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

FRANCES THE MUTE

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

4.05 | 715 ratings

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Moatilliatta
Prog Reviewer
5 stars A little under two years after their astonishing full-length debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium, The Mars Volta are back with Frances the Mute. After being mesmerized (and I still am) by De-Loused, I was anxiously awaiting the follow up. While it was difficult enough to render such an album as its predecessor, this one is even more ambitious than the 2003 masterpiece!

The cover art is very peculiar, and also contains an alternate cover, which is basically the same picture, with very minute differences. There is fascinating artwork throughout the booklet. The packaging also contains the lyrics for "Frances the Mute," which is not found on the album. You must get it elsewhere, and you must get it in order to have heard the entire album.

The album contains five songs, four of which break 12 minutes, and one of them, "Cassandra Geminni," even tops 30. From what I was told, the label made the band break up the song for more tracks; otherwise they would only get paid for an EP. So there are 12 tracks instead of just 5. Three of these songs are comprised of movements, which is also new for the band. Two of these movements are used as recurring themes, which help keep the album musically together and cogent.

Acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals mark the opening of the album in a passage titled "Sarcophagi," the first movement in the opening song: "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus." After capturing your attention with that, they take you off on a thrilling musical journey through the story of Frances; it is a story derived from a journal they found, and the lyrics depicting the story are bizarre as ever, complete with multiple languages. Cedric showcases his supernatural vocal abilities alongside the manic rhythm section and uncanny guitar and key work. You are taken through a tour de force comprised of high-speeds, odd shifts in time and various tempos. The opener itself is one of the finest songs progressive music has to offer.

You may think that after suffering the loss of Jeremy Ward (the man behind their sound effects), and not yet replacing him, they wouldn't use as much noise on this album, but no! It's actually the contrary; there is a bunch of noise here. The noise is used to tie all of the songs together. However, one might argue that it is way overdone. If you find excessive noise to be a hindrance, you will most likely have a problem listening to this straight through. While you won't be getting the full effect of the album, the songs are nevertheless incredible when taken in as individuals. If you don't have a problem with noise, enjoy.

"The Widow" is the only short song on the album. It is no slouch though. Quite entrancing actually. Many compare its general sound to Led Zeppelin, though it is more complex and dense than any comparable Zeppelin piece. It makes for a great single, and it is.

"L'Via L'Viaquez" demonstrates their Latin prowess. It shifts from a hard rocking verse, to a down-tempo salsa refrain, with an extensive jam that builds off the salsa portion of the song. We hear some solo work by Omar and even keyboardist Ikey, who is rarely the forefront. From there, you are brought into a soothing soundscape that starts "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore." After the long prelude, horns break out - majestic, yet very eerie. This ballad is captivating, beautiful and eerie all at the same time. The vocals have this sincere frailty on this track, which are executed perfectly by Cedric. The first recurring theme appears here as "Con Safo," heard in the first song, fades in at the end.

When you least expect it, BAM!

"Cassandra Geminni" takes over and from the get go is a powerhouse. The high- power does not let up for quite some time. Even the softer passages are full of power. I can not even begin to explain what goes on here, and I should not even try. It is risky business attempting such a song as this, but they nailed it! After this magnum opus, they conclude the song and let you off with a reprise of "Sarcophagi."

A tough listen for some, but what a gratifying listen it is! The Mars Volta further proves that they are today's dominant musical force, and that they are among the finest groups of all time.

Moatilliatta | 5/5 |

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