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The Mars Volta

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5 stars What can I say? This is the greatest peice of progressive rock written in years. If there is a savior of prog/modern music, it would have to be The Marsvolta. All that said, this is not an album for the faint of heart or the close minded. It features a more developed sound than its predessesor (the Brilliant Deloused in The Commatorium) and is a step away from the punkish/emo roots still apparent in the aftermath of At The Drive In. The band have stepped into their own and discovered their sound. This is most definately the start of a new era of progressive music; something completely different. And while many "classic proggers" will shrug this one away, don't be deceived: it is a masterpeice. From start to finish: innovation. The highlight is the epic "Cassandra Gemini"; a hafhour track that blends pschedelia/prog/post rock/ punk/ riff rock/ elements and spanish lyrics into a melting pot of musical genius. THIS IS NOTHING LIKE DELOUSED, and fans of music PERIOD should own it.
Report this review (#34424)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I second that motion. This is a masterpiece. Towards De-Loused in the Comatorium: The writing is better, the band's playing is at an all time high and they are tighter than ever. Whereas DITC was very concentrated on rhythm instead of melody, Frances the Mute is a very melodic album.

Every track is brilliant, with Cassandra Geminni up for nomination (by me) for the best song they've every written. A prog rock fan should own this... but again, it's Agressive Progressive. I am continually amazed...

Report this review (#34425)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow! That's my first thought. This is an absolute classic, one of the great (or greatest) albums of the new millennium.

The sound is a lot more "mature" in a way, but also has a lot of psychedelic sounds, such as the intro of "Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore", which by the way is simply put a very beautiful song. It's not that complex but seems to have all the more feeling in it, both musically and lyrically. "L'via L'viaquez" kicks off with some Spanish lyrics. I have a lot of problems understanding them, but I don't mind; I'll stick with the great music. This in my opinion is the top of the pile here; it grabs you and it holds you through it's fast heavy parts and the more slower, mellow parts. Just amazing. And once again I realize I can't put in words the full splendour of this song. Words just can't describe it.

The half-hour "Cassandra Gemini" is quite a giant, a massive epic. It's very hard to get bored during this song, even if it is ridiculously long.

One thing I've realized is that this album seems to include a lot more soloing (mainly guitar) than the previous, and that's one thing I like. The compositions are complex and innovative, they have various layers and the skill of all these guys amazes me. The band has grown up a lot since their first album; in terms of playing and song-writing. The Mars Volta has to be one of the more promising bands of the new millennium. They make progressive music truly progressive again. They can stand proud now for what they've done here. No flaws AT ALL. The five star rating is my only option for this great masterpiece, absolute gem. A basic album for any prog-rock fan. Get it!

Report this review (#34426)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Whoa, what a surprise. I loved De-loused when it first came out, but I listened to this about 5 times the day it came out and I was shocked at how different it was. They really pushed the boundaries on this album and I just love this band's ferocity that just bounces out of the speakers. Although the band doesn't like categorizations (who really does), this album will go down as one of the best "prog" albums of this decade, standing in its very own corner.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" is one of their most consistently awesome songs yet, while "The Widow" isn't much new it's still a good song. "L'via L'viaquez" is full of energy and like most of this album makes you wanna freakout and dance, but chills out during a few salsa interludes. "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is pretty chilled out for this album and it has great melodies, in which it serves as a suitable prelude to the total headf**k that is "Cassandra Gemini." I'm not a fan of this song because it's about 32 minutes, I'm a fan of it because I love emotional freakout jams, that this song has. It really washes the flute, saxes, and trumpets really well with this song. This song has also one of the most bodacious hooks in it, that when it occurs you're like "killer." This song has so much to offer and hopefully they'll perform it live.

I was waiting at the door of the local music store the morning this album came out on March 1st, and I wasn't dissappointed. STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND GO BUY THIS, WHOOAAAAAH!!

Peace & take care

Report this review (#34427)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I waited for this album for so long. Ever since i heard the first little rumour i've been desperate to hear this album. I started to hear a lot of news which made me long for it even more, such as the fact that Omar and Cedric are rumoured to have given up their lifelong habit of drug abuse after they were stunned by the death of Jeremy Micheal Ward, their sound manipulater. This would definetly hint towards a change in concept and sound for the next album as deloused was undoubtedly a drug induced trip of brilliant progressive soundscapes, blending psychadelia, hard rock and general insaneness! To all of those forum regulars, you know how obsessed with this band i am, and i am so proud of myself because i managed to resist downloading the pre-release version of the album in January and waiting forl the proper release! My friend Giacas downloaded this album in January and to my surprise he thought it was incredible and kept telling me how good it was, which added to my temptation!

When i first heard that the album would be a 77 minute epic with only 5 tracks i leapt for joy. The Mars Volta are a band that have gained commercial respect after the success and influence of former band At the Drive In, so their music has been under the eye of the more commercial side of music, something that isn't too common in prog rock, at least not since the 70s. In the UK, Zane Lowe (one of my idols), MTV2's presenter and host of their brilliant show, Gonzo, has supported The Mars Volta, spreading the word about their music, which he often does for bands that dont tend to follow commercial music patterns or have trouble getting recognition. This really helped turn the music industry, especially music magazines to prog for the first time properly since the giants of prog were in their prime (eg Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson... you know the score!). Every review i have seen of this calls it a masterpiece. Thats exactly what it is.

Frances the Mute is a landmark in progressive music, one of the best albums since it all began.

Deloused in the Comatorium is one of my favourite albums of all time. A masterpiece. Frances the Mute is every bit as good as that album, maybe better, but it is definetly a masterpiece in a whole different way. I think this album will be a lot more appealing musically as it sounds like a pure prog album, taking a lot more influences from the giants of prog, yet it has a very very strong mars volta sound. This one is less of a rackett and more musically based, Omar sounds even better on the guitar! Has anyone noticed how peaches en regalia "L'via l'viaquez" sounds around the 9 minute mark?!

Juan Alderette takes over on the bass, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers contributes some excellent trumpet work! John Frusciante plays alongside Omar really well on L'via, producing a very latin feel. These guys are making much better music here than they ever ventured on in RHCP. This is one of the most original pieces of music i've ever heard, taking so much influence from hard rock, psychadelia, latin rock and post rock, with touches of symphonic orchestral, keyboard and brass work, classic guitar solos, and eerie ambient sounds.

The whole of this album was written and composed by Omar A Rodruiquez- Lopez, yet he allowed the rest of the band to have a great input and add their own magic into this amazing formula. Cedric pushes his voice to even further lyrics, whether its the upbeat frantic vocals of Cygnus, the breathtaking vocal harmonies of "The Widow", the haunting and emotional wailings on Miranda or the electronic masking on the closing epic, Cedric has left me stunned on this album (and i thought he was one of the best vocalists i've ever heard when i listen to Deloused). The whole band have outdone themselves here. The Mars Volta have shook off their hardcore punk, druggy roots and have progressed to making music this beautiful. Omar's guitar work sounds a lot more organised and more inviting. "Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus" shows off some similar guitar patterns to the previous album, played amazingly with lots of attention to detail. His best moments on this album lie in the solo to "The Widow", that incredible guitat intro to "L'via" and that erupting solo 3 minutes into the same track.

The band seem a lot more comfortable playing together and i cant wait to see them live on Wednesday. Ikey once again, excells in keyboard playing, one of the best guitarists ive seen since the likes of Rick Wakeman, Anglagard and Dream Theaters keyboard work. I think he gets a much better sound out of this album as the keyboards seem a lot more appropriately placed and organised than on the debut. Jon Theodore has less more frantic drumming and more paced and consistent drumming this time round. Juan alderette is much more suited bassist in terms of prog. His best work is on "Cygnus" and "Cassandra Gemmini". Marcel, Omar's brother replaces Jeremy and seems to fit right into the band.

"Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus" is an epic and a great way to kick off this masterpiece. The basic acoustic intro sounds earpleased and shows off that beautiful voice, then it errupts into loud madness, insantly showing a great change in sound since deloused, yet keeping a similar style going. The use of foreign lyrics works really well and that backing chorus just drives me wild! It just comes in so perfectly! When Omar lingers with the "my my my", it feels almost orgasmic. This piece is so upbeat that it is instantly enjoyable. I love that insane, bassy, electronic section that begins just before 3:20. It just blows my mind.This track weaves in and out of mellow and rocking moments, flowing superbly. There are no breaks inbetween this album which makes it even more of a treat (as well as a challenge, but thats easy for us proggers!) to listen to.

"The Widow" is definetly the weakest track. When i first heard this track on its own before the album was released i was worried. I thought the first 3 minutes were insanely amazing, The lyrics and vocals made my heart melt! I almost fell in love with this track, Omars guitar sound is so warm and inviting, he just gets better and better, the brass section here is pure musical magic. The last few minutes of the song sounded scary and very unradio friendly for a single release! but once i heard the album i realised how well it made the album flow, it gets L'via going nicely and feels comfortable, giving the album even more greatness!

"L'Via L'Viaquez" is incredible. I've never heard anything like it, the spanish vocals work really well and the latin guitar sounds and musicianship blow me away ever time. This one is very upbeat and is probably the most accessable track on the album for new listeners. After hearing this i knew that this was a strong contender for the best album i've ever heard! The solo that comes in around 3 minutes is like an orgasm, it is built up so well with the quieter section before it! There is a definite Frank Zappa influence around the 9 minute mark, this track flows immensely well and it was nice to see some more of the bands prog influences shining through. The track has a weird climax, with a voice that sounds like a slowed down vinyl record, deep and demonic. This is puzzling and maybe not a great climax for such a great track but very listenable. I liked the way they ended the track on such a weird, original and slow note.

"Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", The first 4 minutes are made up of ghostly sound effects and amazing waling sounds from Cedric, reflecting the theme and title of this section of the album. This is broken with an incredible brass intro that gets me weak at the knees whenever i hear it. I often find myself skipping to about 4 minutes because i just cant wait to hear that trumpet sound whenever i hear this track, though i very much recommend listening to the intro as it makes it flow better and builds up to the trumpets really well. Cedrics voice uses a similar slow and emotional sound to it like on "Televators", but he sounds twice as good hear, this is one of the best vocal performances i have ever heard! The lyrics are amazing and when the verses hit the chorus section it just feels like pure heaven! This will forever remain one of my favourite tracks ever! The vocal section is short but sweet, it nearly makes me cry when it is over, just so very emotional.

"Cassandra Gemmini" is a defining epic, i expected this album to have an overture or lengthy build up but it just kicks in straight away, it follows a very frantic structure throughout that grips the listener, certainly daring and original for a half an hour long suite, this will give "Supper's Ready" and "Echoes" a run for their money! I love the weird effect that Cedric uses on his voice at the begining, the lyrics to this song are about as big as an essay but it is definetly worth a read! There is an amazing "chorus"ish section that keeps popping up and amazing, mainly at the begining of the suite but is used as the climax. "Cassandra Gemmini" gently fades out with Sarcophagi, just like the way we entered this album.

REPEAT: Frances the Mute is a landmark in progressive music, one of the best albums since it all began.

Report this review (#34428)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was hoping to review this a week ago, a mere day after I first heard it. Thats because few albums have instantly attracted and moved me so much as this one. Really, I'm glad others have discussed the technicalities, becuase I can go to what I consider most importnat to this album, and I think all of my favorite works of music- the feeling, emotion, and thought that it oozes and provokes. I was told this was loosely based on a diary cedric and omar found, but I really don't think it matters. Parts of this album express a frantic anguish that can speak to so many things. Other musical parts create amazing ... soundscapes (I think thats the best word) that seem to transcend so much other music. I think one of the most notable is the relief of gentle peeper frogs and sparse instrumentation after a particulary busy and intense session. This portion conjures up so many images for me, and feelings. One is of the immense relaxation that a cool summer night brings, but soon I am thrown away by the next torrent of feeling.

People say this is an epic, milestone of some sort, and I think I'd have to agree. This album really seems to be a pure expression of what the band is trying to say, and its even odder because it is being shown to an unusually large audience. I think it should be noted that the flow of this album is rare- their truly are no breaks, at all. Of the top of my head, other bands that have done this, for even 40 minutes, are magma and art zoyd. Its really a very demanding listen, I scarely dare to try except while doing artwork or just plain listening. Its worth it though, because this album really is astounding.

Report this review (#34429)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well. The first 7 reviews here are all 5-stars. And here is an 8th. Freakin' brilliant CD from the band which has rejuvenated progressive rock (without meaning to, apparently they don't care much for the label). I am surprised by all the reviews that say they have totally changed their sound on this CD. I think they sound the same as in Deloused, just pushed further and harder. The same Zepellin-Santana-Rush vibe is there, only they sound like a demonic Santana on more acid than Santana's entire band ate at Woodstock. The album is really loud, so much that I can only listen to it on 4 in the car (I listen to most CD's at 16 or 18), and I have a really loud exhaust note. My ears hurt. Why does everything have to be mastered so damn loud nowadays? The sound is much more rewarding on the studio monitors at home. Best album of 2005, and it's only March. Do you really think something better than this will come out this year, or even this decade? I doubt it. Rock on, dudes.
Report this review (#34431)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
con safo
4 stars The much anticipated follow-up to the very well done deloused in the comatorium, Frances the Mute is mars voltas sophmore effort, and it does a good job of taking what was done musically on that album, and taking it into a new (but not completely unfimiliar) direction. The album, though filled with fantastic, tight and complex music does tend to drag, as the ambient parts are for the most parts fairly un-interesting. These annoyances aside, the fantastic music more than makes up for it.

