teeth for Muse – parts of the track bear semblance to later hits Hysteria and Stockholm Syndrome.

Micro Cuts is, unfortunately, a bore fest. The continued high-pitched vocals plague the track – the number is irritating at best, and painful at worst. The only saving grace – if you can even call it that – is the full throttle riffing that closes the track. If the end of the track was the focal point of the song, Micro Cuts might have amounted to something.

Experimentation is the name of the game in Screenager. Feeling strangely placed, it’s Eastern influence is perhaps a step too far for the album. Although its inclusion isn’t enough to derail the album, it is enough to confuse.

Heading towards the end of the album, Darkshines is a strong enough effort; however, by this point, it feels as if the song has made an appearance already. It’s certainly skippable, yet the sincerity and bite of the chorus carries it along; plus, there is a shrieking, reverberated guitar that is interesting enough to satisfy the air guitarist within.   

Feeling Good is a solid cover, treated by Muse in a very different yet palatable way. Dare it be said, the quality of this number supersedes the original? It could be argued that the collective talent of Muse is enough to cover any song convincingly, and this is more than the case with Nina Simone’s hit. It’s not just a cover, it’s now a Muse song. It’s a tragedy the album did not cease there, but a nine-track album is too bold a move for a second album; someone should have culled Megalomaniac, and Futurism offers no more than a forgettable nothingness.

Despite the two final tracks, Origin of Symmetry is musical enlightenment for the aesthete. The band would go on to expand on the style of the album for many years to come; always remaining relevant and never stepping backwards. The album plays as strong now as it did then.


Skip to: New Born (don’t bother skipping, as it’s the first track)

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