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The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.19 | 1138 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'De-loused in the Comatorium' is THE MARS VOLTA'S first album. Parts of it are satisfying and sublime beyond belief, others are obscure and frustrating. Nobody claimes to enjoy every moment. But this album is every bit as much a marker of progressive rock as 'In The Court of the Crimson King' or any other iconic album you care to name. You cannot consider compiling a progressive rock collection without making this album one of your choices.

What is it like? THE MARS VOLTA have a sound all of their own. We are told a good review compares the band under discussion with other artists, but no comparison will give the neophyte an adequate idea of what they might experience when listening to this. So let me try to tell you what to expect.

The music is frenetic, polyrythmic and complex. The first impression the album makes on the new listener is a wall of noise, which distils into heavy rock, post-punk, latin and jazz rhythms, underscored by CEDRIC BIXLER-ZAVALA'S high-pitched vocals. Staccato machine-gun rhythms explode then cease, to be replaced by periods of lyrical beauty. Moments of spine-tingling brilliance are revealed. On repeated listens the songs assume their personalities, and the rationale for what at first sounded odd gradually becomes clear. Finally, the listener can examine the overarching concept that brings cohesiveness to the album.

So, clearly, this is an album that must be listened to a number of times. Some albums are front-loaded: their musical message is transparent and easily accessible. GAZPACHO'S 'Night' is one such. These albums have their place. This is at the other end of the spectrum. Once you've spent your money and had a listen - and suffered the almost inevitable confusion and disappointment - please persevere.

There are sublime moments here ranking equal with the very highest in popular music history. The enigmatic opener 'Son et Lumiere' builds nicely, clearly serving as an introduction to an important track (only important tracks get their own introduction) , the rapid-fire drumbursts signaling the transition to the magnificent, deeply emotional 'Inertiatic ESP'. There's more progressiveness in this first five minutes than in the whole careers of many formulaic progressive artists (some of the second-tier British, Italian and Scandinavian artists come to mind). 'Inertiatic ESP' is the album's first single, a fearsome tidal wave of noise - 'Now I'm lost,' BIXLER-ZAVALA sings, four lines of subtle variation - with THE MARS VOLTA, nothing's ever done the same way twice. Here we are introduced to the triple assault of this band: the vocalist, with a fearsome range and staggering falsetto; the guitarist, who plays at a million miles an hour, yet without the cold, clinical air of technical proficiency - far more like PAGE than PETRUCCI - and the drummer, whose latin/Haitian rhythms always astonish the listener expecting the normal fare of plodding timekeeping and predictable fills.

And then the album climbs a notch! 'Roulette Dares' is magnificent: I was hooked the moment I heard BIXLER-ZAVALA sing 'Spector will lurk / Radar has gathered / Midnight neuces from boxcar cadavers'. No, I don't know what it means, nor am I sure those are the correct lyrics. But the vocalist has this talent of being able to arrest the listener. Then OMAR RODRIGUEZ rips out a killer riff to introduce the chorus, a THE MARS VOLTA classic.

There are many other moments like this spread throughout the record. 'Drunkship of Lanterns' and 'Cicatriz ESP' are widely regarded as seminal new millenium prog, but I'll make special mention of 'Televators', a softer, chilling track and the second single. Here THE MARS VOLTA prove they can do beautiful just as sucessfully as they do majesty. And the extra line in the last chorus is pure genius.

There are awkward moments. The electronic section of 'Cicatriz' seems inexpertly grafted into the song, and 'Take The Veil' suffers similarly. No album is perfect, and there are other who find these moments essential. For music like this, I'll forgive a few odd moments.

It's so very hard to write a balanced review of a record you find yourself thoroughly enjoying, but I hope I've succeeded in showing you this record - and this band - can generate passion and something akin to awe.

russellk | 5/5 |


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