I resisted the temptation to download this album and wait until it was released, and my efforts have payed off. Frances the mute is a concept album in the essence, and not easily interpreted. Its definitely an album that warrants your full attention. Clocking in at over 75 minutes, its definitely worth the 10 $ you'll pay for it.

The opening track, 'Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus' introduces us to the protagonist 'Cygnus', loosely based on deceased band member jeremy ward. From here you enter a brilliant world, and your guides are some VERY talented people. A latin-influenced prog sound, you'll be hard pressed to fit this music into one genre. It's simply not possible. One of the great things about this band is the seamless blend of paranoia inducing time-signatures, odd ambient sounds, and the mind-blowing guitar work courtesy of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. After a seemingly pointless 3 minutes of ambient sounds we enter "The Widow", already released as a single, and the only song on the album short enough. What it makes up for in length it makes up for in impact, being one of the most important songs concept wise. After another tedious 3 minutes of ambient noise we begin "L'via L'Viaquez" which features two great guitar solo's by RHCP's John frusciante. Very nice salsa-influenced chorus in this track. "Miranda" begins with yet another pointless foray into ambient soundscapes, and don't get me wrong, ambience can add great atmosphere to an album, but in this case it seems to go nowhere. Once the song does kick in, it is a real treat. Reminiscent of "Televators", it is a slower song with a very latin feel, nice trumpet contribution from yet another RHCP member, flea.

The real treat is the 32 minute epic "Cassandra Gemini", which ties the story together into one thrilling climax. All the musicians of TMV shine in this track, mind-bending guitar solos, un-human drumming, and cedrics amazing vocal range. Cassandra herself is a bit of en enigma concept wise, cygnus's twin, or cygnus himself? Nobody knows for sure, but the eventual spiral into madeness will leave you gripped. Cedric whispers "ill peel back all of my skin/peel back and let it all run" and then the band lets you know how this feels, a true sensory overload. The movement "Faminepulse" is an intense instrumental segment with some awesome trumpet and ambient guitar noises, all degenerating into a reprise of the albums first movement "Sarcophagi"

A solid 50 minutes of absolutely fantastic music, and a dissapointing 20 minutes of aimless ambient noise. Though i do love this album, i don't find it in my CD player much anymore, as the amount of tedious ambience makes this quit a lengthy listen. I am hoping their next album cut's down on the ambience. Definitely worth your money. 4.5/5

Report this review (#34432)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus - This is one of the REALLY strong points on the album. This song is just crazy and keeps you occupied all the way through. Its so sonicly thick its sickening. There is so much sound to be heard in this song.

The Widow - Come on this songs awesome. I really think that they could have a hit song on there hands here. The ending noises may not be needed but [%*!#] it...they sound cool to me.

L'Via L'Viaquez - THE GUITAR THAT STARTS OFF THIS SONG RULES. This is by far one of my favs on the album. I dunno how people could bash on it so hard...the spanish singing really doesnt turn me off either. There are a few annoying parts to this song (Ceds wail going into the piano part sucks). But other than that this songs strong. I love the really drugged out sounding spanish piano parts.

Miranda That ghost... - This song starts off with that peurto rican frog/bird type noise and some other crazy [&*!#]. It kinda reminds me of the middle of Echoes by Pink Floyd. Fleas horns kick in...awesome. This song is Beautiful. Its so powerful.

Casandra Gemini - Brilliant. Best song over 25 minutes long since Gates of Delerium by Yes. This song [%*!#]ing rules. The best part of this song would hafta be the kick in of the Orchestra parts @ 11:20. @ around 19 minutes - 28 minutes into the song it gets pretty scattered, but picks back up to a "kick you in the ass" finale. Ending this album with the Sarcophagi reprise was brilliant.

I just recently listened to this album under the influence of acid. It was hands down hands down the best drug induced musical journey my mind has ever had.

A+++ To the band. Cant wait to see them in may :)

Report this review (#34433)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars TMV's second full-length studio output actually would have all essential ingredients for an interesting prog album - multi-part lengthy tracks, a cyclic structure, mellotron, plenty of odd-timed rhythms, sudden breaks between quiet and driving sections and blending different music genres like salsa with hardrock/heavy metal . But unfortunately it contains as well in the first 3 to 4 tracks too many filling parts with redundant lengthy electronic noodlings or noise experiments which are disturbing severely the continuous flow and an enjoyable listen. IMHO these are exactly the features of Prog giving a reason to those fellows who blame it for being pretentious. And honestly I think they're completely right in doing this. I really can't get the point what it is good for if otherwise good tracks are being spoilt by something like that.

As said before first two tracks are quite fine if one cuts the final unnecessary parts off. Especially in the second one this part is much much too lengthy and actually absolutely unbearable (at least for me). Third one "Via Lviaquez" is an excellent sort of progressive salsa, only short part in the beginning and end could be cut without missing anything. Maybe I should mention that actually I find it a pity if it's necessary to edit the tracks of an album to make it enjoyable. Actually I prefer to see prog albums as an entity and not to strip it down to its individual parts.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isnt Holy Anymore" starts with an again too lengthy part with ambient noise and some spine-chilling electronic noodling, probably the right thing for a horror movie or to listen loudly in complete darkness. After four minutes finally some music is starting with guitar, sax and synths sounding quite nice actually after one has got used to the vocals.

"The Cassandra Geminni suite" suddenly is bringing back the band's well known high energy and is a very good track as well again using some sax. Second part is a very tough and quirky one as well with some dissonant avantgarde-type parts at times. In the third one the sound becomes very orchestral but as well incredibly loud. This eight parts suite is really a very interesting piece of music revealing quite different sides of the band.


With this album TMV is proving very well that they are a creative and innovative band with a high potential for big things to come from them in future. Although they might never become one of my favs especially due to the vocals they managed here a lot better than with "Deloused..." to convince me of their talents and quality.

(edited 7/19/2006)

Report this review (#34435)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not as good as Deloused, but good in it's own way. The first time they start to rock (as they like to do) you know only mars volta could deliver what you're hearing. It's not concrete though, and is in fact very abstract in structure. Songs bleed into each other and guitar "noodling" riddles the entire album. In short, a must have for fans, a bizarre ride for tourists.
Report this review (#34440)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album fulfilled my expectations 100%. It got everything i like in music: Raw intense rock, spacey soundscapes, dark and light moments. It is the first record ever to make the chills through my spine 13 times. From salsa to pure raw rock, to mad psycho sounds. Cygnus starts with a kickass acustic guitar intro and after just 1 minute it is at the top, and it wouldnt fall down until the record stopped spinning. L'via's beautiful and explosive lyrics(in spanish) was a surprise, and a hell of a good personally like spanish better than american..both the fast parts and the slow latino/salsa parts are absolutely amazing. The Widow is the only radiofriendly song on the record, and i dont feel it is there to make money, because it fits in perfectly as a powerful second intro to the album. Juan Alderetes fretless is awsome and Fleas trumpet make this song a complete experience. The next one, Miranda, make me feel the way i feel when listening to "Ummagumma disk 2 " by Pink FLoyd. A perfect song for relaxation and mind- free'er. Cassandra is the longest track on the cd and is a full-worthy ending of the cd. The completeness of the band has now kicked up from 90%-100% from DITC, even though i find that album just as good as this one, in another way ofcourse. Frances The Mute is honestly one of the best records i know, and TMV really make me hopeful when it come to the future of music. Trully a masterpiece of music.(since they dont like to be put in a specific genre, and i neither, i wont mension prog, even though i can hear some hint of it). Listen to it as a piece, it wont work at a vorspiel, it needs concentration.
Report this review (#34441)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Amazing, better than De-loused In The Comatorium.Cygnus and Cassandra Geminii are the best songs while the other 3 are just as awsome.

The album opens up with Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus which starts out slow then just explodes to a strange Multi-section piece.A thing I noticed about this album when this song plays that Frontman Cedric Bixler voice has improved from De-loused 's kinda iritating vocals to simlar but more focused song-oriented vocals unlike the previous albums vocals which are almost impossible to figure out.

Next is their radio single The Widow.Decent track with Flea(from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers) Playing not Bass,but a Trumpet,and he's not bad.The weird ending was not featured in the radio(hear it and you'll know why)and the radio version is only a little bit over 3 minutes long.

Then the 90% spanish spoken L'viad L'lviaquiez comes out of nowwhere with a Guitar solo from John Fruciscate.The song is more Rock then Prog,which is ok cause the songs great.

Miranda That Ghost... is a great song too.Least favorite,but good though.

Then the 32-minute Cassandra Geminni plays.Words can't describe how good this song is.

Overall Frances The Mute is the best Prog-Rock album in a while and I reccomend it to any Prog-Rock fan looking something new and awesome.

Report this review (#34443)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although I had the highest expectations for this album, expectations so high that it would be near impossible to reach them, The Mars Volta has managed to surpass them. They are progressive in the true meaning of the word, they actually move forward in music, not finding a safe area or anything recognizable, they truley try thier very hardest to make music unlike anything ever recorded. I believe with all my heart that Omar A Rodrigjuez Lopez is the new Robert Fripp.

Every player is exellent. Omar still captures the elements of acid jazz and folk music in his playing, but now he incorporates some real rock shredding that we didn't see on De- Loused. He is actually growing as a musician, something not many artists do. Cedric Bixler- Zavala still has a great voice, although it seems a little weaker on this cut. Juan ALderate's first studio cut with the band proves him to be great. He's every bit as good as Flea. Jon Theadore once again proves his status as the greatest drummer in modern rock music. And Ikey Owens manages to grow musically also when playing more difficult organ pieces.

Now to the songs, oh the brilliant songs. Cygnus Vismund Cygnus is a great way to start the record, because it's a defining Mars Volta cut, exploring almost all the avenues that they play. The song begins as a folk piece, then evolves suddenly into an up tempo power song. Cedric begins singing in Spanish for the first time since Tremulant. Omar shows a different side of himself in playing a shred solo. The rythm is fast and ever changing, as every musician keeps time perfectly. The chorus where all instruments but a distorted guitar and Cedric's voice drop out, "sondram, sodando, a veces nassi" followed by every member harmonizing singing the climactic "WHO DO YOU TRUST?" ...Pure excellence.

The Widow is, as Televators was, the cute little single. While the other songs are epics, this is the song meant for radio. It's not as technical or innovative as the others, but it's still more groundbreaking than most rock songs in the country right now. It also features trumpets which are used more heavily later on. Moving on then...

L' Via L' Viaquez is my second favoritesong off Frances the Mute. It's absolutely brialliant. It begins once again with a shred solo, and soon an explosive song takes place. The song is sung in Spanish primarilly. This is Cedric's best moment. He performs each verse brilliantly, singing the perfect rock song. But once they all stop and Omar plays those three muted notes, BOOM! The song changes, and instead it's vintage Latin music. Ikey is a mastermind of both genres. After this is over, some ambient sounds kick in, and we're back to shredding. The beat kicks back in, and the moving interlude where all instruments in unison play DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN..... "L' Via" and right back into the flow. Shivers my friends, shivers. The song returns several times more into the Latin vibe, and the final time it stays that way. They play in an almost jamming sort of fashion. It lasts for a few minutes and slowly fades away, and the voice effects machine kicks in. An extremely distorted voice belonging to Cedric sings the chorus once more, "I won't forget what I'm looking for. Oh mother help me I'm looking for..." Oh yes.

Miranda That Ghost Just isn't holy anymore begins with a good five minutes of sound effects and women's vocals that sound oddly similar to Star Trek. However, after a little punch of the fast forward button, this song is a pure treat. Two trumpets, this time, play in harmony, and you'd think you were listening to Miles Davis, (a good thing, a very good thing) And now, the album's defining ballad takes it's cue. The song lasts about 7 minutes from here, and the trumpets duke it out once again. Which brings us to one of prog's new defining moments.

Cassandra Gemini, yes, I said it, it's one of prog's new defining moments. In years we'll look back on this as we look back on Close To The Edge now. The 32 minute epic that gives this record its five star rating. Did I mention it's my favorite song? Anyway, This song explodes the same way as Cygnus does, with the most difficult time structure I've ever heard. A symphonic, Crimson-esque passage lasts a long time before transitionicng into about 10 or 15 minutes of pure rock jamming. If you're used to quick little numbers, this is not for you. (Because you're an idiot) The best part of this litle jam session however, is the lengthened saxophone solo. Oh god it's brilliant. I'm not sure who plays it, it might be Omar's brother, but it's at Coltrane level! Soon the chrous plays back into effect. "No there's no light" All instrumentalists play the difficult rhythm in unison one again, every so often exploding into thier own unique part. After this climax ends, the very same folk cut from Cygnus comes back, and takes us to the end.

