Muse – Origin of Symmetry (2001)


Shane Greenler, Photography


I’ll come out and say it now. Along with Absolution from 2003, Origin of Symmetry is my personal favorite album within the entirety of Muse’s discography. That fact alone makes it an incredibly hard album for me to give an honest and objective review. But, I’ll try my best.


Muse’s debut album Showbiz from 1999 is often criticized for practically wearing it’s Radiohead influence on its sleeves. Origin of Symmetry is honestly where Muse really starts to come into their own stylistically. 


Taking into account the heavy and iconic riffs, the nearly avant-garde lyricism, the nearly deafening basslines, Origin of Symmetry contains a raw darkness and intensity that is utterly unmatched, even 19 years later. 


As opposed to its predecessor which also suffered from a pretty severe lack of focus, Origin of Symmetry is incredibly ambitious and unique, especially for a second album. We see Muse blending elements from progressive and space rock, and evening leaning towards bits of punk and baroque. Muse pulled absolutely all the stops here.


Matt Bellamy’s vocals are simply iconic. Although his singing, especially in falsetto, is incredibly impressive, his quirks and mannerisms and some of the lyrical choices on this LP are admittedly quite hard for new listeners to get accustomed to. But all of it manages to blend together very well to create a uniquely passionate and soulful album.


The cover art actually has a fairly interesting history behind it. The band commissioned 14 freelance artists to make a piece given the same title of Origin of Symmetry. Matt explains in a 2001 interview, “…even though each piece is in a radically different style, you get a sense of there being some form of continuity through different people’s perceptions of the same theme”.


Of the 14 artists and their many submissions, the final piece the band decided on, painted by William Eager, couldn’t have been more perfect. As well as being the band’s only hand painted album cover, the empty space filled with erect and towering structures work well to visualize the otherworldly feel of the album.


William actually went through nearly eight different designs. These included subjects like tall sentry stations, a mass of tangled landlines, and even crowbar shaped rods smashing through disembodied windows. He finally settled on the now iconic “football goalposts” shaped structures.

Early concept art for “The Origin of Symmetry” Credit to William Eager 2001


All of the tracks on this album are incredibly diverse. Starting with “New Born”, which opens with an almost ominous piano riff that bleeds into a booming hard rock epic. Tie that in with the awesomely complex piano on “Space Dementia”, and quite literally everything about “Plug in Baby”, and you can really see just how dominating the sound on the first half of the album really is.


All of that is contrasted with the entire second half, which consists of relatively much quieter, and slower paced tracks. “Screenager”, “Darkshines”, “Citizens Erased” all work well together to bring on a really desolate and eerie quietness. (Except for “Micro Cuts”, which I can assure you is quite loud). All ending on the beautifully apocalyptic “Megalomania”.


All of it blends together in a really dark and heavy experience. If you’re at all into hard rock or alternative, or have any interest in Muse’s other works, this is a must listen.


  • 90 / 100
  • Favorite Songs: “Plug In Baby”, “Citizens Erased”, “New Born”, “Hyper Music”, “Megalomania”