Album Review: Muse - Origin of Symmetry (XX Anniversary RemiXX)

Muse’s career-defining Origin of Symmetry is one of the few albums that I consider to be a modern masterpiece. Their second outing took their musical status to new heights in regard to scope, quality, creativity and ambition. After investing many hours into this album over the course of 14 years, I still find it astonishing how effortlessly Muse branched out to a vast amount of contrasting genres where they were able to completely reinvent themselves musically. 

When I heard that there would be a remixed and remastered version of Origin of Symmetry to mark its twenty year anniversary, I was extremely sceptical and slightly excited to see how much the band could further improve this remarkable and truly bonkers record. Frontman Matt Bellamy stated that this revamp would bring out instruments that were originally buried within the mix as it was noticeable that the original version sounded “crushed”.

So did the new remixes for Origin of Symmetry contribute anything significant to the original version? The short answer is yes and no. 

Opening number New Born really shows the massive breakthrough that Muse had made as songwriters as they were able to blend piano based music together with alternative rock. It opens with a minimalistic and complex piano riff which eventually leads to it exploding into a pulverising rock frenzy consisting of a screaming whammy guitar solo. As with most of the remixes, the drums have been made to sound a lot cleaner and sharper. However with New Born, it felt like the drums buried the rest of the instruments in the verses. This could have been improved more if the instruments were balanced accordingly.

Origin of Symmetry finally saw the beginning of Muse’s classical influences seep through their compositions. This can be clearly heard on Space Dementia, with its melody based on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
– Mark Wong

Origin of Symmetry finally saw the beginning of Muse’s classical influences seep through their compositions. This can be clearly heard on Space Dementia. The main melody was based on the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18  in C Minor. The incorporation of complex techniques such as sweeping arpeggios proves that Muse’s fearless approach produced spectacular results. The strings have been emphasised more on this track and on other numbers such as the cover of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s Feelin’ Good. It adds much more of a theatrical quality to both tracks.

Hyper Music really shows off the ballistic and heavy side of Muse. The song revolves around a bitter and disbanded relationship You know that I don’t want you and I never did/I don’t want you and I never will” which is perfectly complemented by the aggressive atmosphere and Bellamy’s hostile delivery.

Plug In Baby was inspired by yet another iconic classical composition; Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It still remains as one of Muse’s finest moments in their entire back catalogue with Bellamy’s legendary fuzzy guitar riff. Noticeably, Wolstenholme’s pulsing and melodic bass line has been placed higher in the mix making it more of a prominent aspect. 

Seven minute prog-rock epic Citizen Erased deals with Orwellian themes in regard to the corruption of political establishments “And to lie, cover up/What shouldn’t be shared/And the truth’s unwinding/Scraping away at my mind”. From a production standpoint, it is without doubt the most intricately crafted song on the album as it consists of very contrasting sections. The track starts out like an overblown metal track with high pitched beeping harmonics but gradually ends with a calming piano outro. Initially, the ending segment was dominated with a phasing effect however this was removed due to the band’s decision to prioritise the wonderful string and piano sections. 

Micro Cuts displays the insane vocal range of Matt Bellamy in which he mainly sings within a falsetto register throughout. A harpsichord has now been made the centrepiece of the remixed version which gives it a completely different identity. Its reimagined sound could easily make you think that this came from the Baroque period of classical music. One feature they could have kept was the interesting stereo imaging where the final massive guitar riff panned non-stop from one speaker to the other.

Overall, the changes that were made to reimagine Muse’s iconic album were fairly significant and added a lot of improvements. However, even with these differences I still feel a lot of elements I loved on the original Origin of Symmetry were sacrificed.
– Mark Wong

Japanese B-side Futurism is the song that was finally added to the tracklist of the latest version of Origin of Symmetry in between Feelin’ Good and Megalomania. Despite previously having been undeservedly omitted, it ties in with the rest of the album extremely well with its dark undertones and spacy soundscapes. It showcases bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s perplexing basslines. The chorus is where the changes are the most noticeable. The enhanced clarity gives this section more of an attack quality to it.

Overall, the changes that were made to rework and reimagine Muse’s iconic album were fairly significant. It did add a lot of improvements, allowing for instruments to be emphasised more within the new mixes. However, even with these differences I still feel a lot of elements I loved on the original version of Origin of Symmetry were sacrificed.

This was a great way for the band to mark their 20th anniversary as it was such a futuristic sounding and innovative album for its time. In spite of preferring the original version, this latest release still made me extremely nostalgic in terms of what it was like to listen to Origin of Symmetry and enter into the dark realms of Muse’s paranoid psyche for the first time.