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Muse scores twice with box set

Christian Sagardia | Monday, March 31, 2008

Matthew Bellamy’s interest in global conspiracies has been a long-standing theme in Muse’s songs, and it continues to show in the title of their latest album, H.A.A.R.P. The name comes from the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. The band’s own version of this project is a two-disc album of its live performance at Wembley Stadium on June 16 and 17, 2007. The third compilation and seventh album from Muse is one that doesn’t cease to deliver.

The first disc is a mix of live tracks recorded from the first of two concerts at Wembley by Muse, ranging from its first album, “Showbiz,” to its most current, “Black Holes and Revelations.” The band’s members have found a good mix of the old stuff and the new stuff for all their fans. The set kicks off with a classical intro track and leads straight into the energy-infused Knights of Cydonia, complete with trumpets courtesy of Dan “the trumpet man” Newell.

The energy continues into “Hysteria,” “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Map of the Problematique” (a favorite track of this reviewer), and slows down for “Invincible,” providing a break in the action for the listeners to catch their breath. The album picks back up where it left off with “Time Is Running Out” and continues strong into the last track, “Take A Bow,” the intro track from “Black Holes and Revelations.” The first disc is a solid mix of well-known tracks in a live setting, and is sure to be well received by Muse fans everywhere.

The second disc is where H.A.A.R.P. shines and makes it worth buying. It is a DVD of the band’s second concert in Wembley Stadium on June 17; a day after the audio-only first CD was recorded. For those who have not seen Muse live in concert, the DVD comes very close to recreating the energy and brilliant madness that is Muse.

Matthew Bellamy’s vocals resonate through the entire stadium as he hypnotizes the masses with his crooning. The impromptu guitar solos and extended intros throughout are delightful additions, especially in the song “New Born,” going from a quiet piano introduction to a riff-loaded, distortion-filled guitar solo courtesy of Bellamy. His artistic talents really shine in this one as we see him go from guitar to piano back to guitar deftly and smoothly, never providing for a break in the energy or momentum.

“Soldier’s Poem,” “Unintended,” and “Blackout” provide for a slow moment in the show, with Bellamy taking center stage on the acoustic guitar during “Unintended,” a rarely-played single from the band’s first album, “Showbiz.”

The camerawork is excellently done, featuring shots of the band and crowd, along with aerial clips of the stadium and stage at night, which is quite a sight to see. Fast zooms and angles of Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme (bass), and Dominic Howard (drums) add to the energy of the more intense songs. In the end, it’s the wild riffs and beautiful lyrics that leave the audience stunned in awe. This is Muse at its best, putting on an amazing performance while producing such a wide range of emotions in its listeners.