Brilliant, just brilliant. I don't see why they're categorized as art rock, they seem more like symphonic prog to me.

Report this review (#34444)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I sorry but I have 2 problems with this album.

1. some of the "noise"

I know omar loves noise but deloused somehow managed to hold my attention, and had a definate feel. When the end of widow? i mean, camon... Its annoying to have to look for the remote to skip to the next song or finding out its nowhere near when its then you have to get up and skip manually... dam, i hate that.

noise! noise! noise!. Give me music! music! music!.



Because of problem 1., its pushes off what i think is an important mother figure to her children... Frances the mute, the song. It for me is the star of the album and where I enjoy closure from the journey. Think i will stick with my 10min cassanda edit, and when my friends ask me where is my copy... i will keep telling them.. "Im happy with my Burn"

sorry omar, i think your the best and i promise to look at the vinyl.

Report this review (#34445)
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've been reading this site for quite some time and this album got me motivated to post a review fopr the first time. I loved the debut, but their problem is..... the noise. It was present before, but in smaller doses. It is the same principal applied when an "artist" throws some paint on a canvas in a random pattern and calls it "art". Come on. Its crap. Same thing with noise noodling. Got news for you: its not art - it is simply noise. Don't get me wrong - when these guys are actually playing, their stuff is 5 star material. Out of the 75 minutes on this disc - about 45 is great stuff. And I mean GREAT. But for some reason, they tend to go off on tangents that are 4-5 minutes long in length involving bleeps, whirring, and just sound in general. If you want to hear that, I have a great suggestion for you that you may not have thought of - go outside and walk around. You can hear some great "noises" doing that. But don't put it in a record, causing me to have to use the fast forward button. Now for the good: as I indicated - when this album gets going - it is very unique and in line with the previous release. I find it interesting that so many give this 5 stars without thinking. Notice very few mention the noise? Wonder why.... 3 stars for the good stuff in between the noise.
Report this review (#34446)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Many people, me included, have pondered and guessed as to what exactly is the style of music the Mars Volta bring to us. Are they progressive, emo, latin rock, or what? Well, trying to pigeonhole the band into one specific category of music is like trying to make a ball out of jell-o: not only is pointless, it also useless. The fact is that the Mars Volta play in style of the Mars Volta, a fusion of psychedelic, latino influenced, passionate, art rock.

The music and lyrics themselves are phenomenal. Mr. Cedric Bixler-Zalava with his Geddy Lee vocals provides us vivid, surreal, and overall very haunting lyrics with every song. The songs themselves tell the story of Cygnus Vismund, an orphan in search of his real parents. The writing is pure genius. He also treats to some Spanish vocals for a few tracks. Omar Rodriguez Lopez really shines on _Frances the Mute_ as the axe-man of the band. One cannot help but be impressed and in awe after listening to the never-ending line of explosive solos and inspiring riffs. I would also like to applaud the job the bassist and drummer do on this album at keeping the music upbeat and the speeding train that it is. And to aid these already talented and worthy musicians, the Mars Volta enlist the help of Chili Pepper Flea as the trumpeter on "The Widow" which will be released as a single despite being far from the best track on the album, but technically it is the only radio-friendly song of the album. Personally, I love "L'Via L'Viaquez" the best out of all them. It is strange because I know it is 12 minutes long yet it is so magically all throughout that it does not seem that long. Of course, I must comment on the 32 minute epic Cassandra Gemini. I, as well as many people, have to say that a half hour song can easily be a turn-off to many listeners, but once again The Mars Volta make listenable. My favourite part of that song comes at the 11 minute mark. Overall, I do not think I can list any cons about the music and production of this album. I can see this album being a turn-off to some people unfamiliar with this style of music, but that is by means the fault of The Mars Volta.

In the midst of era in music when the industry is dominated by bland, angst rock groups, the Mars Volta truly are a breath of fresh - well, I would say breath of fresh air, but of course no overdone cliché does any justice to the band. Rather, the Mars Volta are more like the aromas of several sweet flowers bunched to gather and presented in a concise manner. I know it has been said countless numbers of times about a lot of albums through the years, but _Frances the Mute_ frankly is an artistic masterpiece. This album is an epic for my generation and I sincerely hope for generations to come.

Report this review (#34452)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Upon purchasing (and consequently falling in love with) The Mars Volta's 1st full length album, I was naturally very excited for this album. I had dowloaded a leaked version of the Widow, and altough it was the single edit, it was enough to hold my appetite until March 1st. After rushing out to a CD store, I put the album in my player, sat down, and strapped in.

First off, I'll discuss the band and their contributions to the album. Musically, this is about 1.5 times more diverse than De-loused in my opinion. Where alot of songs on De- loused were connected (both literally and figurativly,) all five songs on Frances have their own flavor. TMV also seems to have completly eschewed conventional music this time around. While songs like the Widow and L' Via L'viaquez mostly stay in the countable area (soemthing that's farily important to me as a drummer,) Songs like Cygnus...Vismund Cyngus and the amazing Cassandra Gemmini have at least one moment of total improv freakout.

The band is a musical Juggernaut on theis record, with one of the tightest rythm sections around today, as well as one of, if not the most, skilled guitar player/composers in the band. Much of the album is just Omar noodling for extended periods, with the band, the strings and horns (yes, they brought in a string and horn section, as well as retuning Chili Peppers John Frusiante and Flea, as well as salsa ledgend Larry Harlow on piano). This brings up one of my major qualms of the album: Too much time os given to Omar and his noodling, and not enough to Ikey (kyeboards) or Larry. It would have been nice to hear a piano solo or something in the chaos that is Frances. Anyway, The vocals, one of the high points of the album, is basically Cedric giving us his best impersionation of Robert Plant on speed. There are numerous moments where he will just hits notes that left me in awe.

And now, to the real meat of the album. After the short acoustic intro that opens and closes the album, we are hit by one of TMV's trademark cresendos, and the wonderful Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus begins. How anyone can't like this song is beyond me. The song remains farily normal until it his about the 4 minute mark. Then, there is this amazing salsa-esque breakdown, followed by one of the many Guitar solos featured on Frances. The rythm section of the band is fully displayed here, showing why John Theodore and Juan Aladerte are one of my favorite rythm sections. After staying fairly quiet for ahwile, the band cresendos into the most sonically pleasing moments on the album. The reamaining 3 minutes are just a lo-fi recording of Omar's street, which segways into the Widow. Here, the musical ball is dropped a bit, as the song is good for the 1st 3 minutes, but the remaining 3 are just an out of key organ. Not very good.

The next song, L' via L' viaquez, is the third song, and quickly recovers any doubts you may have about the album. From the Frusiante solos into the rocking verses to the more ethereal salsa sections (featuring Larry Harlow), this is a great song, and is the catchiest song, even though you may have no idea what Cedric is sining about (on account of the spanish). The next song, Miranda, that Ghost just isn't Holy anymore, begins with 4 and a half minutes of frogs. This is the second qualms with this album: too many ambient passages that tend to drag. However, once Miranda gets started, A really great song. Cedric delivers one of his most passionate vocal performances, and Flea shows off his skills on trumpet. Then, after the song reprises the end of Cygnus, Cassandra Gemmini Hits you like a brick to the face.

Cassandra Gemini, the 32 minute track at the end, is one of the craziest, busiest songs ever created. It begins with some of the oddest time signatures the band has worked with, then plows through multiple time sigs like no one's business, until it literaly falls apart into one of two improv sections. It picks back up and plows though again, only to once again fall guiet and allow Cedric to mess with the human voice, followed by another improv section, and a great sax solo before going back to the chorus, and finally closing with the acoustic intro that opened the album.

In the end, The Mars Volta have produced a stunning progressive rock album, one that Il rank up with albums like Lateralus as masterpieces of the genre. While the album does have it faults, as any great work of art does, it is still very much worth the time of any proghead out there.

Report this review (#34447)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I came into this album with pretty high expectations. After all I was one of the legions of prog fans who was charmed by The Mars Volta's full length debut Deloused In The Comatorium, and many of these guys had also raved about Frances The Mute. However I confess to feeling slightly let-down and distinctly confused ...

Like De-Loused, Frances The Mute has its share of highs and lows, although the ratio here is marginally less impressive. This album is clearly more diverse than its predecessor, and if the whole album was of the quality of the half-hour long piece Cassandra Gemini then I'd recommend it whole-heartedledly. However there are too many ordinary moments here for me to be able to do so.

The frenzied funk of the opener Cygnus ... Vismund Cygnus isn't bad with some nice harmonies, trademark rapid-fire drumming and riffing and a decent chorus, but it was a little too similar to stuff on De-Loused for my liking. It also set a nasty trend on this album of too much low-decibel atmospherics ... although I'd have to say it was within acceptable limits for most of this piece, with a nice crescendo as the whole band came back in, but the last 3 minutes of the 13 minute track is just "noodling".

The second track The Widow is certainly listenable, but is actually "just" a standard blues song in disguise. It too fades into some wierd fairground organ noises that I wouldn't quite describe as music.

The third piece L'via L'viaquez sees a fiery funky opening descend into a laidback psychedelic Latin groove, and the trick is repeated twice. Frankly it's cool for just a little while before it gets tedious. In fact, the third time the Latin groove came back, I was downright annoyed (and that's despite a rather tasty piano solo making its way into the song!).

The fourth track Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is the ultimate example of what's wrong with this album. There are lots of sounds and hardly any music until about 4 minutes into the piece. Of course, it then turns out to be a brilliant psychedelic mellow tune, with some excellent spacey keyboards, and a rather Gothic mid-section that leads into a powerful driving, almost "battling" passage before some jazzy trumpet lines fade the piece out ... into two more minutes of low-decibel music, although this passage at least has some discernible melodies. Some basic editing would have made this piece a bona fide classic, but as things stand ... it isn't.

Amazingly the concluding epic, the 31 minute long Cassandra Gemini is actually pretty well paced! In fact it might just get my vote for the best epic (more than 15 minutes, let's say) song recorded over the last 25 years! It's got a funky opening with some nice fluttering flute fills and by the 4 minute mark, there are some great attacks going on (with ol' Cedric warbling away tunefully on the top of it). Then an awesome (early) Black Sabbath-like riff takes over, while great drumming holds the next part together, apart that eventually leads into a build-up that includes both organ and flute. At 9 minutes, the piece breaks down into an avant-garde piano section, while by 12 minutes everybody comes back in. There's a powerful string-led interlude before a section in which the guitarist goes arpeggio crazy (but in a pleasing way!). The song then dies down for a while, before returning with some searing (in terms of sound, not the playing ... which is not particularly impressive) organ leads. It then drops down again into an ominous bassy section, with some trippy understated guitar leads gradually making their presence felt. There is a lengthy fade out that sees some heavy-duty saxophone playing before Omar and Cedric return to take the piece home. It's not Supper's Ready or Close To The Edge, but Cassandra Gemini really is something every prog fan should listen to at least once.

In conclusion, I'd just have to repeat my own confused analysis ... I know this album is more progressive and diverse than its predessor and it has some truly awesome moments, yet I don't quite enjoy it as much. Maybe time will clear this one up for me. ... 66% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#34448)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is actually a very diffcult piece of work. Loud, intrincated, hard on the ears, etc. Good? Yes. But also impossible to listen in one "session". You'll get a headache right in the middle of it. Now, about languages: if you don't speak spanish, please do not try to sing spanish lyrics. It's just disturbing. Nice try, anyway.
Report this review (#34449)
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've loved the mars volta from the start when i was given a copy of de-loused. it was one of the best things i had ever heard. people were saying they didnt like cedric's voice and they werent very good supporting the chillies but i stuck with what i thought because i knew that they were brilliant. i've been drumming for a while now and i was finding it hard to get bands i liked where the drumming was at the right level for me to play along. not the insanely fast drumming of dragonforce or slipknot but not the megasimple beats of nirvana and muse.TMV had the perfect level. so when the new album came out i was ready for a mega drumfest and it didnt dissapoint. funk drumming in cygnus, latin in L'via, epic power drumming in miranda and the widow and improv heaven in cassandra. the single frances the mute also has a jungle drumming and crazy off beat timings in there to confuse and amaze you. what i want to know is when the mars volta are going to bring out som official notation books so i can get the drumming perfect. in short this album can be listened to start to finish and all the time you will be amazed at the skill and variety of the sounds played. and, unlike alot of prog bands these days, its actually amazing to listen to without thinking about how dificult it is to play. a great album with great musicians but also great music.
Report this review (#34450)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Im very happy to have a band like Mars Volta around. It's like almost all of the new prog bands sound the same. And they have a Dream Theater kind of sound which I hate. But then I heard "Deloused in the comatorium" and then I knew that there's still good prog coming out. With Deloused Mars Volta gained my respect as a good prog band. But then a friend of mine told me about their latest record "Frances the Mute" and he told me that it was far better than deloused so I grew weary and went on looking for it. Man, I have to tell ya, this is really better than deloused. This album really reminds of old school prog some times but they somehow manage to keep their alternative sound which is an amazing combination. I mean they use mellotrons!!!! Ithat is something that most prog bands of this days dont use. Cygnus is an amazing fast, technical piece. The Widow I believ is their single, well, even a commercial "hit" its a great track. L'Via is great also and those spanish lyrics are very cool, Cedric's accent is very accurate. Cassandra is a masterful epic. And putting it as the closing track reminded me of Crimson's Lizard and Van Der Graaf's Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. A lot of great prog moments and some other weird stuff that is just as cool. Strongly recommended to every one into prog and those who thought that Dream Theater was the prog band of the new millenium. This is pure feeling and imagintaion, a great contrast to DT's music. I just have a doubt, what's with "Frances the Mute" the song?? where's it hidden or do I have to do to listen to it?!?!?!?
Report this review (#34451)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I give this album a 5/5 for being a great album.

