Muse – ‘The Resistance’ (2009)

The Resistance marked a radical change in direction for Devon-based alternative rock band Muse. Their fifth album, it is also their most focused and coherent material, although with 2015’s “Drones” having a defined concept, it perhaps now takes second place in that respect (with 2012’s “The 2nd Law” being laughable in comparison). The main themes of The Resistance further verified frontman Matt Bellamy’s fascination with political conspiracies, government uproars, space and religion.

Musically, there is a heavy focus on piano with occasional external orchestration brought in to offer a deeper layer to particular cuts. The lead single and opener “Uprising” is undeniably a protest song that can’t help but encourage listeners to sing along with Bellamy and his emphatic chants. Chris Wolstenholme’s bass line drives the track, coupled with Dom Howard’s thumping drums. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Muse single without some arpeggiated synth, in this respect resembling the Doctor Who theme, which is a popular sentiment among audiences.

There are strong influences scattered throughout the record in which Bellamy channels through his vocal performances and weaves into the instrumentation. The most notable influence is without a doubt Queen, which is also not exclusive to this entry in Muse’s discography. “United States of Eurasia” begins with delicate piano, swiftly joined by violin and Bellamy’s soft “hmm’s”, eventually exploding into a outcry reminiscent of Bohemian Rhapsody-era Freddie Mercury. A symphonic flurry of Arabian-inspired melodies then presents itself, along with the return of Howard’s skin thumps, culminating in a demonic Bellamy chanting “Eurasia” before closing out with a rendition of classical pianist Chopin.

Unfortunately, there are times where Muse’s excessive grandeur goes amiss. “Guiding Light” is over-produced and over-polished with its glistening synths that plague the entire track. There are ultimately too many moving parts that grants it as the low-point within the album. Bellamy’s accomplished, riff-based sound is not completely absent, as demonstrated in tracks “Unnatural Selection” and “MK Ultra” that are formed principally around dominant, down-tuned riffs. The bridge in the former track shows a down-tempo, bluesy side to the band as Bellamy’s intimate guitar soloing piggybacks Wolstenholme’s sustained and subdued bass line.

We then reach the three-part “Exogenesis” symphony that showcases the band’s ability to compose a piece with multiple movements. “Pt. 1 (Overture)” is spectacular, opening with a perfectly synchronised orchestra and arpeggiated horns, Bellamy soon enters with his slow, haunting groans and falsetto vocals, culminating in a spine-chilling guitar solo. “Pt. 3 (Redemption)” is a beautiful amalgamation of classical instrumentation, lined with Bellamy softly pleading to “start over again”. Exogenesis is the point when The Resistance can be fully appreciated for its ambitious scope and musical experimentation. As time has told, Muse have made both better and worse albums but effectively, the direction the band took with this album was unsurprising for a band four albums into their career and willing to explore new avenues.

Favourite track: Exogenesis: Symphony Pt. 1 (Overture) // Least favourite track: Undisclosed Desires

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