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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
4 stars Wow! What a pleasant surprise!

I must say, after an absolute failure with ''The Bedlam in Goliath'', I was ready to call it quits on The Mars Volta before I even really gave them a chance, but thankfully I decided to give this highly-acclaimed band another chance by picking up their first effort at an LP, ''De-Loused in the Comatorium''. Wow, was I surpirsed! Let me explain:

When I listened to the Volta's latest attempt, all I could hear was aimless nerve-racking noise that never let up and didn't have any real substance to it. When I first played the opening track, ''Son et lumiere'', it was the complete polar opposite of that monstrosity. This song actually had a very soothing, atmospheric ambience to it that set the mood for what was to come. It was placid, haunting, interesting, and frankfully, beautiful, especially when compared to their foruth studio album, which I am fully convinced now will never go for another spin in my CD player. Already this sounded like a totally different band, and I was right-- it doesn't at all. Believe me, this is a good thing. Instead of the idiotic wailing I was subjected to on the fourth Volta album, the vocals found on this track were wonderully moody. Run through some sort of synthesizer, these vocals reminded me of a very classic prog rock singer, with quality, not quantity, to his voice. He wasn't shrieking at dog-friendly high pitches like the last time I heard him; he was truly carrying a tune, and I genuinely liked what I was hearing. Instead of starting off with a bang and never stopping, this album began on a lighter note, which as far as I am concerned is the best way to begin a record of this type. It was only going to get better from there.

Track two, ''Inertiatic esp'', is much like the forst song in that it gives the instruments room to breath; it has space, something that was more or less non-existant on the Bedlam record. While the song's style is possibly a bit too aggressive for some, I would suggest to at least give it a chance, as it is not pure ferocity; rather, it has many slow breakdwons peppered throughout it so that it gives the listener time to take in what they have just heard, rather than simply bash them over the head with hard-hitting riffs and loud shreik-screaming without any plausible aim. Sure, Cedric's vocals are high, but he sounds more like Robert Plant here than a eunuch in torment. The emotional and yet decypherable vocals here are most welcome, and quite a pleasure to my ears. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's guitar playing is also very nice. Not too show-y, and even a little, I dunno, original? He certainly does a fine job of making me forget what a guitar is supposed to sound like, and his large arsenal of effects is very apparent here. He uses them wisely, though, and presents a rather tastefull blend of typical guitar sounds and unsual new stuff. The track ends with a very Beatles-esque backward's guitar track as well as backward cymbals, slowly building up into a loud crash then suddenly being silenced. This makes way for tracl three on the record, ''Roulette Dares (The haunt of)''.

This is the longest running track yet-- nearly eight minutes long. It starts out with a bang, but quickly slows down with some really great work from all of the band members to create a very moody atmosphere led by Cedric's beautiful voice. The guitar work found here is very moving, and the sudden starting and stopping of the band at points gives the track an extra, more frantic punch. I understand that this is a concept album telling the story based upon the actuall events of a man who went into a coma, saw incredible visions, then once awakening from it, took his own life. The feeling I get when I listen to this song is very effective in getting the point across dealing in madness, visions and strange experiences within one's own mind. There is a perticularly beautiful moment in this song when All we hear are Rodriguez-Lopez's beautiful guitar melodies overtop of an eery yet equally lovely keyboard ambience courtesy of Owens. As the song ends, the safety net of keyboards is removed instantly, and the guitars turn into a very howl-like sound as they fall away, completely the experience of yet another beautiful song. Hmm, three absolutely amazing tracks so far; already more than I was expecting from this 'terrible' band.

''Tira me a las aranas'' Begins with a slightly yucky-sounding guitar melody, accompanied by an even more pointless keyboard section. Thankfully, this doesn't last long and Jeremy Michael Ward's sounds come in, saving the track from becoming a least-favorite of mine.

The CD then takes an interesting turn with Drunkship of Lanterns''-- once again, a turn that I'm not fond of. It now reminds me of mexican ramba music, due to the stupid speed-drumming and the extra fast guitar-picking. Cedric's vocals help me keep interest however, and luckily the cuba-clad song structure dies out as soon as it began, being replaced by a much more interesting, proggy section full of creepy sound effects and enjoyable guitar playing. Sadly, this song constantly returns to the ramba for each chorus, so it makes the experience slightly less enjoyable for me, but like I say, the entire song is not like this, and soon the range of effects and keyboard wankery comes back in again, which by the way is a good thing. Guitar wankery-- never something I cared too much for. Keyboard wankery-- always welcome with me. Omar's guitar rhythm for the duration of the song really keeps me interesting, and eventuyally a crunching, electric solo comes in, which ensures boredom will not come close to setting in during the song's remaining few minutes. Finally the song evolves into something completely different, complete with some of the stranges sound effects in music since Pink Floyd's ''On The Run''. See, this is why I love this record, the songs actually evolve here. This is the second TMV album I have heard and the first one that actually contains qualities worthy of being called ''progressive rock''.