I give it 4/5 for being an almost great prog rock album. It shows the group is on its way to do something great. And by great I mean if they look back on this and figure out what's keeping that cassandra gemini song from screwing us all up like Close to the Edge did, REALLY great.

For prog they get 4/5 because they have only 4 of what I consider to be 5 elements that make a great prog album.

They have the vision, the members, the technique, and the melodies

what they don't have is the glue. I don't feel that any of the songs are put together well, they are barely held together by endless jams, which for a group as sensible and high strung as they are you'd think they wouldn't have the patience to make hotdogs in between sections.

an album like close to the edge has that, so does meddle, the tune supper's ready has it... but this I'd put on my "Tales From Topographic Oceans" shelf.

Report this review (#34454)
Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars hmmmmmmmmm,where to start ........ well lets start with the good points first. This album is more diverse than the frikken universe, and boy does this stand out, from the very beggining note, to the final explosion of sound, you'll be trapped in a confused stupor. It's also very well made, and ample effort has evidently been poured into it, and at times its also the best music you will ever hear. but at other times it is a complete and utter shambles, with extremely jarring sounds that seem to have been placed there purely to disrupt the flow of the album. This may be the first piece of prog music i've purchased, but i still know when sounds clash etc. and at these tiimes the album feels very unsatisfying, like if someone cooked you an amazing meal, then garnished it with sawdust. And the bridges between song are too often repetetive beats placed to take up time. to enjoy this album to the max, then pick'n mix the tracks to your taste........
Report this review (#34455)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars There are so many different aspects in it that initially you'd love to dissect the album into bits and pieces, only to find out that the task is unattainable. This is a piece of work that clearly was intended to be listened as a whole. Additional evidence for that is that the track titles do not coincide with the actual tracks -apparently Universal Records wouldn't call a five-track work an album but an EP (lasting over 72 min!)

If there's a word that would describe it at first is LOUD, but then when you grow into it, while going thru the weird Spanish-sung-hardcore and English-Sung-salsa mix of "L'via L'viaquez", you start noticing aspects well beyond the angst and evolve into the freak atmosphere created by the long intro in "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" to be taken into the epic "Cassandra Geminni" where the band really does really take their dark concept into an epic journey rarely seen these days.

Report this review (#34456)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Four and a half, really - so I rounded it to five. Just got the album and only listened to it twice, so I can only offer my overall impressions. One main thing that I noticed, it that the album is conceived as one long track - one is never too sure where one track ends and other begins, and more importantly, where the album ends and where it begins - you can run it continuously on your CD player, and it'll play seamlessly, because the beginning and ending are the same - I haven't tried that yet. In the light of that, the individual tracks are less important, less identifiable, and sometimes seem to be somewhat stretched out. However when one considers the whole work, it all fits in well. Overall, the sound is dark, sometimes dissonant and heavily layered, using a real orchestra in a few places. However the band seems to have a good sense of melody, which saves the album from being an "unfathomable mess", like one reviewer has put it. The influences range from Zeppelin and Crimson at their most experimental - without losing the contemporary feel - to Latin salsa! There are plenty of experimental, almost cinematic interludes between vocal tracks giving one a chance to rest from the sonic assault and reflect on what's going on. The harmony is sometimes simple and at other times sophisticated, but the complex arrangements keep things interesting. The lyrics are nightmarish and abstract, like images in a nightmare, flowing without punctuation. The whole thing is 76+ minutes long. Very impressive, but I still think the previous album was a bit better - tighter, less experimental. But this is still an amazing, if mind-boggling, piece of work with plenty of sophistication and artistic vision. It seems to me like a highly evolved form of alternative/prog-metal/art- rock/hard-rock. The Mars Volta compares favorably against bands like Dream Theater and Radiohead or The Tea Party who are either hopelessly lost in anachronisms or too desperate to sound radio-friendly. This is a band to watch out for - they breathe life back into the brain-dead rock music scene.
Report this review (#34458)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to say this is an most outstanding prog-masterpiece! The intro for the album is a nice accoustic bit wich then kicks into a hard hitting and strange rhytm. The song then suddenly turns into a silent and jazzy mood before the vocals kick in in a most masterfull way and they return to the chorus. The next song The Widow is not that interesting but it is still a good song. L'Via has a incredibly cool song wich changes with deafening and pounding guitar riffs and some salsa riffs and then to turn into a more symphonic direction at the end. BEAUTIFULL!!! The next song, miranda that ghost just isnt holy anymore takes a while to really take off but when it does it sounds very untraditonal Mars volta and more like that ennio morricone music in "The good and the bad and the ugly" And then finally Cassandra Gemini a 32 minute breathtaking piece rounds it off nicely. I just think this is one of the biggest prog masterpieces ever. Anyways i have noticed that many seem to dislike the fact that mars volta likes to put noises at the end of the tracks and ok its a bit boring listening to them each time but then its just to skip the song. If you take away all the noise stuff you would get atleast 68mins of great music anyway!! And thats more than usual albums. I think the mars volta put the noise at the end is because the ones that did not like it just could skip it anyways. And i personnaly feel that it makes me live just a bit more into the story that is just one of the most complex and best written concept albums ever!. Cedric is a fantastic lyric writer and he tells the story with the "noises" the lyrics and the music. FANTASTIC!!!
Report this review (#34463)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Theres something about the voice of Cedric that just hooks you to a song straight away and in this album he brings out all the guns. The range that he has is so delectable and inticing, drawing you deeper and deeper into the song. Combined with the licks of Omar they creat an amazing mix of emotions and physical movement that make it impossible to sit still. The precussion and wind instruments create a magical and more cultural influence but still give a huanting atmosphere which is something new and f**kin fan-tas-tic.

The similarities and differences between De-loused and Frances are evident and bring a sense of something new but still retaining the sound that is The Mars Volta.The length of Cassandra Gemini is something that I believed would be a problem. But after one listen I realised that this isnt the case. They use fantastic changes in physcodelic licks to trumpet and flute and basically speaking take you on a journey and invovle you. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is the best track on the album to me. Soft start, Hard hitting middle with i dont know what voice constortion, ending in a same mind moving way that only the Volta can do.

I cant sit here and talk in advanced musical and theatreatrical terms like Im some thesauras. What I can say is that Frances the mute and De-loused are two of the most emtionally amazing and physcially uplifting albums I've ever heard and would recommend them any person looking for something new and refreshing yet solid and powerfully driven music. These guys are real musicans with a feel for what they do and yeah ROCK ON!!!

this is a tool, use it!!

Report this review (#34464)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Mars Volta fan. I am actually sitting here with a Mars Volta shirt on right now, but I am going to be as objective as possible.

A few things to note: This CD has a lot of "Down-time." It has a lot of psuedo-ambient transitional material that was left in the CD for some reason. I know that it is in the interest of prog to meander around with sound, but there is a time when that just goes too far. Seriously, does anyone really listen to the last 20 minutes of Delerium Cordia? That being said, it becomes apparent why this was true. If you set the CD cases for De-Loused... and Frances... down next to each other and look at the producers, you will see Rick Rubin on De-Loused... and Omar on Frances... Now, Rick Rubin is a very famous producer; some say he is one of the best. Omar, well, he's Omar. The difference between producers was ultimately a difference of self-expression. I guess Omar and Cedric decided that they would rather make their own sound than rely on someone else for interpretation. For this reason, I can't really fault them for what they did, but it decidedly hurts their sound. If, hypothetically, Rick Rubin had signed on to Frances the Mute, they would have, most likely, sacrificed the ability to have Cassandra Gemini (due to its prolonged prog style.) For me, this album is a great landmark in modern prog, but shows the new problematic with record production. A little slicing and dicing and this could have been immortalized in the annals of prog history forever.

Report this review (#34466)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Aaah, rewritten album number 4, and what a re-write this is. It's actually getting the big 5 from me. Now, I'm very conservative when it comes to this. I believe that a 4 star album is an incredible album. However, it needs that something extra to become a full-blown masterpiece. It's a tough word: masterpiece. Perfection. I give five stars to the all-time classics like Close to the Edge. Mind you, I don't do this because everyone else does. I do it because I believe they are masterpieces. OK, I've gotten my point across.

The Mars Volta is one of the most innovative, creative, and forward-thinking bands to ever exist. Yes, I said it. Get over it. All of you who hail this whole experimental/post-rock genre as not prog, bad, typical modern music, please don't do that. Most of you saying this have not even given the bands here a chance. And by "chance", I mean more than one listen. Try having an open mind. Geez, that's what prog is all about. And, of course, I am a firm believer that we are all entitled to our opinions. So, to each his/her own, I guess. But give them a chance before you shout your opinion of disapproval.

As for this album, it is one of the largest strokes of genius in my collection. You can go down the line from 1967 to 2005 and put the top albums up, and this would have to be there. I believe that it is the best album of 2005, and most likely, the new millenium. Originality knows no bounds here, and it is executed with brilliant playing and amazing song writing. Omar is a genius, and Cedric is a fantastic vocalist and lyricist. Combined with Ikey's tasteful keyboards, Theodore's potentially frantic but structured drumming, and Juan's solid bass work, you're all set.

Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus: The acoustic guitar opens up peacefully, and then Cedric's voice comes in, and you can tell that this is different than De-loused... Then, The Mars Volta kick into gear, and it starts, like an unstoppable onslaught, it doesn't stop, but you don't want it to. It grows and grows, until it reaches the 9/8 12/8 8/8 time signature section. The bass sets the foundation, while the drums hold it together. The guitar and keyboards work their way in, and it builds slowly until it gives way to Cedric closing out this section before it returns to the original. Followed by a few minutes of different sounds and noises. I'll leave you to decipher those. The song is mind-blowing. The only song style that could have opened this album.

The Widow: And it calms down. The tidal wave drops for the moment. And The Widow starts. It's the radio song of the bunch. Nonetheless, it is perfect/brilliant. I actually saw the music video in California. It made me happy (seeing it made me happy, the video itself is quite disturbing). The song, the shortest one here, in itself is mellow with great guitar work in the middle. Very interesting, followed by 2-3 minutes of sound effects (cut off for the radio) before:

L'Via L'Viaquez: Could be the most original song ever written. The band amazes with me with their ability to think to the future. Omar, as I have already said, is a genius. It starts off with some of the best guitar work on the album, followed by the Spanish lyrics of the song. Followed by, lo and behold, the Latin section. Forward-thinking? Understatement. So incredible. Frusciante gives some absolutely mind-blowing solos here. Towards, the end Cedric's voice becomes demonic, but still incredible.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: Absolutely positively stunning and mind-blowing. I didn't know a song as mellow as this one could be this fantasmagoric. The trumpet work is absolutely incredible, and when it builds to the climax and the drums start in.... one of the best point's in music. Period. I don't want to say anymore.

Cassandra Geminni: Oh my God, I almost can't write all this. An album as incredible and masterful as this, it's impossible to put into words, and to do so is tiring. This is an epic among epics in a way. I'm actually going to do something weird here. I'm not going to say any more about it. I'll let you figure it out.

TO ALL FANS OF PROGRESSIVE ROCK MUSIC, HEAR ME. I believe that you should own this album. At the very least, just give it a try, give it its due. It is a masterpiece of progressive music, completely. Do not simply shrug it off. Be open-minded, and hear what I hear, if you can. 5/5 stars. And you're hard-pressed to get that out of me.

Report this review (#34467)
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I must admit I heard very positive reviews of this album, and I bought it.. Good prog band with very good musicians with very good vocals.. The songs are played very well and I must say, the widow is the one I prefere for its pathos generated (I also saw the video clip, which is a little too diff to understand).. Only weakness of this album, stands in the parts with experimental sounds and noises which remind Pink Floyd albums, which are frankly too long to any listener...
Report this review (#34468)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first got this album, I listened to it about 5 times, which may not seem like that much of a feat if you are not familiar with the album. This album is not only very long, with 4/5 of the songs being 12 mins+, but is also very dense, confusing, and intense. This album will take you on a journey. What pushes this from **** to ***** is that not only is this an excellent album, but it has proved that prog rock can still be popular, having cracked the Top 5 in the US without containing any commercialism, and even recieving much video play with "The Widow." As for whether this is prog or punk, I see no reason that this can not be labeled as both. This is also not for people not willign to repeatedly listen and concentrate on the music.

