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The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.05 | 851 ratings

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The Ace Face
5 stars This album is an experience, to be sure. It is unlike anything you will ever hear or have heard. On Deloused, in my opinion, the band was still trying to find its footing. I'm not a big fan of at the drive in, and some of that was still present on Deloused, which didn't quite fit my tastes. Now the band have truly progressed and they sound amazing! The addition of horns and strings add to the elevated drama and tension of this album. Intended as one song, this makes for some intense listening. Omar and Frusciante have great chemistry here, especially on L'via. Cedric screams his way through some of the most emotional and personal lyrics I have ever heard, and the rest of the band is outstanding as well. Ikey Owens does some good keyboard work, but the real star here is Larry Harlow on piano. He has some great moments. Anyways, on to the Beast that is Frances the Mute.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: A nice acoustic opening, very uncharacteristic of the Volta, some nice strings augment in the background. Cedric croons for a bit, then the band kicks in in a big way. The guitar shrieks and wails, and Cedric matches it with his interstellarly-high voice. The rhythm section is going insane, with the bassline jumping all over the place, and it sounds like the drums are being played by 2 people. The rocking, epic chorus is a highlight, as is the wah-wah distorted guitar riff right after. After the second chorus, the intensity kicks up with some insanely fast riff/drumming. Then we get treated to a funky bassline and some mellotron (What?) slowly down to a shimmering smear on the mural that is Frances. The pace slows down a ton, and its just some light high hat, bass, and light guitar. However, any Volta fan knows this is just the slow build part to the next epic release/climax. Omar has some very angular riffs here, and its clear how far they have come from At the Drive in. The cymbal crescendo veery slowly builds, and when it hits the right moment... BAM! In comes Cedric again, wailing about lost chances. The strings get added in here, following the main riff and adding to the drama Cedric creates. Then the drums lose it and go mad, and the chorus blasts in again. This dissolves into a riff that repeats many times while Cedric screams his head off, and it fades out for about 3 minutes. As it fades out, random noises come in, verifying the fact that this is indeed one song, as the noises bridge the gap between this song and the Widow. An electronic bumpy noise rises and falls along with some spacey, ambient noises. Over all this is a track of children talking and other noises.

The Widow: The shortest piece of the album, and hence the only possibly single, besides a cut-and-pasted version of L'via. Even with this, though, its only the first 3 minutes because the rest is more ambience. An acappella intro brings us into this nice acoustic, mournful ballad-type song. The chorus blasts in though, showing us that the Volta are not going to slow down much. The lyrics are scary, talking about Never Sleeping alone. After the second chorus, the trumpet-played by Flea- comes in and it is magnificent, seeming to soar away while the guitar runs up and down intricate lines. The hammond organ is finally heard after the third chorus, and has a couple great fills. As mentioned before, the song basically ends at 3 minutes with Cedric's repetition of alone gets put through an electronic garbage disposal, but very sloooooowwly. The synthesizer than takes the spotlight with some eerie and ambient riffs, with some bongos clashing in the background. After 3 minutes of this, we get to the highlight of the disc...

L'Via L'Viasquez: with more ambience/interesting drumming building into the opening, this song starts off perfectly. The cymbal rush cuts off to reveal a blistering guitar solo, followed by Cedric shrieking in spanish. The chorus is wordless, merely shrieking from Cedric. After 2 lovely verses and epic choruses, the guitar takes us down to the salsa section, filled with magnificent piano from Harlow and the most full percussion section I've ever heard. Cedric switches to a breathy, right-in-your-ear voice, and to english. We get another crescendo into an absolutely stellar solo from Frusciante. Then the first verse is repeated along with the salsa section. The second buildup/guitar solo is much scarier, and very dramatic. The spanish lyrics to follow suit the mood, and an epic drum solo brings us to the final salsa section and fade out/solos. The piano here is absolutely perfect. The guitar solo over it is also amazing, but the piano really makes it, along with the voices in the background, giving the feel of a cantina. After all this is over, the main salsa verse gets some weird effects and gets the sole spotlight. This ambient space-out continues directly into...

