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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1009 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars The second Studio Album from The Mars Volta takes a more Jazz-Fusion approach than of their debut LP (De-Loused In The Comatorium), but the frantic, speedy pace of their music remains. The album also introduces their now signature English/Spanish vocal switches.


"CYGNUS... VISMUND CYGNUS" The album begins with a short, spanish sounding acoustic guitar intro, before exploding into a frenzy of energetic noise. Cedric Bixler Zavala wails out Spanish lyrics, swicthing to Enlish occasionally. The guitar work / solos both by Omar Rodriguez Lopez and guest, Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist John Frusciante reflects their talent. This song has a very fast pace, despite being over 13 minutes in length. A couple of break-downs come in, and these include a much slower guitar jam. At the end of the song, we hear some very strange noises such as clattering (and arguing?), and eventually the final, somewhat epic chorus. The track ends with a very spacey electronic noise and traffic can be heard in the background.


"THE WIDOW" This is one of the album's two slow songs. The drums kick in at the Chorus and the song sounds fuller as it goes on. Again, this song reflects the very Spanishy sounding theme of the album. Cedric sings out "'Cause I'll never Sleep Alone" which brings the song "Televators" from the previous album to mind. Both are excellent songs. It provides a good breather from the last song's frantic pace. However, the album version of the song contains around 2 minutes of strange electronic noises which have no reason for being there, and is just annoying. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of these strange noises throughout the album, which is why this is definetely best listened to from start to finish rather than choosing a song to listen to. The band probably intended it this way. Moving on...

"L'VIA L'VIAQUEZ" This song begins with some slow tapping and finally burts into one awesome sounding guitar solo. This song is very catchy and a very hypnotic salsa-dance comes to mind. The chorus is in Spanish, while the slow break-downs are in English. This works very well in this song in particular. Probably the most poppy and accessable track on the album for newcomers.

"MIRANDA, THAT GHOST JUST ISN'T HOLY ANYMORE" The album's second slow sounding song. Much better than "The Widow" and much fuller- sounding. It pretty much blows it out of the water. After 4 minutes of croaking frogs and weird forest noises (don't ask) we have some very cool sounding trumpets that kick in and starts the song off. Cedric Bixler Zavala's vocal performance in this song is incredible, to say the least. The chorus ("And When Miranda Sang, Everyone Turned Away") is incredibly full sounding and the song sounds very carefully layered and crafted. The most emotional sounding song on the album.

"CASSANDRA GEMINI" (Parts I to VIII) [Note: The track listing for the album is incorrect. As the album was only intended to have 5 tracks, this was originally intended to be one track. However, it is split into 8, which doesn't fit into the sections named for the song on the track listing. The 5 track onwards is all one song clocking in at around half an hour.]

The beginning sounds a lot like the first track, but as it progresses we can tell that we're dealing with a whole different monster here. Cedric Bixler Zavala sounds sings "I Think I've Become One Of The Others" and moans while the guitar kicks in sounding stranger than ever. A really cool sounding talking voice kicks in which sounds like it has been edited and mixed. Later, the trumpets make a return and an absolutely amazing and catchy line "No There's No Light In The darkness Of Your Furthest Reaches" is heard. The drums sound as intense as "Inertiatic Esp" on their debut album.

The tracks flow together smoothly and more stunning guitar solos are heard throughout. This is one insane rollercoaster of a song and must be heard more than once to fully appreciate. Sit back and enjoy the ride from here-on out. The rest of the song sounds jazzy and groovy and you can tell they have been influenced by a lot of 70's Prog and Jazz- Fusion. This is the most impressive movement on the album by far.

Much later, after what must have been an exhausting session from the band, the album's climax kicks in. The amazing line I mentioned earlier makes a return before the Spanish acoustic guitar part which was heard at the beginning of the album returns, and Cedric repeats his lines with more feeling. This adds a real charm to the album as it starts exactly the same way as it ends. By this point in the album newcomers may be very confused about what they have just heard, but the beauty of this whole album is that it must be listened to several times to be appreciated, like all good Prog.

- - - [4/5]

Overall, this is an excellent album and deserves a place in any Prog fan's collection. It contains less variety than the previous album as there's only five songs, so is probably not the best place to start with The Mars Volta, but is a must for fans and anyone who is looking for something different. The strange ambience surrounding some tracks are unwelcoming and definetely label this album as something which is an aqquired taste. There are times where the pace can slow down and it gets more boring, but it picks up again and makes up for most of the time.This is one of the best examples of the direction modern Prog music is going, and is definetely something quite different to try.

ProgStage | 4/5 |


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