I don't know what the hell Cedric is saying, though, but I've never herd him sing something I could understand on ANY album.

Report this review (#34469)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars Well the Mars Volta fan boys are out in force and I can only shake my head in bewilderment and some sadness. How can such a poor bunch of songs, always in minor keys, capped by a singer whose whining and mewling brings to mind Placebo on steroids, be rated as a masterpiece? Those who have rated it as such surely do not know much of what happened pre-1985 when it seems they must have been born. Effects and production are here substituted for music and virtuosity is valued only as a claim to 'prog' legitimacy rather than actually serving any real musical purpose. Perhaps this is an appropriate metaphor for our age - where form triumphs over substance. Sweet wet dreams, fan boys. Sad. If I could give this '-1000' stars I would...... PS - The fact that this lame band features on this site yet genuine progressives the Residents are nowhere to be seen puts it to shame.
Report this review (#34470)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first MV album was a breath of fresh air in a popular music scene that has long since been given over to style over substance. Where bands and "artists" are products and not individuals creating art. This second album is somewhat of a letdown, but still has much of the power and inventiveness of the first. Personally, I like the "weird sounds" sections of the songs on this album, though they do seem put there almost just to fill space a lot of the time. This detracts from the otherwise well played and well written music. In all honesty, if it was not for the fact that this album and its predecessor are introducing a whole new generation to the concept of prog rock, I would probably give this two stars and the previous one three. I will pull these albums out from time to time when I need a shot of energy and adrellaline. But it gives me hope to see hoards of young people picking this band up. Sure, most will just shelve the albums after a while (or sell them), but some will be curious to hear the originators of this music and will want to explore more challenging bands. For that, I think the Mars Volta albums deserve three stars.
Report this review (#34471)
Posted Thursday, June 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've got the CD with my friend, and really liked it! Its a nice atual progressive band, with very nice songs! With nice vocals, melodies, and vocals! The latin rhitym on L'via L'viaquez is awesome!! :D

I liked the whole disc except some experimental parts that i think it was unecessary, but the disc is very good.

I think its a masterpiece of EXPERIMENTAL PROGRESSIVE! But if you don't like experimental that much, i think it's still a 4 stars album. So i'll vote 4 stars, because most progressive lovers i know aren't fans of experimental prog.

Report this review (#35336)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars frances the mute is an explosion of rythms, of styles, is an organized anarchism. in this album, the mars volta shows their latin influecies in "l'via l'viaquez", and in some parts of "cygnus....", but in "miranda" and "cassandra gemmini" shows a big influece of king crimson. in other words, this album is a perfect mix of latin sounds, hard rock, complex compositions, intercalated use of languages (english/spanish), and the most variated types of influences.
Report this review (#35439)
Posted Monday, June 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A crazy mix of every musical style imaginable - psychedelia, punk/metal and Latin jazz chief among them - all amplified to 11. The rhythm section reminds me of Rush and Santana simultaneously; the guitarist borrows liberally from Fripp, but sounds more like a metal god; the vocalist tries for Plant-like wails, but ends up sounding like a strange cross between Geddy Lee and Robert Smith from Cure. Ambient noises serve to give listeners some cool-down time in between the bursts of musical intensity.

Best new band out there? Certainly. But does it have to be so damn LOUD??

Report this review (#37004)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow...This album is by far my favorite by the Mars Volta. It just oozes with latin beats and pulsates with the makings of a great band. My personal favorite song on this album would have to be L'via L'viaquez. That song is so good because of John Frusciante of the Chille Peppers' contribution to the guitar parts. I also liked the way the album sort of went full circle by starting with Sarcophagi and ending with Sarcophagi. The sort of jungle beat during the first parts of Cygnus..Vismond Cygnus is just amazing. The Widow is also another great song and so are Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore and Cassandra Gemini... that's alot of ands.
Report this review (#38027)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album. Listening to this reminds me of Yes during their peak, particularly Relayer period. Very fast, high energy playing, sudden changes in dynamics, frantic and chaotic, yet still melodic, and high register and very powerful vocals with good harmonization. There is also quite a bit of the spacy element here, as the band experiments with soundscapes and sound effects. One reviewer said it was too excessive, I on the contrary feel it was used exceptionally well. The Miranda song particularly uses it effectively. There are many styles of music incorporated here.

The album starts out softly with a melodic acoustic movement called Sarcophagi. It's very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Battle of Evermore or Yes's And You And I. But one minute into the first song, the next section, Umbilical Symbols, bursts in loud fast and furious. Not since Yes's Relayer have I heard such controlled chaos, crazy tempos, and busy frantic instruments. The vocals on top hold it all together, and the harmony during the chorus is both beautiful and powerful. This chorus becomes the theme for the entire album, and is actually reprised at the end of album before going back into Sarcophagi.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Once the first epic ends it quiets down again, and we get some sounds. The second song, The Widow, is the most radio friendly of the songs, as I've heard it before on the radio. A good catchy song that quickly goes back to its progressive roots with some spacy keyboard sounds. L'Via is a spanish song, that is both fast and loud, and soft and peaceful. It moves back and forth between these moods, with a slow latin dance number serving as the soft section. It eventually ends with this section, and soon goes into what I think is the best song on the album, the Miranda epic.

This is where it starts to get confusing. There are 12 tracks on this cd, yet there are only 5 songs listed on the back album cover (with no track numbers associated with them). I assumed that the last two songs were broken up into their movement sections, but upon reading the lyrics, I noticed that this was not the case. Indeed, track 4 is Miranda in its entirety, and the rest of the tracks are the Cassandra song. Still, that doesn't account for the 3 extra tracks. To make things more confusing there is a sixth three part song listed on the inside of the cd called 'Frances the Mute', with lyrics written that aren't heard on the album (I may have to listen more closely again to see if I can hear them). I later assumed that this song occurs somewhere in 'Cassandra'. I deduced, by reading the lyrics, that Frances the Mute actually occurs after 'Multiple Spouse Wounds' Section but before the 'Sarcophagi' reprise, which accounts for the three extra tracks. But it still doesn't explain the missing lyrics. Perhaps someone more in the know can explain this track discrepency. Nevertheless, Both these epics are incredible, although I felt 'Cassandra' went on a bit longer than it needed to.

The fact that this album was successful makes me very happy. With bands like Radiohead and Tool growing in success, and bands like Mars Volta up and coming, there is hope for progressive rock yet.

Report this review (#38743)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I know it's kind of late to do a review on this album. But oh well. I have had this album since the day it came out, and still to this moment I love it. However, I didn't give it 5 for the same reason everyone has. The random noises that come up in nearly every song. I dont mind sections of noise, but they're just to long on here. De-loused worked because they used it to keep out silence from in between songs. But this just took it to a horrible level. But nonetheless, I think it is an amazing album, that is when music is actually playing.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus - Incredible. Definitaly one of my favorite's if not the favorite song of theirs. From start to finish it is just a really cool song, and although everyone says it sounds like De-loused. I dont really get that from it, personally. The first 4 minutes of the song are insane. The frantic guitar and bass as always is just a rush. Jon Theodore's drums are perfect adding another great element entirely to the song, as they always do at least for me. And Cedric's vocals are incredible. I'm usually not a fan of the Mars Volta's slower mellow jam sections on record at least, but i always find myself loving the slowed down guitar solo section in this song. Great guitar work and a real well paced progression into when they finally come back into the explosive ending. My only minor complaint is the noise in the ending goes on to long for my liking.

The Widow - A simple, but great song, at least before the horrible noise closing. Cedrics vocals are breathtaking as well as Omar's classic guitar soloing, and Theodore adds to the song greatly with his Bonham influenced drumming.

L'via L'viaquez - Amazing. This song caught me off guard the first time i heard it. Not in a bad way, it's just the entirely different sound wasn't what i was expecting. But God do I love it. Great added guitar work by Mr. Frusciante. I hate him with RHCP, but I love when he works with these guys. Great simple main groove by Theodore, and the vocals take the song to another level. The salsa jam is very cool. A great flowing song from start to finish. Definitaly one of their best, and it's incredible live.

Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore - F*** the first 4 minutes of this song. There's no need for that long a section of random noise. It works I suppose as a buildup, but it's just to long and I can't even force myself to get anything good from that. However, the song is amazing once it actually starts up. Very cool guitar. and the creepy vocals by Cedric just make the song for me. My eyes honestly watered when I first heard this song. Great song when the music is actually happening. Great trumpet as well. That adds alot to the song.

Cassandra Gemini - Ahhhh....Pure insanity. I obviously knew this was a long song before I even heard it, so I listened with the speakers loud expecting a progressing intro. That was a mistake. This song kicks into insanity the second it starts. I'm honestly to tired to give an entire detailed description of this song. But my basic overview, Amazing. This song manages to flow beautifully from start to finish, and that's impressive being that it is 32 minutes long. Incredible musical performances on every individuals part. And the vocals and lyrics are simply stunning.

Overall, this album is definitaly a great one when music is being played. If only the noise could be cut down, this would be a flawless album in my eyes. But I highly recommend listening to De-Loused before checking this one out. I see nothing but greater things coming from these guys.

Report this review (#39936)
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yes it is late in the piece to be writing a review. I have just found this site. Having had this CD for several months I was intrigued to see what people had to say. My first question was: does anyone really understand the lyrics apart from the broad gist of the story? - answer NO. This is fine. We listen to African music, German and Italian classical music usually with no greater understanding. I think this is the way to approach this music and this way there is no frustration. Just images and splashes of mood. Secondly, what did people think of the ambient linking sections? Huge divergent opinion. I think they generally work well. Music is all about context and set-up. The 4 minute lead-in to track 4 feels just right to me. We have had some musical assault and battery and need to sit back and build into the next song. Much more emotive in this context I think. Yes, this CD needs a close listen. As background it can be irritating. I have found digesting it in chunks at first, I can now listen to the whole thing and find it extremely creative and interesting. Moving, even! Some sections are exhilarating. Glad I persisted I don't know if it's a classic. With music that often depends on how your life is going when you first hear it. (Apart from OBVIOUS classics like Kind of Blue - Miles Davis, Abbatior Blues/Lyre of Orpheus - Nick Cave, fill in your own eclectic choices here) But it is certainly worth having.
Report this review (#39963)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Man, nice stuff! I don't know if it will be THE masterpiece of TMV, but if isn't, I have to admit it's pretty damn close. The only real flaw I could say I found were those looooooooong sound efects between songs, in some of them it would had done no harm to cut them a little. But nonetheless the music itself it's brilliant, quite a thing indeed. "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" opens the album and it's a hell of a song. During 10 minutes it's truly a fantastic thing, keeps your mind interested (that guitar work!) and never drags on... My second favourite in this album. "The Widow" is "the single", but it's a great track anyway. To me, it sounds like suddenly it's chopped off because of the final 3 minutes, but the initial 3 are worth the shot, they're thrilling. Listen to Flea's trumpet on this track, it gives quite a "Mexican" feel. Next comes "L'via L'viaquez". For those who wonder about the Spanish lyrics, they seem to make no sense anyway... But who knows, I didn't get any lyrics of this album (If someone can explain to me...) It's my favourite track on Frances, and it's absolutely perfect, a little weird at the end, but perfect. In my opinion it's the most experimental one and it's worth every of its 12 minutes. "Miranda, that ghost just isn't holy anymore" takes a long time to start but it's a haunting ballad, excellent, worth the wait indeed. It roughly has 5 minutes of actual music out of 13, but it's ok anyway because those 5 minutes really pay the album. The trumpet work, once again, it's perfect. At the end of this track, "Cassandra Geminni" kinda builds up. The final halfhour it's actually eight parts of one huge track, "Cassandra Geminni". Great and chilling at parts, weird at others, this one has it all, even some "spider voice" on movement one, "Tarantism". It's a nice track, although not my fave...
Report this review (#41472)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I feel that this band is ahead of thier time, and they show it in frances the mute, the epic story of searching for your roots which had me digging and finding connections through out the whole record even tough the record is one continuos song. The very idea of fiding your own meaning of the record is rewarding.
Report this review (#41487)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is what I believe my least favourite type of music (Punk/Hardcore) trying to be intelligent, artistic and proggy at the same time. I could admit that it was a complete success for them, and I read very high reviews in amazon, allmusicguide, and even this progressive rock site.

I may differ from the majority, but I find this album not as enjoyable as people do (I still like it very much). I warn the reader that this CD has several minutes used for sound effects and noise. A also give the warning that it contains very loud music and some lyrics are in Spanish.

1. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus (5/10) is a very creative and loud track full of changes of tempos and time signatures. I can understand how many people can call this epic a masterpiece and I will not prove them wrong. It is just not my taste of music.

2. The Widow (4.5/10) This track is more accessible, yet for me, I think of it as an average alternative rock song with noise put in the last 3 minutes. The noise is tolerable here and doesn't hurt the song.

3. L'Via L'Viaquez (7/10) : This is the song that I enjoy the most, and my favourite song from the band for now. It combines hard rock, hardcore, and latin music in an impressive way. My only criticism are the spanish vocals/lyrics at the beginning which make me beg for mercy : I find them horrible and nonsensical (I am hispanic). The rest of the song switches a salsa- like groove and a hard rock section back and forth, until there's a good salsa jam, which is ended by distorted vocals.

4. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anmore (4/10) My least favourite epic from the album. The main factor is the pointless noise in the beginning that doesn't seem to end. When the track gets going, it is atmospheric, it delivers good vocals, and a surprising, yet effective, trumpet solo.

5. Cassandra Geminni I (2/10) This is a very long epic that feels a little overlong. Nevertheless, it is THE Epic of the band. This is when the band is at its most experimental and virtuosic. I would not spoil the song for people interested in hearing this album, you should hear it for yourselves. Unfortunately, I find it completely unlistenable.

This is not an album for everyone. IT is very challenging and different from the normal (like Gentle Giant). My recommendation goes for anyone who likes challenging, heavy, and highly creative music (like King Crimson) and also for people who feels neo-prog is mainstream dull music.

My Grade : D

Report this review (#41861)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta is by far the weirdest band I've ever heard, and by far one of my favorites. At first, I liked it, but not as much as De-Loused, but over time it won me over completely. My only complaint is that they could stand to shorten the sound effects between the songs. Other than that, I love the lyrics, not because I like the message behind them or anything (I have no idea what any of them mean, not even the english ones), but they're just so original, and they sound really cool (I love the line "And his multiple sons with their mandible tongues"). All of the songs have a really good hook (with the possible exception of The Widow): Cygnus (Who do you trust), L'via (L'via hija de miranda), Miranda (And when miranda sang), and Cassandra (There's no light in the darkest of your furthest reaches).

Anywho, Definately not for everyone, so I understand why some people hate it. so in reality, it may not be an excellent edition to ANY prog music collection, but it is an essential part of mine.

Report this review (#41939)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars its hard to describe this masterpiece cause it mixes many genres. 1. cygnus..... vismund cygnus (9.5/10) this track starts with quiet acoustic guitar and beautifull vocals. after that the guitar comes with a splash ( guitar riff sounds very hard to play) drums are also awesome on this piece. you can also hear some electronic influences at the end of the song very very good. 2.widow (8.5/10) this is the closest to a pop song that this album offers. powerfull vocals and lyrics. theres a surprise when the song turns to pure electronic voice but i like it. not as good as cygnus but better than good 3.l`via vià viaquez (9/10) someone might scare the spanish vocals but i dont. there is some english vocals in the end of the track though. the chorus is full space salsa. great 4. (9/10) it starts with 4 minutes of ambient (its not as boring as it sounds) its intresting. this explains much of the story of this album. acoustic guitar, electric guitar and trumpets make the climax of the chorus. beatifull 5. cassandra gemini (10/10) one of the best tracks in the whole history of progressive rock. you have to hear it i cant explain this 32 minute epic. CONCLUSION = THIS RECORD IS NOT FOR EVERYONE ITS DARK, NOISY, EXPERIMENTAL BUT IF YOU ARE INTRESTED BUY THIS MASTERPIECE
Report this review (#42344)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the best prog album since Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here (1975). And there are some similarities between both of them. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez was born in 1975. Both albums contain five songs. Both albums are inspired by a tragic loss of a friend and band member. I am not a fan of At The Drive In ( I don't like punk) and I was completely shocked to discover that ATDI gave birth to the best prog group of the last 20 years. They have the vibe of 70's music- from Led Zeppelin (Rodriguez mentions Jimmy Page as main influence) to Pink Floyd as well as Yes , Santana, Uriah Heep, Rush and many more. But they're not copying any of these groups. Omar Rodriguez is an incredible guitarist and songwriter, he plays relentlessly and the combination of his psychedelic /agressive sound with the amazing voice of singer Cedric Bixler and his twisted lyrics takes you to a wonderful musical journey. Just set the volume high and forget about reality. You don't even need do decipher all of the complex lyrics, some words made up by Bixler. They only serve to guide your fantasy and emotions. Every time I listen to the album I discover a different aspect of their music. Absolutely stunning experience. And, amazingly, despite the overall sad mood of the album, it won't depress you. I can't stop listening to this masterpiece! De-Loused in Comatorium was alredy a masterpiece, but Frances The Mute is even better! And all musicians playing on the album are amazing, especially drummer John Theodore , basist Juan Alderete and keyboardist Ikey Owens. The album turned out to be so great that they decided not to put the title song on it (although the lyrics are present in the booklet). It is true in a way that the song doesn't fit in, but it's also excelent and you can get it on the single The Widow.
Report this review (#42655)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band defies easy categorisation; they can be called progressive, though they themselves refute the label.Their music certainly does have complex structures; the pieces are lengthy; they are clearly good musicians; but it also has a raw energy which is perhaps why I have heard the "punk" label attached to them. I can hear touches of King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Led Zep and Henry Cow in there, but these are fleeting, and it's not possible to define their music easily by reference to other bands. The style can be bizzare; take L'Via L' Viaquez (track 3) - Spanish(?) lyrics matched to a driving, hard riff, then followed by a chorus in twisted English ("the walls they tightly wrapped in tape"..?), sang over a salsa beat. However ridiculous that sounds, their music has got a grip of me, and I find I have been playing this and their first album "De-Loused in The Crematorium" almost non-stop for the past three weeks. They do have some great riffs - towards the conclusion of "Cygmus...", in the aforementioned "L'Via" and on the first part of "Cassandra Gemini". Another reviewer has noted that there is a lot of noise on the album - there certainly are some atmospheric, ambient sections of well, yes I guess you have to call it noise, but after several listenings I find it all works, although maybe these go on just a little too long here and there (like, the first 4 minutes of "Miranda"). This is not comfortable music to listen to; the vocals are often shrill; the music shifts - sometimes uncomfortably - from style to style, theme to theme. But if like me your definition of prog includes the words radical and challenging then you should try them out.

Which of their albums should you try first? I would say "De-Loused" is slightly easier to listen to (that's a relative term), but "Frances" has more prog references in it. Q magazine's Prog Special put this album in their Top 20 prog albums to try; perhaps they were right when they said (I paraphrase) - "a 30 minute long track called Cassandra Gemini, a Strom Thorgeson cover, and still they say they're not prog? Methinks they doth protest too much..."

Report this review (#43795)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This band is not for everybody- thats why I give it two stars. I think when you have a band that is THIS AVANT GARDE- it cant be much higher than 3 stars. Yes- this band has some musical talent- but I see it more as an alternative rock kind of style. The singing just doesnt cut it for me- and many of my budies as well- De- loused is a much better album- 9i would give that one 3 stars) This is OK- and nothing more- Decent musicians- but not a must have in any fashion. To give this 5 stars is absolutly absurd- that means its as good as the top 10/10 albums on the list- absurd!
Report this review (#44396)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The MARS VOLTA have done it again and have released a hugely theatrical and powerful concept album to totally blow your mind. Back in 2003 The MARS VOLTA released their debut album "De-loused In The Comatorium" which took me back and became my favourite album of 2003. "Frances The Mute" again musically blends multiple genres. prog, rock, jazz and funk themes into a harder edged sound. "Frances the Mute" sees the band again pushing the boundaries of music and have released a jarring but undoubtedly creative progressive album. Apparently the concept of this album was inspired by a real diary that band member Jeremy Ward (RIP) found. The album and the music covey feelings that emerged from the diary readings... abandonment and addiction. All the music was written by band lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez who adds lots of crunchy solos and powerful chording throughout the album. Volta would also not be the same without the powerful rock voice of Cedric Bixler Zavala who brings this album to life. Once again I would frame with album by comparing it to a machination of KING CRIMSON's power with space sensitivities of PORCUPINE TREE and the urban frailty of RADIOHEAD. These guys are an acquired taste for sure and regardless of market pressure they have released a whopper of an album in "Frances The Mute". Pretty much an essential album.
Report this review (#45850)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars While I think the Mars Volta is one of the most valuable new bands now-- in terms of musicianship, songwriting, and ***-kicking rock-- they really need to tone down on the arty electronic noises and hippie-style lyrics. At least "Televators" was understandable.

Aside from that, though, I love this CD, mostly because of "Cassandra Gemini". Strangely enough, the longest song on the CD has the least filler. The chorus is huge, the arrangement isn't perfect, but it's good, and the singing is fantastic as usual with the Mars Volta. Lyrics are just as weird as usual though, (orifice icicles hemorrhaged by combing her torso?) And there are only about 2 minutes that could've been cut out for me, as opposed to the other 4 tracks. That's one of the major gripes I have with "Frances the Mute". In "De-Loused In The Comatorium" there were no noticeable "ambient soundscapes" or whatever. Yet in this CD there are about 20 minutes of pointlessly unatmospheric electronic looping. I can hardly stand to listen to "Miranda" anymore because of the 4 minutes of nothing before it starts. After the first 3 minutes of "The Widow" I skip to "L'Via".

And then there's the lyrics: My my my nails peel back When the taxidermist ruined Goose stepped the freckling impatience All the brittle tombs Five hundred little q's I'm splitting hairs to match the faces ("Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus")

...what? I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. I actually like it better when they sing in Spanish, because I can't understand the wordy gibberish they spew in English. They have the opposite problem from "hardcore" bands, whose actual singing isn't understandable-- The Mars Volta's words are incomprehensible. The song that's least terrible in terms of lyrics here is "The Widow" because there are hardly any words. And there's still the bit about hearing through every pore, or something like that. That just doesn't make sense.

Aside from all this criticism, this is actually a very good CD. If you don't listen to the lyrics, and listen on a computer where you can easily skip the electronic crap. I'm giving this a 4, because almost no new bands are doing something like The Mars Volta. Get "De-Loused" first though.

Report this review (#46559)
Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I really wanted to like this album as the previous was good and there were parts that I thought had real potential if they werent obscured by non-musical noodling. The great musicianship that everyone's raving about is buried in layers of frustratingly muddled sound not to mention the lyrics. As far as the sound effects library I like what a previous reviewer said about throwing paint on a canvas and calling it art.
Report this review (#46730)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is way better then De-Loused and I loved De-Loused. I don't get why everyone is hating on all the use of sound elements, I thought that it was done tastefully and sets the mood of the album. I loved the poetic style on the lyrics, it all seams to be written in code but still the anguish and torture still come through.

The Mars Volta are really defining their own spot in the world of music. This album brings back a lot of elements missing from most prog rock albums today. Listening to this is like listening to a King Crimson record or Yes, it's best taken all in at once and straight through. Not a single miss, all hits. The Combination of the spectacular playing with sound the sound effects, the use of the full orchestra and the straight out theatrics, especially on Cassandra Geminni, make this album a masterpiece.

These guys know what they are trying to do and know how to do it better then most people making music today. I can't wait for the next album.

Report this review (#46768)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The lyrics do mean something! Check out and the forums there for a large number of interpretations of the "gibberish" ;D. Gets a 4 from me due to the largely misused ambient noise/pseudo-soundscape/Omar trying to sound like Can or Robert Fripp on acid as he over-doodles on electronics (I hate waiting 4 minutes for the beautiful Miranda) and because of the damn lousy Spanish singing (I'm Hispanic and believe me Cedric makes no sense... he writes in English and then translates to Spanish, it shows... therefore the language is... well I'll just say Damo Suzuki speaks better Rumanian than this dude Spanish). Had they fixed these little issues this album would have been a MASTERPIECE. Well, and added to that The Widow is way too poppy and sterile... cuts the album in half and breaks the beautiful continuity it would have. One of my favorite bands. One day I know they will release an album thats going to shake the f**king world (this one was so, so, so close).
Report this review (#50204)
Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first time I heard about the Mars Volta was when I heard the widow on TV instantly wanting to hear more. At first the widow made me think the album would be a standard rock album. Though like the mars volta have said, "its like a trailer to a movie". A long while after the album was released I bought it. I listened to to the first four tracks. I had never listened to music like this, but I loved it. this music may take some getting used to (if you have never heard music like this) and patience but it is very good. Cedric's lyrics are amazing, very sci fi-ish in a haunting way. These songs made you wonder what they were about and thats another part of why the album was appealing. While some poeple may think the ambient noises are irritating, I found them a intense build up before each song. Omar is a very talented guitar player, finding that he produced the songs with little music theory knowledge is another thing. It shows how attentively and intelligently the album was made. Great album if you're open to anything new!

Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: great accoustic guitar intro and cedric's haunting vocals are captivating.

