In the February 2006 edition of Q Magazine, Origin of Symmetry was placed 74th in a fans' poll of the 100 greatest albums ever.
In 2003, a new studio album, Absolution, was released. Produced by Rich Costey, who had previously produced Philip Glass and Fiona Apple, the album demonstrated a continuation of the experimentation displayed in Origin of Symmetry, while maintaining a sense of the band as a three-piece. The album yielded the hit singles "Time Is Running Out" and "Hysteria".
The album is built around the theme of the end of the world, and reactions to that situation; despite the apocalyptic theme, Muse described it as an "uplifting" album, with a positive message coming through in songs such as "Blackout" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes". The theme draws from Bellamy's interest in conspiracy theories, theology, science, and the supernatural. The song "Ruled By Secrecy", for example, takes its title from the Jim Marrs book Rule By Secrecy, which discusses the secrets behind the way major governments are run. Many lyrics on this album have political references, such as the music video for "Time Is Running Out", which takes place in an unspecified government office.
Chris Wolstenholme of Muse performing at the Mod Club Theatre, Toronto in 2004. The international Absolution tour included the band's first shows in North America since 1999.
Finally receiving mainstream critical acclaim in Britain, and with a new American record deal, Muse undertook their first international stadium tour. It continued for about a year and saw Muse visiting Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and France. Meanwhile, the band released five singles ("Time Is Running Out", "Hysteria", "Sing for Absolution", "Stockholm Syndrome", & "Butterflies and Hurricanes"). The US leg of the 2004 tour began ominously as Bellamy injured himself on stage during the opening show in Atlanta. The tour resumed after several stitches and a couple of days.
The band also played at the Glastonbury Festival in June 2004. After the festival, the band described the concert as "the best gig of our lives". However, drummer Dominic Howard's father, Bill Howard, who was at the festival to watch the band, died from a heart attack very shortly after the performance. "It was the biggest feeling of achievement we've ever had after coming offstage", Bellamy said. "It was almost surreal that an hour later his dad died. It was almost not believable. We spent about a week sort of just with Dom trying to support him. I think he was happy that at least his dad got to see him at probably what was the finest moment so far of the band's life".
Muse then continued their tour. Their last dates were in the U.S. and at the Earls Court arena in London, where they played an extra date due to the high demand for tickets. They won two MTV Europe awards, including "Best Alternative Act" and a Q Award for "Best Live Act". At the end of 2004, Vitamin Records released The String Quartet Tribute to Muse by The Tallywood Strings, an album of instrumental string versions of some of Muse's songs. Muse also received an award for "Best Live Act" at the 2005 BRIT Awards.
The band finished touring in January 2005, then visited the U.S. in April and May On 2 July 2005, Muse participated in the Live 8 concert in Paris, where they performed their singles "Plug In Baby", "Bliss", "Time Is Running Out", and "Hysteria".
An unofficial and unauthorised DVD biography containing no Muse music called Manic Depression was released in April 2005; the band was not involved with the project and did not endorse the release. Another DVD, this time official, was released by the band on 12 December 2005, called Absolution Tour. The official release contained re-edited and re-mastered highlights from the Glastonbury Festival 2004 and previously unseen footage from London Earls Court, Wembley Arena, and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. Two songs, "Endlessly" and "Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist", are hidden tracks on the DVD taken from Wembley Arena. The only song from Absolution not to appear on the live DVD is "Falling Away With You", which has never been performed live to date. Absolution eventually went Gold in the US.
Black Holes & Revelations and HAARP (2006–2008)
In July 2006, Muse released their fourth album, co-produced by Muse and by Rich Costey, titled Black Holes & Revelations. The album was released officially in Japan on 28 June 2006, in Europe on 3 July 2006 and, in North America on 11 July 2006. The album charted at No. 1 in the UK, much of Europe, and Australia. It was also a success in the United States, reaching No. 9 in the Billboard 200 album chart. Black Holes & Revelations was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize, but lost to Arctic Monkeys. The album did, however, earn a Platinum Europe Award after selling one million copies in the continent, The album's title and themes are the result of the band's fascination with science fiction and political outrage. In August 2006, Muse recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road.
The first single from the album, "Supermassive Black Hole", was released as a download on 9 May 2006 and accompanied by a music video directed by Floria Sigismondi. It was later followed by general releases as a single the next month, all ahead of the main album release. The second single, "Starlight", was released on 4 September 2006. "Knights of Cydonia" was released in the U.S. as a radio-only single on 13 June 2006 and in the UK on 27 November 2006. It also had a six-minute promotional video filmed in Romania and was featured on the popular video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. It was also voted number 1 in the world's largest music poll Australian Radio's Triple J Hottest 100 for 2007. The fourth single from the album, "Invincible", was then released on 9 April 2007. Another single, "Map of the Problematique", was released for digital download only on 18 June 2007, following the band's performance at Wembley Stadium. The track "Assassin" is featured on the video game Guitar Hero World Tour.
Muse playing "Starlight" at Reading and Leeds Festivals in 2006
Prior to the release of the new album, the band resumed making live performances, which had halted while recording, making a number of promotional TV appearances starting on 13 May 2006 at BBC Radio 1's One Big Weekend. The main live tour started just before the release of their album and initially consisted mostly of festival appearances, most notably a headline slot at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2006. The band's main touring itinerary started with a tour of North America from late July to early August 2006. After the last of the summer festivals, a tour of Europe began, including a large arena tour of the UK. The band spent November and much of December 2006 touring Europe with British band Noisettes as the supporting act. The tour continued in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia in early 2007 before returning to England for the summer. Possibly their biggest performances to date were two gigs at the newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium on 16 June and 17 2007. Both Wembley concerts were recorded for a DVD/CD titled HAARP, which was released on the 17 March 2008 in the UK and 1 April 2008 in the USA. The title refers to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, a scientific research program aimed at studying the properties and behaviour of the ionosphere.