On De-loused in the Comatorium, the Mars Volta approach rock & roll like it's an ascetic discipline, a calling that comes with lyric sheets as dense and impenetrable as the Kabbalah and a ritual of worship that's dervish-like in its intensity. Formed by vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez after the split of their former band--Texan hardcore legends At the Drive-In, who splintered acrimoniously in 2001--the Volta are an unashamedly progressive outfit, dealing in grandiose arrangements that come on like Led Zeppelin fired through Saturn's rings. You can still hear many of ATDI's hallmarks inside the spasmodic dynamics of "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" and "Eriatarka"--it's just now they're immeasurably more complex, governed by time signatures responsible only to some alien logic, and cast out on ever more remote waves of mind-bending conceptual fantasy. Bixler's serrated howl has mellowed somewhat, veering here from tender croon to shrill falsetto. And interestingly, Flea guests here, although you wouldn't know it: his brooding basslines bear nothing of the slap-happy funk he displays in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But ironically, the most startling contribution comes from the band's late sound manipulator Jeremy Ward, who passed away after a heroin overdose on the eve of this album's release. His dubby ambient fills unfurl in the valleys between each jagged instrumental peak, lending a truly otherworldly feel to proceedings. A morbid legacy, but thankfully, far from this album's only selling point: De-loused in the Comatorium is the rare prog-rock landmark that prizes punk passion over meandering pretension. -- Louis Pattison
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Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing
Chet Fakir | San Francisco | 04/07/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"That these guys have talent is undeniable, unfortunately they have nothing to say that engages me in the slightest. Lets start at the most salient characteristic of The Mars Volta. Admittedly singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala's voice is an aquired taste, being in the Geddy Lee range and his over-the-top histrionics can get on my nerves. But I could forgive him his high pitched warbling if the lyrics weren't so uniformly awful. Not that I dislike stream of consciousness vocals: Jon Anderson of Yes could pull off his "the mountain!, the king!, Siberian meat pie!" free association because I found what he was doing melodically interesting and emotionally engaging. Not so with Cedric. His lyrics are quite a bit darker and even more ridiculous because he makes the pretense that his lyrics have deeper meaning. Hmmm. Maybe, but I can't get past the "tapeworms as pets" sort of unpleasant imagery. Nope, just don't like it. if you're going to invest so much "emotion" or emotional signifiers in your music you damn well better have something to say. And damned if I know what Ced's on about half the time and from a purely musical standpoint the melodies aren't that engaging.
Now as I said before these guys can play and all and its obvious these guys are talented musicians, but the songs make little sense from a compositional standpoint. At one moment they're playing grooving Santana like rhythms, the next drifting into space territory, then some bombastic guitar takes over, lather, rinse, repeat. Its a hard thing to describe. I don't mind musical eclecticism all all, but the songs often sound like random and unrelated parts tacked together rather than logical long-form compositions. Even worse, the songs don't grab me and entice me to come along on a musical journey. For example with Slayer (or prog band of choice) I'm a surfer and Slayer is the wave taking me on an exhilarating ride. We're working together. De-Loused more often sounds like some jerk trying to hit me with a baseball bat and I'm dodging the blows... that's more annoying than entertaining and prevents me from getting inside this music. Its not all bad, but just like some people love the taste of stinky tofu, most others can't stand the stuff. I find this stuff not to my taste."