The Widow: ITs a good song, but not the best on the album. props on guitar once again

L'Via L'Viaquez: intense build up to song, love the latin flavor added in there.

Mirnada that Ghost isn't Holy Anymore: Cedric's voice is a bit "Ehh"? GReat instramentals (the lovely trumpet)

Cassandra Gemmini: Awesome lyrics, best dynamics and effects in Cedric's voice here.

Report this review (#52531)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Never having been a huge At the Drive In fan (who strangely enough are rarely mentioned in the reviews above) I came to the Mars Volta with an open mind. Having read some of the reviews I had to write my own.

Anyone who expects a classic prog-rock album from these guys will be sorely disappointed, yes Storm Thorgerson/Hipgnosis did the art, yes there are multi part epics, yes there is wild variation in dynamics/tempos, but remember the album was recorded in 2004, not 1974. Mars Volta are as prog as you can get in 2005 without being a throwback or revivalist group, they are trying to do something new and injecting life into a tired genre (and selling a lot of records too).

Mars Volta can play their instruments, there may not be a virtuoso in the band but does there need to be? They can write intricate and engaging songs that are simultaneously difficult and listenable (i.e Cygnus... or the closing Cassandra... epic). Not an easy thing to do (though they do get lost from time to time in the noisy bridging sections). They can also write a decent pop song (the Widow), and of course thats the entry point for new fans. There's plenty to like here, it may not be 'old school' but it's pretty good.

Nonetheless one must keep in mind that times have changed, bands of today have a much different musical upbringing to those of the classic era. Remember Mars Volta came from a punk/hardcore background so their approach will be different (ATDI sounded like a pumped up Fugazi to me - which is not a bad thing at all), celebrate this difference.

"Frances the Mute" should be lauded for bringing progressive music back to the general consciousness and expanding the audience it has.

TMV are good, not yet great. But they could be. Give it a go.

Report this review (#53640)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow. This album is the second from The Mars Volta and it is no letdown. Simply amazing. Sure it takes a while to get into but isn't it the same with almost all prog? The only complaints about this album is the 'excess' noise. And while there's no denying the huge amount of filler used, 'filler' is really not the term I would use to describe the long transitional phrases, these phases do a great job setting the mood for the next big sonic explosion. Even with the so-called 'filler' this epic disc contains more music than the average record coming close to 80 minutes long! The blatant single, the 'Widow' which is somewhat slanted towards the mainstream, still manages to contain what the mars volta is all about, their music is experimental and chaotic yet comes together with Cedric's voice to make an awestricking sound. This effect is present throughout the album and is why I love the band. They mix new genre's on every track presenting each one in a different way. The bands influences are so numerous that it is difficult to pick them out which gives the listener a completely new experience as the sound is familiar but completely new at the same time. Essential.
Report this review (#53885)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars First off, I would like to say that I think there a lot of misconceptions about this album. A lot of people feel like judging The Mars Volta before even listening there albums because of what their previous band, At The Drive-In, was. The Mars Volta is in no way an emo or even really a punk band. Understand that first. This site describes them as Art Rock, which I will except, but I believe that they are really just Prog in their purest form. The subject matter in Frances the Mute is overwhelmingly complex and if you don't understand it that is because you don't know Spanish and didn't feel like looking into the lyrics online. Also, with characters like Frances, Miranda and Cassandra pretty much automatically makes this album prog.

The way that Cedric and Omar write lyrics, it's true, is hard to get into but they really are quite interesting and awesome. All of the instrumental work in this album is FAR beyond anything a lot of prog bands even try to do and I feel that that is something that mixes people up when putting these guys in a genre. But this album is still truely a model of excellent prog-manship and I feel that it is an essential album to have for all hardcore proggers. However, if you are new to the scene you might want to wait a little on this one. You can't just listen to the album in a car or on the go you have to sit, relax and enjoy it. Then listen to it again and read up on the lyrics. Trust me. You will be extremely surprised on how spectacular this album is if you just give it a chance from an Art prospective.

Report this review (#53886)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A wild rollercoaster ride of an album - that's the best way to describe The Mars Volta's second effort, "Frances the Mute". It has all the ingredients of a classic prog record: lengthy tracks (the closing "Cassandra Geminni" clocking in at 32'), a 'concept' behind it that can be only termed as weird, suitably obscure lyrics (a good half of them in Spanish), an elegant Storm Thorgerson cover, music that crosses all possible boundaries, blending metal, punk, prog, Latin influences, free jazz and psychedelia to create a unique whole.

However, as others have observed before me, the album misses being a 5-star masterpiece mainly because of an excess of noise that makes some parts rather harrowing to listen. This use of electronic noises reminds me sometimes of Pink Floyd (besides the obvious Thorgerson connection), though the English band have always been a touch more restrained in this respect. When The Mars Volta actually play, they do it very well, and the contribution of such special guests as Flea and John Frusciante is nothing short of excellent (listen to the latter's two blistering solos in "L'Via L'Viaquez") - so, why include so much filler? The noises are what turn most people off the album, which is a real pity.

The highlights of the album are the opening "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus", introduced by a slow acoustic passage (which also closes the album) which leads the way to a fully-fledged electric barrage punctuated by Cedric Bixler-Zavala wailing, though amazingly expressive vocals, and the Latin-flavoured "L'Via L'Viaquez", which blends furious riffing with slower, salsa-tinged sections. "The Widow", by far the most listener-friendly track on the album (though not my favourite), is a modern take on a bluesy torch song complete with mournful trumpet. That leaves "Miranda" and "Cassandra Geminni", which feature the most noise and are as such harder to take as a whole. However, I quite like the latter's closing section,with its reprise of the initial "Sarcophagi".

I think "Frances the Mute" should be recommended as a brilliant, though flawed, example of modern progressive rock. It's not something you can put in the background: you really have to listen to it, and all too often this is definitely 'uneasy' listening - but the good parts are outstanding. I, for one, must admit I'm looking forward to the band's development in years to come.

Report this review (#54272)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars With the dissolution of post-hardcore grandmasters At-The-Drive-In in late 2001 two bands emerged from the wreckage. Sparta formed from the rhythm section and continued to plough the same furrow their previous band had so successfully reaped. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler, the principal guitarist and vocalist respectively formed The Mars Volta and set out to experiment. Their first album De-loused in the Comatorium (2003) represented a landmark for many purveyors of prog-rock. It drew influence from where bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd had left off, combining technical mastery with progressive thinking and great hooks. Two years later The Mars Volta released their follow up, Frances the Mute. The question on most fans lips is surely can it be any better than Deloused.?

At this point I will hold my hands up and admit that I was never Deloused's biggest fan. I liked it a lot but by no means thought it was as flawless as some of my friends did. In fact the much lauded production qualities I thought left the album sounding rather murky in places and I frequently found myself skipping through certain tracks which seemed to drag.

But still I rushed off wide-eyed and bushy tailed like an overly excitable child to my record store the day this album came out. The guy at HMV who served me, laughed and shook his head. 'It's mental,' he simply said, 'we didn't know whether to put it in the metal section or the jazz.' This album is many things, and boring is certainly not one of them. In essence this album breaks down into five tracks, all of which are suitably long and packed full of enough musical twists and turns to keep all but the most intent of music analysts scratching their head in confusion. But after a few listens the album opens up and suddenly you realise that you are sporting the same kind of stupid adolescent grin you wore when you first fell hopelessly in love. If you don't like progressive music then stop reading now because this album is most certainly not for you.

According to the band the album is based on a diary found by late friend and producer of Deloused In The Comatorium, Jeremy Ward. In it lay an account of a man searching America for his biological mother. Cygnus.Vismund Cygnus tells the story of the principal character of Frances The Mute, the child of the aforementioned Frances. Musically this is superb. It starts in much the same way as Deloused. began, beautifully quiet and aching. And there the similarity ends. Where Inertiatic ESP proceeded into accomplished stop-start jerky prog, Cygnus quite simply explodes into a wall of relentless frenetic urgency. Cedric sings in Spanish and the translation sets the tone for the album - 'Child prepare yourself. You are going to suffer.' This is epic stuff. With no obvious verse or chorus the song just seems to pound higher and harder before climaxing somewhere past the ten minute mark. It's a great opening track and it's probably the most technically accomplished song on the album and thus sets the tone. A proper rollercoaster of a song it's loud and it's funky and its fantastic.

Over a period of interesting instrumental noodling/pointlessly self-indulgent noise (delete as appropriate) Cygnus eventually morphs into the most commercial and probably weakest song on the album. Musically The Widow wouldn't have sounded out of place on Deloused. and this is where my problem lies. It's catchy enough but it doesn't take off and soar to quite the same heights as the other tracks on this album do. For all that it's by no means bad and certainly acts as a well needed quieter moment sandwiched between Cygnus and the next track L'via L'viaquez. Its just not a buffer that fits in perfectly with the otherwise superbly crafted continuity.

L'via L'viaquez is quite simply an onslaught and stands out as perhaps the best song this band have recorded to date and that pretty much makes it one of the best things out there. Forget the diluted single edit occasionally doing the rounds on MTV and the Internet. This is pure musical ecstasy. The Red Hot Chilli Pepper's resident musical genius John Frusciante guests to kick off with exactly the kind of fabulously self- indulgent sounding piece of guitar foreplay that I usually despise. And yet as an intro to this song it is inspired. The drums are pounding, the guitar work is breathtaking and it's all wrapped up in Spanish lyrics about.well who knows? Iin a different language its even more difficult to work out quite what goes on inside lyricist Cedric Bixler's head. Quite simply this sounds like rock and roll would sound if it was imported from another dimension.

For an album to be great it needs to be correctly paced and it is this aspect of the album that makes it so special. At first it seems the much maligned musical meandering in between tracks (particularly before next track Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore) is pointlessly self-indulgent. But after a few listens these become absolutely essential. The build up to Miranda makes one of the most heart-felt drop dead gorgeous songs ever recorded even more tearful and tender. This is dripping with atmosphere and gushing with gorgeous background guitar but it's the vocal work that truly makes it stand out. The tenderness with which Cedric sings and the lyrics he chooses suit the musical accompaniment perfectly. Then it builds to just the right amount.and fades away again into the void where it came from like what you've just heard never really happened. It's almost like an afterthought in the middle of the album and it works perfectly.

If Miranda is the eye of the storm then Cassandra Geminni is very much the ensuing hurricane. At over thirty minutes long this song bursts into life in much the same frenzied way the opener does. For the first five minutes this is almost a showcase of Omar's guitar work and Cedric's voice which hits heights it has never reached before. The vocals swoop and soar triumphantly declaring, 'I've sworn to kill every last one,' over an excellent spazz fuelled guitar riff. Musically it emerges into a well camouflaged verse, bridge, chorus structure before trailing off into a twenty minute semi-improvised jaunt that takes in jazz fuelled saxophone solos and lyrics about, among other things, placenta eating owls and a number of snakes pouring out of eye sockets. Eventually it swings back into a final climatic chorus. Very impressive and ambitious stuff even if a twenty minute improvisation perhaps treads dangerously close to the border of taking it all a little too far.

Make no mistake this album is designed to be listened to in one sitting as a piece of music, not put on the car stereo for ten minutes as part of the weekly shopping run. Strip out all the spacey twinkling, put it on shuffle and it's a collection of five very good songs that gets 4 stars. With the possible exception of The Widow, the pacing is superb, each peak is engineered to come at just the right point and each quiet moment feels lovingly crafted and perfectly placed. With anything experimental in music it is easy to fall into the pitfall of sacrificing song for the sake of artistic noodling. While this album treads dangerously close to the line at times it manages to always stay firmly on the right side of it. If their next album shows a similar progression then it will be truly special indeed.

Report this review (#54402)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Being of the school that De-Loused in the Comatorium is a masterpiece, you'd think I'd follow along with all the other fans here and rate this one out of this world.

Nope, I won't. It may be a good album which I undeniably appreciate, but this is nowhere near as good as the band's first studio album effort, which I gave five stars. This is, at best, a good album; but it has a few problems.

While the musicality of the five tracks is perfect and beautiful, there are many flaws that bring this album down. First off, the lengthy soundscapes in between songs are nice, but get grating after a while. So, I'll start off by reviewing the soundscapes.

Soundscape in between Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus and The Widow: 6/10

The cars wooshing by, the man beating his wife, and the weird synth sound get boring after a minute. What keeps this soundscape from totally sucking is the fact that it's not overly long and the synth sound kind of keeps things interesting by modulating and such.

Soundscape in between The Widow and L'Via L'Viaquez: 3/10

This sounds like a record tweaking out with some strange synths thrown in. The fact that it lasts so long and has a very thinly disguised excuse for musicality brings it down even more.

Sounscape at the beginning of Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: 9/10

This is the only soundscape I really like. The frogs chirping and the creepy singing really sets the mood for this song. My only criticism is that it lasts a little long, but it really is some chill stuff to listen to. Also, it is much more musical than the other soundscapes in this album, which is nice.