Miranda, the Ghost that just isn't Holy Anymore: a record-breaking 4 minutes of ambience and random Cedric wails. These odd sounds last longer than most pop songs. That alone says something about the Mars Volta and their purposeful uncommercial actions. The horns and guitars at 4:15 are absolutely hair-raisingly dramatic and mournful. Cedric's voice seems to reach a new high: both physically and emotionally. The chorus is so subtley beautiful, and Cedric delivers with poise and grace, with someone, I'm not sure who, harmonizing in the background. The strings start to fade in beautifully, and the guitar begins to echo gorgeously. The drums come in with a militaristic rap, and the trumpet comes to the foreground. The chorus is now even more powerful, but dies out to reveal delicate string parts and trumpet musings. The guitar jumps into the upper register to join the trumpet, and it is amazing. All of a sudden, the trumpet blares, then dies. its so well done its a crime. As it fades out more and more, we get more weird sounds. these sounds do not detract from the album, but add to the drama and mystery. A short jam fades in for the one minute remaining before the mind-blowing...

Cassandra Gemini: It busts in without warning, and it envelops you. It holds on to you for a full half hour and when its gone, you're out of breath. Cedric moans with some scary lyrics, and after the blazing intro, it slows down a bit for some delicate flute work and a computer voice musing. its hard to hear the lyrics, nor is it entirely necessary to. When the Sax comes in, it is killer. The chorus is dark and scary, and Cedric delivers as only he can, and it gets followed by a short guitar solo, a precursor of the 4 or so more yet to come. Soon, after more screeching, the sax comes in to introduce the chorus again. The guitar cannot wait til the chorus is over and starts to solo under Cedric. The drums get funky after this, and the guitar hits the power chords mightily. A blistering guitar solo follows, and it leaps the octaves like only Omar can. The mellotron can be heard as Cedric comes back in, and adds even more eerieness to the already diabolic atmosphere. The pace slows slightly, but only for a bit. More guitar insanity underlies Cedric's paranoid vocals, and he is complemented by some VERY scary screeching noises. As the drums turn more to tom work and the piano starts to fade in, the guitar gets very spacey and Cedric starts whispering and making odd noises. The piano is veeeery dissonant, but perfect. Another insane guitar solo follows, followed by s general slow down. Cedric starts whispering the next vocal theme: 25 wives in the lake tonight as the piano hits the most wrong-yet-right notes ever. The new guitar riff is alone at first, but the strings and horns add in to make an epicly dramatic theme, as Cedric gets louder and more intense, then finally jumps the octave for maximum hair-raising. When Cedric leaves, an epic wailing noise fills the gap, followed by Omar starting to mega-riff and Cedric jumping back in with impossibly high falsetto notes. As this all dies down, Cedric breaths into the mike, and a distant synth is heard while Omar riffs away. Throughout all this, the drums and bass anchor it all down by being extremely patient. Now the bass starts to go off course a little, hitting some higher notes than normal, only to reduce to almost nothing along with everything else. Cedric starts to whisper and make odd slurping noises, adding to the tension. Omar hits some odd sounding notes while the bass repeats one note in a singular rhythm. When it starts to kick back in, the sonic landscape is doubled in size by the beastly presence of the hammond organ. it gets plenty of cool riffs and runs in, while Cedric yells, Not forevermore!. However, this is only a false climax, and dies down again. Cedric gets very scary with lyrics now, whispering I peel back all of my skin, peel back and let it all run. Some oddly distorted guitar comes in, and the sonic landscape is again doubled in size. Now, the piano comes in with tiny tinkling notes, while the guitar is electronocized. Then it turns to normal guitar and does some nice, softer soloing. Now, for the first time, the drums cut out completely, and the hammond organ creates a sound reminiscent of the 70s symphonic prog. Yes is the first thing that comes to mind, surprisingly, and the guitar gets plenty of effects added. Plenty of keyboards and glissando-like guitars accompany this part, as it is no longer intense, but maddeningly genius. about 5:30 from the end, the angular sax starts to come back in, accompanied by the trumpet. The drums are finally back, and the indulgence is very evident. Soon the sax takes a full force, full skill solo while the guitar slowly builds the drama along with the mellotron and rhythm section. Cedric comes in again, commencing his sensuous moans and screams, while Omar loses it. His riffs get so insane. the desire for a climactic release is HUGE, and when it comes, holy mother of god is it good. The strings build for one measure, everything stops, and the epic chorus comes back in. WOOOOOW this is good. Suddenly, it all dies out except for the acoustic guitars, reprising the opening sarcophagi. A perfect ending to a perfect album.

Overall, one of the most mindblowing journeys ever committed to a CD. I think ive said enough.

The Ace Face | 5/5 |


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