Ah! This is much better! Already Omar is doing something great with his instrument. Unlike the nonsensical doodling he was doing two tracks ago, here he is making an effort to play a real melody. Oh yes, did I mention that he succeeds? It still holds enough originality to be considered progressive, but it actually is something one can hum along too as well, which is fine. ''Eriatarka'' Is the most beautiful song on the record in terms of presentation, vocal melody and overall musical harmony. Once again causing the album to bounce back and becoming something worth owning simply because of one song, which is this one. Radio-friendly it may not be because it does after all feature more noises and odd sounds that may disturb some casual listeners, but for The Mars Volta, it's ''Stairway to Heaven'' quality (Okay that may be pushing it a bit, but you get my point). The guitar solo on here is also very moving and once again I found myself in awe of The MarsVolta's ability to create music that is actually, well, listenable. Everything is here on this song: substance, melody, originality, emotion, and damn great music all across the board!

The epic ''Cicatriz esp'' is next, beginning with more warped voice work, followed by some very spacey guitar work, complete with pick scrapes, squeals and aggressive rhythm sections. Omar's work here reminds me of Adam Jones, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The song also has a very Jazzy quality to it, mainly due to Juan Alderete's punchy bass work and Jon Theodore cymbal tapping. The song then becomes a hard rocker, displaying Theodore's best drum work yet. I must say, Jon Theodore is an amazing drummer-- AMAZING! Omar once again shows what he can really do in the guitar, and delivers a short but sweet solo overtop of the drum-induced madness. A bluesy breakdown soon followes, which slowly progresses into a very Floydian effects pool. The bass playing found here in the quieter section of the song is also very impressive, but soon it all becomes effects and nothing else. To people who don't this sort of thing, it could potentially get very boring, but to other folks like myself who just eats this stuff up, it is true music to the ears! Really beautiful ambient work done here with the use of sound effects. Soon, Theodore comes hammering in with some truly awesome speed-drum work. Now, at this point the record once again returns to it's ramba-like sound completel with bongo effects and the whole bit. But for some reason I actually like it here. Maybe it just fits this song better than the previous one it was featured in. It isn't annoying at all; in fact, It's almost like awakeing from a long sleep after several minutes of pure sound effects work; like a breath of fresh air. Everything in this song is perfectly placed andcomes around at the right time. A true example of great thought-out composition.

''This Apperatus Must Be Unearthed'' is my least favorite track on the album. Sounds like sessions form the worst extended jam the world has ever seen. The 'tune' Cedric sings here is the closest thing to ''The Bedlam In Goliath'' this record gets, and it is here that you can hear the horrible direction the band will head in from this moment on. Luckily though, every other track on this record is worth listening to, so one bad apple won't spoil the whole bunch for me here. This song is the one I always skip over whenever I listen to the record, and it keeps De-loused from being a straight-through listen without any breaks, but eh, you can't win them all, and it seems The Mars Volta never will if they keep dishing out the crap they have over the past couple of years.

''Televators'' is a brilliant track which begins with some great ambient sounds, slowly leading in to absolutely fantastic acoustic guitar work from Omar. The melody in Cedric's voice is also a truely wonderful aspect of the song that heightens it considerably. This is the 'ballad' of the album, I suppose, and the most radio-friendly in my opinion, as it never really turns into anything else and stays pretty stagnant the entire time, but in this song's particular case, I like that. I think it fits. Definatly the most typically written song as far as song structure goes. If you want to introduce a non-prog fan to TMV, this is the song to do it with as far as I am concerned.

Now we come to epic finale of this album, which just so happens to be the first De-loused song I heard. Well, what can I say? This song is absolutely perfect. It begins with a truly cool off-beat guitar riff that creates the very chaotic atmosphere that this song carries for it's duration. Cedric's vocals are amazing as usual (well, at least on THIS album), and soon the song becomes quiet, and convoluted in such a way that it actually sounds great. Omar does some really creative guitar tunes hear accompanied by a simply yet hard-hitting bass line. Let us not forget The awesome drummer in this band, backing them both up. Then the bass line becomes a solo that sends chills up my spine every time I listen to it. From there the song becoms something else entirely and Omar once again amazes with truly bizarre and yet hauntingly goregous guitar playing that puts me in a very relaxed state each time I play the song. Then Cedric's ghostly vocals come in again as he uses his voice as an instrument in and of itself. At this point the guitar is playing a most impressive riff that repeats over and over again, creating a hypnotizing loop that doesn't let up for what seems like minutes. Finally, the track picks up the pace again with some truly brutal riffs from Omar and very Robert Plant-like vocal sounds on Cedric's parts. It all comes to an end very suddenly, yet it seems right. The overall effect the album has on me is indescribable, and while it sin't perfect, it is definately an album worth owning, if you're in to more trippy-sounding stuff like this. It is truly a musical journy, and not just a bunch of loud jamming slapped together unlike another album I have already mentioned numerous times in this review.

So, final thoughts. Is it a classic prog album? I have no idea. Only time will tell, won't it? Will it stand the test of time? That really depends on The Mars Volta themselves. If they want to keep releasing crap to the public and expect to survive in audiences'memories, they are in for a shock, and yet I would say that this album, while certainly not essential by any stretch of the imagination, is definately worth giving a shot, even if you don't like what you have heard of The Mars Voilta thus far, as I didn't, yet I enjoy this album very much.

The Pros: Excellent musicianship; sounds like Pink Floyd meets King Crimson! The Cons: Some of the songs sound like extended jam sessions, nothing more. Overall: Great album to try at least once, even if you don't think you'll like TMV.

JLocke | 4/5 |


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