Muse’s Summer Olympics anthem, ”Survival,” summed up the British prog-rockers perfectly. Full of violent guitar shredding and theatrical pomp, it combined the band’s art-school proclivities with so much epic ”Bohemian Rhapsody” bombast it could make a Bulgarian shot-putter cry.
When Muse first broke nearly a decade ago, they were a lean, streamlined goth-glam act. Today, frontman Matt Bellamy has multiple gold records, a movie-star baby mama (Kate Hudson), and enough sonic pyro to power a closing ceremony. The more-is-more problems of ”Survival” keep compounding themselves on the band’s sixth album, which often adds a symphony when a simple drum break would do. Bellamy has claimed that The 2nd Law is indebted to EDM, though only the excellent ”Madness” really harnesses dubstep’s punishing pulse. Otherwise, there are an awful lot of strings-and-timpani Queen-isms, including the opener, ”Supremacy,” which Bellamy sings like he’s bellowing about the power of the music of the night. Law does make some concessions to the lighter-wavers in the upper deck who just wanna rock: See the bass-slapping ”Panic Station” and U2-worthy end-of-days anthem ”Big Freeze.” Leave the rock operas to other Olympians; like elite sprinters, Muse are best when they’re surging straight ahead. C+