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The Mars Volta - Amputechture CD (album) cover

AMPUTECHTURE

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

3.85 | 451 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars

A Bit of Background [that you might want to skip!]

The partnership between Omar Rodriguez-Lopez [who wrote and arranged all music and directs the group] & Cedrix Bixler-Zavala [who wrote all lyrics and vocal melodies] is The Mars Volta. That's exactly the phrases that I read right at the beginning of the sleeve note. This reinstates that this is basically a two-piece band. Well, actually it's not the case as the sleeve continues with a statement that there are members of The Mars Volta Group. Nevermind. What I'm really happy is that the fact that this album is printed and distributed locally at my country with reasonable price of USD 8. The previous album "Frances The Mute" was also printed locally here. I'm happy that Indonesia is becoming proggier than ever. Many young men that love Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, The Tangent, The Flower Kings etc. Oh yes, we have PROG NITEs as well, featuring Indonesian bands like Imannissimo, In Memoriam, Anane, Nerv, etc. This site has been very popular also in my country. Good progress. Keep on proggin' ..!

While I was listening to "Amputechture" I also had this albums in my play list: Kamelot "The Fourth Legacy", Isildurs Bane "The Voyage - A Trip To Elsewhere", B2N Bernard "Helping Hands" (Indonesian jazz rock / fusion), SBB 2 & 3, Anglagard "Epilog" and Finnforest. This would give you some background on my writing nuance. I am sure my standpoint might be different if I got other albums that surround this review. It might.

The Album Review [that you might want to read ..]

THE MARS VOLTA "Amputechture" is more accessible to me than its previous album "Frances The Mute". At leasr, Amputechture has lesser sound effects that tends to be boring at "Frances". Even though the music is quite strange, with more spins it really grew on me.

The opening track "Vicarious Atonement" (7:19) is a true killer for me. It starts in an ambient mode with Floydian guitar solo. Well, it's not totally Floydian, I would say, it can be said "distorted" Floydian because the guitar sounds used are not clean as typical Pink Floyd track. But this track is truly excellent. The vocal line enters in a unique characteristic in low tone. Guitar accompanies the vocal, brings in bluesy style. The first time I listened to this track I thought that the music would change abruptly with the work of drums and bass - that's typical Mars Volta track, isn't it? But I was wrong! This track has nothing to do at all with drums - even cymbals or high hats. But it's really a stunning track!

"Tetragrammaton" (16:41) enters seamlessly just after first track is finished. The music sounds with each instruments like aiming into different directions but all of them creat good harmony. The combined work of vocal and guitar fills is good. To my ears and my mind, the music flows smoothly in medium tempo with excellent guitar work. Entering the minute 5, this song changes into different style but is not dramatically as it still has strong ties with earlier part. AT the end of minute 6 the song enters mellower part with no drumming. It suddenly changes into upbeat tempo and higher tone with different style. The music flows with unique rhythm, dynamic bass lines, falsetto guitar fills and weird (but unique) vocal line. This song structure and various styles might be unusual for many people. To me the band is truly explorative in nature. They dare to challenge the status quo in songwriting, I think.

"Vermicide" (4:15) is a medium tempo track with a style that is very unique. The harmony created between guitar fills and vocal melody line is good. The music sometimes changes abruptly. The melody changes dramatically in the middle of the track with vocal line somewhat tones down. The vocal moves up at the end of the track.

"Meccamputechture" (11:02) starts beautifully with punctuated vocal line and guitar distortion. This might be the track that the band has planned to be the most complex, the most distorted and the most explorative in nature compared to others. It has everything that The Mars Volta's sound is all about. It has all abrupt changes, brutal saxophone solo, distorted guitar sounds and tiny vocal line. It's probably the track where most people who love nice and well structured composition would runaway from listening to this album completely. I myself would not dare to play this track in public - especially with those who only like "generic" music. But, let me tell you honestly, try to digest this track "as-is" (not as what you expect "should be"), accept whatever notes, scales, chords or melody line this track offers. It's a bit disjointed at first listen as you might be confused with the direction of this track. But I think at third or fourth spin you might be able to "connect the dots" and feel how excellent this song is. But, don't force yourself if you have listened to it for five times and it does not click you at all. Forget it, just sell this CD to secondary market - I believe one of my friends would purchase it. For me personally, this track offers good exploration of music that I never (or rarely) heard before. But I don't consider this as weird track, event an excellent one.

"Asilos Magdalena" (6:34) brings the music into an acoustic mode (guitar) combined with keyboard sounds / effects. When vocal enters, it's basically an excellent stream of acoustic guitar which accompanies melodic singing style with Latin nuance. The acoustic guitar work is really stunning for my ears. Overall, this track is quite accessible for wider audience - it's the most digestive song from this album. But, if you only listen to this track, you got the wrong picture on TMV music style. The ending part comprises electric guitar solo which might cause some people hate it.

"Viscera Eyes" (9:23) opens with short sound effects followed with upbeat music that reminds me to King Crimson - just before the vocal enters. Oh man . I really enjoy when the vocal enters with first lyrical phrases .. I love it. Its melody is very good, its singing style is unique. The accompanying music is quite strange, unusual I would say. But I cannot deny that they all produce nice harmony. The guitar solo is really excellent, augmented with a balanced sound effects from keyboard. This track is as complex as "Meccamputechture". The music suddenly changes at approx minute 5:55 through the work of bass guitar, followed with excellent guitar solo.

"Day of the Baphomets" (11:56) opens with a bit of Latin beats as ground but it actually demonstrates excellent bass guitar work in which bass serves as melody. It's a cool opening, I tell you. What follows is a complex arrangement that reminds me to "Island" album of King Crimson. I have to admit the virtuosity of the bad in crafting a music which I think quite original and explorative in nature. I'm really entertained with this album Hello? This is already track 7 out of 8 tracks - so if until now I enjoy it, that means I do enjoy the whole album! "El Ciervo Vulnerado" (8:50) concludes the album with similar vein like opening track "Vicarious Atonement".

Conclusion

My overall conclusion might be biased towards the kind of albums that surrounds me by the time I write this review (see "A Bit of Background" above). I'm saying this because I'm sure that this kind of music by TMV would definitely split prog audience into two: those who like it and those who don't and even hate it (and therefore they don't want to write any opinion about this album). But that's natural in prog music because nothing is truly straightforward and there is no true value of nearly everything, isn't it? As for my case, I highly recommend this album to those who sincerely want to be open mind, accept whatever presented by the musicians, willing to explore into different world, let the mind be guided with whatever arrangements and melody line the album offers and then make an opinion about it. If you have already had a preconceived mind about what prog music should sound like, forget about it. It wastes your time. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 4/5 |

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