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The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.19 | 1180 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Well although I had heard fairly soon of this band's debut (like almost everyone I heard mainstream rock medium speaking about prog in a different tone for the first time in decades), I had to wait for the second album's release to get a shot at listening to this album. Soafter being repulsed by their second album, I decided to give a shot to their first one, hoping it would hold more clues to dig the band. Well not really! The least we can say is that TMV does bring something a bit different to the usual prog mainstream, but it is not easy to pinpoint exactly what they bring. One can't say that their sound is brand new: they borrow quite a bit from many previous groups, but surely manage their own sound and even a bit of originality, something rather difficult in an era where everything's been done 1000 times before (or almost), but this is done at the expense of a sort on continuity, their music being extremely eclectic.

What TMV does in this first album is mix influences from Yes, Crimson, Rush with more modern groups like Porcupine Tree's impenetrability, Spock's Beard's extreme wide spectrum and excellent execution of the music and a touch of Radiohead's paranoiac emotive mental states fuelled by Yorke's frustration ulcers while keeping a 90's funk- punk energy that is obviously induced by the RHCP. Yes, this makes TMV's music rather abstract and the fact that this is yet another concept album on mental derivations, deviations and the accompanying stages of anguish, anxiety, depression, alienation and finally completely recess from reality leading to suicide (well coma before a second more successful attempt) is not fundamentally convincing. Yet there are many good if not excellent traits to this album and this debut is possibly one of those rare albums that should be held as truly inventive and influential in its decade. Another rather discouraging hint is the Rick Rubin (I am NOT a fan) production slapped on the back of the album, but all these "ifs, buts, how and since" do not manage to hide the intrinsic qualities of this debut.

While there are some tracks that are relatively hard to digest because of their voluntarily noisy and energetic quagmire: Inertiatic ESP and Apparatus (hate the vocal effect) being the two loudest tracks on the album and for no apparent good reasons except to show that the band can reach such levels of intensity, but fortunately those tracks are among the shortest (the separate intros excepted) on the album. But there are some much more convincing tracks like the concept's centrepiece Cicatriz - where the "hero" comes out of the coma - (and its psyched-out lengthy guitar passage), Roulette Dares (and its wild middle instrumental sections), Drunkship Of Lanterns (difficult start, but smooths out nicely), Eriatarka, the calmer Televators and the sometimes brilliant finale Cerpin Taxt.

Among the features of the group is the bass/drum combo, which can sound like Bruford/Levin but also like RHCP's wild rhythm section. Omar's guitar work is maybe less prominent than on TMV's follow-up but remains very noticeable, while the unsung hero is definitely Isaiah Owens, very subtle yet defining much of their sound and often underlining the ultra-powerful passages with delicate layers of synths. The fact that the album's story is really closely related to a member of the group not only push the group beyond their reasonable limits and boosts the loudness a bit excessively, but in their case, they come out of it successfully. By the time you reach the album, there will be a sense of saturation and tiredness, because some of theit typical twists come back a little too regularly.

Although this album requires all the respect from every proghead, it will probably be always a controversial album, because of its flaws and "baroque" leanings on almost every sphere of music. While there are some albums that pride themselves of not letting you win them too easily, on the other hand there are countless modern prog albums who hide their lack of depth with obscure unexplained concepts and difficult music and impenetrable presentation. But I am rather sure that this is not the case with TMV. I think that at least everyone should spin this album once or twice a day for a week before eventually rejecting it (Cedric's voice is an acquired taste), because it does take a few listens to surrender its secrets, but unlike many of its actual competition, it does so fairly quickly. Maybe because it has enough depth to allow it

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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