Absolution (album)

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A man standing on a sidewalk with many people's shadows flying over him in the background
Standard CD cover art; designed by Storm Thorgerson
Studio album by
Released15 September 2003 (2003-09-15)
RecordedSeptember 2002 – June 2003
Muse chronology
Hullabaloo Soundtrack
Black Holes and Revelations
Singles from Absolution
  1. "Stockholm Syndrome"
    Released: 14 July 2003
  2. "Time Is Running Out"
    Released: 8 September 2003
  3. "Hysteria"
    Released: 1 December 2003
  4. "Sing for Absolution"
    Released: 17 May 2004
  5. "Apocalypse Please"
    Released: 23 August 2004
  6. "Butterflies and Hurricanes"
    Released: 20 September 2004

Absolution is the third studio album by English rock band Muse. It was released on 15 September 2003 in Japan, 22 September 2003 in the United Kingdom by East West Records and Taste Media and 30 September 2003 in the United States by Warner Bros. Records. The album followed up on Origin of Symmetry's diverse musical tendencies and elaborate sound, while also having a more focused and consistent theme and aesthetic throughout. Absolution has a noticeably darker and heavier tone musically, with a lyrical focus on theological and apocalyptic concepts.

The album reached number one on the UK Albums Chart. It also yielded the band's first top-ten single, with "Time Is Running Out" peaking at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2009, it was voted by Kerrang! as the second-best album of the 21st century thus far.[1]

Writing and composition[edit]

The band spent much of 2002 recording Absolution with producer Rich Costey.[2] The album was recorded in studios in both Los Angeles and London.[2] Bellamy said that the band made a "conscious decision" to "get together in a room and make music", setting aside time to record the album, as previous albums' recording sessions were 'hastily arranged' and rushed.[2]

Absolution is an alternative rock, progressive rock,[3] hard rock,[4] and art rock[4] album. It establishes some of the musical and lyrical themes which would later become Muse's trademarks, such as symphonic rock influences on "Butterflies and Hurricanes", orchestral music influences on "Blackout" and electronic music influences on "Endlessly". Lyrically, the album incorporates themes of fear, mistrust, personal achievement and joy, and a general theme of "things coming to an end".[2] Bellamy said that the beginning of the Iraq War had an effect on their songwriting.[2] These musical influences and lyrical themes were relatively new to Muse's sound and would be further explored on their following albums, in particular their fifth studio album The Resistance.

The B-side and bonus track "Fury" and future Black Holes and Revelations track "Soldier's Poem"[5] were among discarded material written during the Absolution sessions, with "Fury" being dropped in favour of "The Small Print" due to Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard's preference to the latter song, despite frontman Matt Bellamy intending to include the former on the album's track listing.[6]

The track "Blackout" featured an 18-piece orchestra.[7]

Title and artwork[edit]

In April 2004, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy stated "I think that absolution is not necessarily a religious word; it has meanings of purity, but it's not necessarily talking from a Christian or any particular religious point of view. I think it's just suggesting that the act of making music is a way of understanding things."[8]

Absolution was one of two Muse albums (alongside Black Holes and Revelations) to feature artwork by Storm Thorgerson. The ambiguous falling/floating image was inspired by the René Magritte painting Golconda. According to Dominic Howard, "The artwork can either be seen as people coming down to Earth or leaving the Earth, it's open to interpretation". The special edition and vinyl pressing artworks slightly differ. The special edition features a different man in a different angle, while the vinyl pressing features a little girl, instead.

Release and promotion[edit]

Absolution was released on 23 September 2003 on CD and double vinyl.[9] It was their first album released on the A&E Records label.[9] There were six singles, of which the first, "Stockholm Syndrome", was download only.[9] Because of contractual obligations, the band could not allow the song to be downloaded for free, so the fee was set at $0.99 and it was downloaded more than 20,000 times.[2]

There was also a limited edition release of Absolution that featured a bonus DVD. This DVD contained 40 minutes of 'The making of Absolution' footage, as well as pictures of the band.

