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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1006 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Here we have The Mars Volta's second album. The question is, does this measure up to the their debut, or was generally excellent Deloused in the Comatorium a one-shot deal?

Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus begins with Sarcophgi and it's gently-strummed, melodic acoustic guitar before exploding into a vicious metal funk hybrid. The song then transitions to a gentler pace for a guitar solo which builds dramatically to the end of the song, which reprises the metal-funk, this time backed with strings. The album then offers up a bit of noise, a pulsating synth, over which ride waves of ambient sound.

The Widow is a haunting prog ballad, with acoustic guitars building to an electric peak, guitar shards interplaying with trumpet, before devolving into yet another dose of less compelling noise than heard previously. Minus the noise, this is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Too long for its own good, L'Via L'Viaquez is for me the weakest track on the album. It offers up another dose of metal-funk, though taken at a somewhat slower tempo, before it transitions to some sort of pre-Castro Havana rhythm, after which it alternates between the two.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore starts with a few minutes of noise, including ghostly wails, at which point the song proper tries to begin, but...

Trumpets, genuine Sketches of Spain-quality trumpets, sounding out a melody reminiscent of The Widow, over leslie-processed guitars suddenly appear. This is an absolutely chilling and majestic moment, follow again by a bit more noise which leads into a mellotron-backed revisitation of the previous themes.

Cassandra Geminni is epic, shot through with saxes, brutal guitars, frantic vocals, chirping synths, and incredibly varied, melodic riffs which rise and fall from the song's rhythmic depths. What is amazing is how the band has absorbed their sources: I hear a little King Crimson, Led Zep, Doors, Hendirx, Floyd, et. al., in this song, but it's never just imitation or emulation. It is a synthesis of all that has come before, and the song is a remarkable achievement in that it always transcends its sources. When Sarcphogi repeats at the end, the album has come full circle, a la Escher's Reptiles.

So how to judge this album? The excessive noise, while providing the listener with some sonic relaxation, is a bit too represented here. As mentioned, I find one track to be overly long -- nothing against long, but if I'm going to take that journey with the band I'd prefer we go somewhere rather than run in place. As for the rest, I have not heard music this good for years.

jammun | 4/5 |


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