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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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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars This album was not my first experience with TMV - on the strength of some very positive reviews, some months before I'd bought "Frances the Mute", which I liked a lot on first listening, though later on I came to see its shortcomings somewhat more clearly. However, "Deloused in the Comatorium", the Hispano-American band's debut full-length album, is quite a different story. This is truly a groundbreaking record that sets new standards for contemporary prog.

Hate them or love them, it is hard to deny that The Mars Volta (brilliant name for a prog band, anyway) are progressive in the true sense of the word. Born from the ashes of emo band At The Drive-in, they are not afraid to take elements from such disparate genres as prog, punk, metal, jazz and Latin music and blend them together, stamping their individual seal over the end result in the process. Their display of dazzling musicianship, left-field lyrical concepts, stunning cover art and no-holds-barred songwriting are the hallmarks of a first-rate outfit that's ready to take prog - that stereotypically earnest, stuck-in-a-time-warp musical genre - right into the 21st century.

Most of the tracks on this album are over the 5-minute mark, with "Cicatriz Esp" clocking in at over 12 minutes - another statement of intent on the part of the band, who are unashamed fans of such historic Seventies prog acts as Rush and King Crimson. However, even if their original punk roots rear their heads every now and then, it is never in a really obtrusive way. If anything, these punk roots add a measure of spice to the exotic mixture that is TMV's sound. The musicianship is first-rate throughout, with a special mention for inventive, powerful drummer Jon Theodore, whose rythmic sparring partner is on this occasion a very special guest, RHCP's Flea (one of the best four-stringers on the market, even if you don't like his mother band). The crisp, clear production values further enhance Theodore's intricate, occasionally explosive drumming, as it is quite evident right from the very beginning, in killer opener "Inertiatic ESP" (preceded by the deceptive quiet of "Son and Lumière).

In my personal opinion, though, the real strength of TMV lies in the supercharged vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, whose banshee wail interspersed with more reflective, almost lyrical moments exemplifies what a really expressive singing style is all about. A richer, fuller version of Geddy Lee, he stamps his mark all over the album, perfectly complemented by his partner in crime (and former At the Drive In fellow member) Oscar Rodriguez Lopez's wildly atmospheric guitar playing. Unlike they did in follow-up "Frances the Mute", here the band keep the use of weird, electronic noises to a minimum, with epic "Cicatriz ESP" 's middle section being a prime example of how such noises can be used sparingly to their maximum effect.

With such a strong album, it would be difficult for me to pick any standout tracks, apart from those I have already mentioned. Haunting ballad "Televators" is a much better effort in this sense than "The Widow" on FtM; while "Eriatarka", "This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed" and album closer "Take the Veil, Cerpin Taxt" brim with energy and freshness, Cedric's brilliant vocals soaring above the band's unleashed instrumental fury.

I pondered for a long time, and listened to the album twice before writing this review - but, in the end, I could not help but decide to give this album the highest rating, as others have done before me. Weird it may be, but nothing short of wonderful as well - this is prog for the 21st century, a must-listen for all serious proggers. A wild ride perhaps, but one to enjoy to the fullest.

Raff | 5/5 |


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