The album and each of the singles except "Stockholm Syndrome" were distributed as promotional CDs housed in Anti-Static Bags.

The song "Blackout" features in the 2006 film, Southland Tales and its soundtrack, Southland Tales: Music from the Motion Picture.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[4]
Alternative Press5/5[11]
Blender3/5 stars[12]
Drowned in Sound10/10[13]
The Guardian4/5 stars[14]
Q4/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[17]
The Scotsman4/5 stars[18]
Uncut3/5 stars[19]

Absolution was met with positive reviews from critics, holding an average critic score of 72 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 16 reviews.[10] Alternative Press wrote that the album's "chaotic choruses feel like the triumphant culmination of some earth-shattering undertaking",[11] while Andrew Future of Drowned in Sound called it "a truly elemental opus".[13] Tyler Fisher of Sputnikmusic hailed Absolution as Muse's most consistent album to date and felt that the album had perfected the sound of the band's previous releases, writing that it "expands on newer sounds and improves on others."[20] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian wrote: "Muse sound like a band who are at the top of their game. Their confidence carries you through the album's excesses."[14] Rob Kemp of Rolling Stone was less enthusiastic, drawing Radiohead comparisons but concluding that Matt Bellamy "doesn't bring as much ingenuity to his singing."[17]

In 2005, Absolution was ranked number 345 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[21] The album was placed in at No. 23 after a public vote for Q in February 2008 for the Best British Albums of All Time.[22]


Absolution was Muse's first album to chart in the US, and is credited with establishing the band a fan base in the country.[2] It was technically the second Muse album to be released in the US, due to a creative dispute Muse had with Maverick Records, which prevented the release of Origin of Symmetry stateside. Absolution reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and No. 107 on the Billboard 200.[23] Absolution was certified gold by the RIAA in March 2007, becoming the group's first album to be certified in the US.[24] The album also featured the band's first American hits – "Time Is Running Out" and "Hysteria", the former becoming their first UK Top 10 single and eventually went Gold in the US.[25]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Matthew Bellamy; all music is composed by Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme.

Absolution – Standard edition
2."Apocalypse Please"4:12
3."Time Is Running Out"3:56
4."Sing for Absolution"4:54
5."Stockholm Syndrome"4:58
6."Falling Away with You"4:40
10."Butterflies and Hurricanes"5:01
11."The Small Print"3:28
13."Thoughts of a Dying Atheist"3:11
14."Ruled by Secrecy"4:54
Total length:52:19
Absolution – Digital edition
Total length:57:21
Absolution – Japanese edition
14."Thoughts of a Dying Atheist"3:11
15."Ruled by Secrecy"4:54
Total length:57:21
Absolution – UK Limited edition (DVD)
1."The Making of Absolution" (Documentary)34:20
Absolution – Australian Live CD (Disc 2)
1."Stockholm Syndrome" (Live)7:14
2."New Born" (Live)6:11
3."Muscle Museum" (Live)4:18
4."Hysteria" (Live)4:14
5."Bliss" (Live)4:01
6."Time Is Running Out" (Live)4:06
Total length:30:04
  • Very early initial copies of the CD featured inlay errors, where the songs "Interlude" and "Hysteria" switched places on the track listing.
  • The bonus disc included with the Australian tour edition is entirely composed of live versions, recorded at The Big Day Out in Sydney, 23 January 2004 for Australian radio station Triple J and broadcast as part of the radio show "Live at the Wireless".





Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[53] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[54] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[55] Gold 50,000^
Italy (FIMI)[56]
sales in between 2003-2004
Gold 50,000*
Italy (FIMI)[57]
sales since 2009
Gold 25,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[58] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[59] Gold 7,500^
Russia (NFPF)[60] Gold 10,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[61] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[63] 3× Platinum 948,685[62]
United States (RIAA)[64] Platinum 1,000,000^
Europe (IFPI)[65] Platinum 1,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Additional recording at Cello in Hollywood, Livingston in London, and Sawmills in Fowey.


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External links[edit]