With its titanic guitar solos, symphonic suites, and multi-layered melodies, Muse's fifth album operates under the assumption that bigger is better. This is the very definition of a super-sized album, an album that takes its cues from Queen, its lyrics from science fiction novels, and its delivery from rock opera. It's also the first time that Muse has truly sounded like Muse, as few bands since Queen have so readily explored the intersection of bombast and extravagance. The Resistance is most certainly extravagant -- there are snatches of classical piano entwined throughout, not to mention bilingual lyrics, concert hall percussion, coronet solos, and song titles like "Exogenesis: Symphony, Pt. 2 (Cross-Pollination)" -- but it's also quite beautiful, capable of moving between prog rock choruses and excerpts from Chopin's "Nocturne in E Flat Major" within the same song. Presiding over the mix is frontman Matthew Bellamy, a man who seemingly aspires to be both Brian May and Freddie Mercury. He plays guitar, pounds the piano, and composes the album's orchestral parts, but his strongest asset is his voice, a sky-scraping tenor dripping with so much emotion that it's almost lewd. He croons, whispers, annunciates, and belts with confidence, a combination that makes him one of England's most dazzling singers in recent memory. And since a virtual mountain of voices is better than a single voice (remember: bigger is better), Bellamy also multi-tracks himself, creating towering stacks of harmonies during songs like "Resistance," "Undisclosed Desires," and the colossal "United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)."
The band's tendency to pile excess upon excess doesn't always yield strong results, and there's a fine line between, say, the anthemic beauty of "Guiding Light" and the bizarre Timbaland-meets-Depeche Mode ambiance of "Undisclosed Desires." Even so, The Resistance is by and large a fantastic record, culminating in a three-song suite that finds the group jumping from classical movements to guitar fretwork to sweeping, swaggering, operatic rock. Those songs occupy the final 16 minutes of the disc, and while they'd likely make a bigger impact earlier in the track list, their mere presence indicates that Muse is finally growing comfortable with its own aspirations. Black Holes and Revelations may be a more commercial record, but The Resistance is Muse's most realized effort to date. ~ Andrew Leahey