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The Mars Volta - Amputechture CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.84 | 535 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Very powerful music abounds on this frighteningly wild gathering of eight generally lengthy songs. My favorite song is on this unrestrained yet somehow skin-tight album, and there's a lot more where that came from. There are a couple of songs that don't please me nearly as much, but they do not take away from an otherwise maniacally commanding collection of hard rock. Some of the group's most inexplicable lyrics are here, which is not to say they cannot be interpreted given the listener's own proclivity to do so- just be prepared for a headache or two in the process. The epic of the album is the song I give credit to dragging me kicking and screaming into loving The Mars Volta, and is one to this day that chills my spine every time I hear those opening notes. Like the two preceding it, this is a fantastic album. And the title is befitting: The album ends abruptly- amputated as it were.

"Vicarious Atonement" Peculiar noises serve as a spacey backdrop for guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez to warm up his fingers and that grainy tone of his. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala begins singing over the sparse instrumentation, with his partner escorting him almost note for note. It is a breathy piece, both with regard to the airy instrumentation (notably because of the lack of drums) and the very audible inhalations and exhalations of the singer.

"Tetragrammaton" The word representing the four-letter Hebrew name of Almighty God serves as the title for The Mars Volta's greatest accomplishment. It interrupts everything going on in the previous track in a furious eruption of choppy guitar notes and the drumming of what can only be an unchained beast. The lyrics are haunting to me, as they transport unutterable images and scenes to my mind. The chorus is at once insanely reckless and implausibly tight. Bixler-Zavala employs the range of his voice, reaching for notes in the ether. Rodriguez-Lopez casts spells on his guitar tone, producing inconceivable noises, even detuning the instrument until it growls. A long, mellower section with some repetitive brass music, some vocalizing, and guitar soloing follows. It is in a 4/4 time signature, but it intuitively does not count like one (I had to count the beats several times just to assure myself that it was indeed a straight four). The introduction is reprised with several noisy guitar embellishments to bring this ultimate piece to a static-ridden end.

"Vermicide" The static of the previous track brings in this relatively short song, which I personally would rank among the band's most radio-friendly work. It has a catchy chorus, and some fairly straightforward music (with the exception of that of the bridge, which carries on in 15/8). I really enjoy the instrumentation, and I believe this to be one of the band's best songs under five minutes.

"Meccamputechture" Once again the music is on the loud and experimental side, with wild guitar run through a wah pedal, brass instruments, and heavy drumming. When that subsides, the instrumentation behind Bixler-Zavala's hectic vocals is deliberately murky, particularly that swampy bass. The refrain is one of the most powerful moments of the album, again with the lead singer pulling notes from the heavens. The last several minutes has The Mars Volta at their most experimental. Wild saxophone plays over various sound effects and noises, while the bassist and drummer keep steady, even as everything else around them disintegrates into avant-garde claptrap. Abruptly, the music becomes cohesive again, and the listener is treated to some excellent organ over the main chords as the duo work over it.

"Asilos Magdalena" Exotic layers of sound and Eastern Mediterranean-like acoustic guitar introduce more Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar (played solo), with Spanish lyrics sung to a lovely melody over it. After a time, a second acoustic guitar joins, and then a third. Manipulations of the sound take over, with electric guitar and all manner of noises poured over the song, eventually washing over it almost completely.

"Viscera Eyes" Electronic percussion and noises akin to an 8-bit video game enter for forty seconds. Then the band bursts in with an upbeat rocker. Again, the lyrics are in Spanish (although not all of them), and the brass plays a more dominant role. I feel this song is largely a dissatisfactory track, as it carries on with no real evolution. The music does essentially change gears for the final three minutes, though (with no real transition to speak of), beginning with a great bass riff over which the other instruments come in to support Rodriguez-Lopez's extended solo. Bixler-Zavala finishes things up with some English lyrics and shrieking during the last minute.

"Day of the Baphomets" For those who thought the little bass bit in the previous song was a tease, Juan Alderte pulls off a full fifty-seconds of rapid and funky bass soloing before a raucous saxophone breaks in. As usual, the lyrics are bizarre and at times evocative of gruesome imagery. A heavily punctuated rhythm is the dominant characteristic of the instrumental middle section, which returns in a starker form near the end. During the second time around, Rodriguez-Lopez delivers a blistering and ear-splitting solo.

"El Ciervo Vulnerado" The final song is dreary and atmospheric, very much as the first one was. It's bland and meandering, and along with "Viscera Eyes," only drags the album down some. There's a lot of directionless passages, and I feel this otherwise phenomenal album would have been better off without this one altogether.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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