Now, onto the actual songs:

Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: 9/10

This funky song is really nice - the verses are quick and interesting, the chorus spectacular with its layered vocals. The jam in the middle is a strange synthesis of time signatures, and the guitar solo seems a little slow to develop into something interesting - the only reason I've given this song a 9 out of 10. The chorus slams back in and the whole thing breaks down into a nice, slow 5/4 ending.

The Widow: 5/10

While it's short and sweet, that's all it is. Nothing interesting except for the trumpets in the bridge, but certainly not proggy by any extent. Sung with a lot of feeling, though, which is nice.

L'Via L'Viaquez: 7/10

The only problem with this song is that it drags ponderously. The song has really three parts - a fast latin rock beat, a slow salsa beat, and the bridge. The only thing I really appreciate is the piano solo, though the rest of the song is plenty musical and fun to listen to if you get over the fact that it repeats for a while before getting to the really interesting parts. Again, the only super worthwhile part is the solo section, though the rest of it is somewhat interesting to listen to.

Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: 9/10

This is another very good song. While a slow, ballad-type song, it is far more proggy than the other ballad on this album, The Widow. I love the use of strings, the electro-drums, and the quiet trumpet soloing towards the end. Overall, very progressive and melodic, though slow. That's the only thing that brings it down. Had they jammed out in this piece in a more up-tempo fashion, this could've been the best song on the album.

Cassandra Gemini: 10/10

Yes, it's 32 minutes long, and it is PROG to the MAX. Lots of soloing, lots of different sections and ideas, all of it engrossing to the end - which is what I look for in a good epic song. Much better than the rest of this album. I'm not going to say much about it, just that it is very fun to listen to.

My last words on this album are: get De-loused if you're looking for a masterpiece, but don't throw away a chance at this one. While this album shows off the Mars Volta's tendency towards pretension, it still is full of interesting musicality and beautiful lengthy compositions. Also, you might want to check out the title track - which is another excellent song, I'd give it an 8.5/10 but I won't review it here since it's not on the album. This album gets a 3 from me for it is good but not excellent.

Keep Proggin' (did I steal that phrase from somebody? Yes I did)

Report this review (#54501)
Posted Thursday, November 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars i am a HUGE Mars Volta fan. I hated them at first, but de-loused grew on me til now, where the cd is constantly playing in my head. when i got frances the mute, it took a while to grow on me yet again, but i still love it. i am fairly new to the 'progressive scene' if you can call it that, and i would say that this is not a must have for everyone. de-loused is. my...problems i guess you can call them is that the mars volta tried to go too big with this album. i've read many of these reviews, cheered when five stars was put up and booed when there was 1 star (especially the review from that one guy who couldn't even finish the album...what happened to open minds?) if you guys had heard the song, frances the mute which was not released on this album but eventually as a single with the widow, you might have been a bit shocked. the song is AMAZING, and should have been put on the album. i think the mars volta definitely know how to convey emotions through music and to their listeners, but i think they tried to go too 'weird' with it i guess. the production is good, not as good as de-loused though, and the musicianship has grown, and the vision is definitely evident, although it feels a bit....not the best word but 'forced'. de-loused came natural, i think, this is a bit more 'trying to make an epic with conception and feeling.' they have progressed though. this review, by the way is for this website, a progressive music website. any other website, i would rate much higher. i think the mars volta should not be labeled 'The progressive band of our generation' but more as the 'Led Zepellin of our generation' because it's so new, to us at least (16 years old for me) and it really hits the 'OH SH*T!' factor hard. anyways, for those who hated it for one reason or another, the mars volta are trying to make you cringe your face and spit in disguist. they grew up on black flag and that's their nature. for people who are into 'weird' or 'different' music, yet still enjoy king crimson and yes, this is for you.
Report this review (#58486)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Frances the Mute was TMV's attempt at recaptuing the spark made by De-Loused.

Both albums share one thing in common; they are purely experimental rock, but not straying far from TMV's At The Drive-In origins.

At The Drive-In had music very much based on psychedelic drugs mixed with political issues that the world overlooked. TMV lost almost all this energy/fervor. Their sound is at times too heavy for the message they are trying to convey. Lyrics are repeated countless times throughout the album, and are even repeated from De-Loused. At The Drive-In's ingenuity will not be found here; Omar is merely recycling that which made ATDI popular. De-Loused had a lot of drugged-out lyrics, like a Halloween version of Yes's early 70's work. As TMV moved on from the days of ATDI, they lost that special artistic enigma. This album has no problem telling you upfront what is trying to be said. Think Vaya & In/Casino/Out meets social issues, with a bit of urgency and more dramatic moodswings, and lacking the thoughtful lyrics.

I find that this album has far too much filler --- when Yes, RUSH, and Hawkwind did their 'psychedelic noodling/jamming' it was purely an extension of whatever atmosphere had been produced in the preceeding tracks, much like an echo. Somehow, TMV thought this meant they could string song after song of jazz-rock. It's nice to have this one long 25-minute jam session split up into pieces, but it's really quite unnecessary.

I enjoy De-Loused and Frances, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of old familiar sounds from ATDI being mixed with classic Floyd with a tinge of Radiohead. The Hawkwind space-jazz edge certainly adds a lot to the atmosphere.

HOWEVER. if you are looking for something true to its origins, this is not the place to look. This album has nothing to offer if you're already a fan of Genesis/Pink Floyd/RUSH/ELP/Hawkwind, except maybe a modern atmosphere. I suggest you give De-Loused a try instead, and if you don't like that, go back to Relationship of Command [ATDI] or Porcelain [Sparta].

Report this review (#58560)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The thing about the THE MARS VOLTA is that you either love them or hate them...there isn't really an "in-between"...Yes there are those who think they are "an okay band", but usually it is a very split opinion (as you can see by the amount of split tension between the five-to-one star reviews and the two-to-four star reviews...there are only a few three star ratings...). I happen to be one that loves them. of course it didn't happen right when I first heard them. When I first heard them (I heard Frances before De-loused), I hated them...but there was something about them that called me back. I listened through all of De-loused, and the rest is history--and let me say, what we have here is a masterpiece no matter how you cut it (albeit to some it is a "flawed" masterpiece...).

The album itself begins with the track "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus"...but believe it or not, that's not the first song on the album. The first track is "Frances the Mute" (availalbe on a single that is given out with the album by most record stores when purchased). In order to really "get" The Mute, I think this track needs to be concluded as part of the it is the song I will begin with.

FRANCES THE MUTE: This song begins with four minutes of ambient effects and hammers clashing. Since it's the first thing we hear it will also be the first thing I adress. This "noise", scattered throughout the album, is done very tastefully and each represents events in the foggy story. The hammers in this song represent the death of Frances the Mute. The song finally begins almost out of nowhere (a nod back to Cut That City), and Cedric's nice voice backs up an intense frollock of notes and progression, with some very nice, tasteful playing by Theodore (drums) and Alderate (bass). The song breaks down into a fitful, almost frantic (because of the lyrics) section filled with mutterings of Cedric describing Frances' death. The song ends with what we hear esentially at the beginning of the retail album. SONG SCORE: 9/10

CYGNUS...VISMUND CYGNUS: The opener of the retail version of FRANCES THE MUTE is, in a romp, absolutely stunning. It begins with a tranquil prayer from Cygnus (son of Frances, main character of the story) that quickly escalates into a very psychotic song on all fronts that seems to flow in choppy bursts until the amazing chorus begins with the ringing harmonies of "Who do you trust?". It's enlightening. Then comes the breakdown section, in 5/8//3/4//2/4, which features a nice guitar solo by Omar and then builds back up into the original chorus lines. The song fades out slowly with ambience representing the rape of Frances, a nightmare of Cygnus's. The story follows Cygnus searching for his biological parents, as he was seperated from his mother at birth. The songs reresent characters and travels of Cygnus/Frances. SONG SCORE: 10/10

THE WIDOW: This song begins straightaway with Cedric sporting a mellow voice. The song itself follows a 3/4-swing rhythm that compares to Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Lovin' You" very well. The song itself is about Frances, from her point of veiw, about the "drug" she is addicted to. I'm not sure if this drug is an actual drug more than it is something she is addicted to (ex: sex). Either way the song is short and sweet, and the ambience that follows describes the "feeling" of Frances laying on a bed, presumably "high". SONG SCORE: 8.5/10

L'VIA L'VIAQUEZ: This song begins with :40 secs of a drum track played in reverse before it kicks in heavily with a Frusciante solo. This progresses through two entirely Spanish verses which are brilliantly performed. The chorus actually breaks down into a salsa-ish feel, slower in mediation but not in meter and led by a descending piano line; sung in english. Then we fire back into Frusciante solo number two. Repeat this all (which is a good thing). The song ends with a long piano solo in the salsa mode followed by a guitar solo, kudos to Omar. Then it's Cedric's turn to "solo". Here he sings the chorus in a distorted voice that sounds utterly creepy. A nice ending to a very dark feeling song. The song is about Cygnus turning to his mother's sister (his aunt), the nun L'Via. L'Via tells him about his mother's flight after her rape and his unsuccesful "abortion" from her. He was placed in her (L'via's) hands. She fled to the church and became a nun and Cygnus presumably was taken sometime after this. SONG SCORE: 10/10

MIRANDA THAT GHOST JUST ISN'T HOLY ANYMORE: This song begins with 4 minutes of ambience that describes Cygnus tranceding to an otherworldly dream to visit the spiritual devil Miranda. The effects get very chilling before the first blast of trumpets kick in. This song is amazingly beautiful. The chorus rings with the words "And when Miranda sang, everyone turned away, used to the noose they obey." The song follows a rather simple progression in 12/8 that then turns into an outro of a long trumpet duet, and finally ends the way it began, desciribing the exit from the dream. The song itself is about Cygnus's visit from Miranda who is in some way tied/related to him. I'm really not sure what she warns him about, but she does warn him, and after the dream Cygnus is very angry as shown in the next song... SONG SCORE: 10/10

CASSANDRA GEMINNI: Wow. This song is an amazing journey through soundscapes and imagry like none other I have ever heard in is the gem of the album. The music is amazing and has no need to be described because, as lame as it may sound, it is almost beyond words. It follows Cygnus's "transformation" of sorts, his realization and dissapointment that his mother was in fact a whorish druggatic that had no need for him. He visits the night his mother was murdered along with 24 others in a dream or a thought (the number 25 is a huge reference throughout the album). I assume that Cassandra Geminni was the murderer of Frances, and that this song represents Cygnus being in her shoes, feeling her anger towards those she killed, etc, and still choosing to kill his mother. That's just me...the chorus of the song is another amazing pick up--"No there's no light in the darkest of your furthest reaches." The song builds around this and a nice corresponding verse/jam session before returning once more to this chorus with the added words "No there's no light, no there's no time, you ain't got nothin', your life was just a lie". Then the mood abruptly halts and we return to the same tranquil prayer from Cygnus that the album began with (minus Frances the Song) before halting. The symbolism of this recurring theme has yet to come to me, but that is another great thing about this's art. SONG SCORE: part 1- 10/10, part 2- 10/10, part 3- 10/10, part 4- 10/10, part 5- 9/10, part 6- 9/10, part 7- 10/10, part 8- 10/10, as a whole- 10/10.

This album definately deserves more recognition than it gets. Even if the ambience is not your thing, the music is written well enough to deem a place somewhere in you heart. I strongly suggest you go purchase this. Now. The playing is amazing by every member throughout, and yes I enjoy Flea's trumpet playing. The lyrics are, in my opinion, a very well put together "riddle" of sorts that will do nothing but seduce you into finding out what the songs mean--plus Cedric's voice is amazing. Pick it up before it's too late. 10/10.

*NOTE ON SONG MEANINGS: The Mars Volta have released no offical document stating the real meaning of the songs on Frances the Mute, therefore please do not take my word that this is the only possible thing the album is about: it's not. This album, as I stated earlier, is pure art, and art has a different meaning for everyone that hears/veiws it.

Report this review (#58680)
Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars In "De-loused in the Comatorium", The Mars Volta presented their original and conceptual musical sensitivities in a record that really made the day, even considering they are what you may call an "extreme" band. With "Frances the Mute", the definition of "extremes" get a new dimension. It is quite surprising that starting with a similar presentation to "De-Loused", that is, a conceptual psychedelic album structurally based on the crazy (and brilliant at the same time) Zabala's vocals and Omar Rodriguez's guitar loops and solos, we can find a quite different album with its own personality.

"Frances the Mute" revolves around three epics, two of them ("Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" and "l'via viaquez") being the two best songs of the album, an interlude between those first two ("The Widow"), and a set of shorter songs linked each other to form what you may consider as a fourth epic, "Cassandra Gemini".

Like I mentioned earlier, this album goes to the extreme, and I am one of those who thinks that extremes are not usually good. I mean, "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" and "l'via viaquez" are two excellent epics that show pieces of the good work shown in "De-loused"."The Window" and "Miranda, that ghost isn't holy anymore" are two contemplative songs that you may like or not ( I pesonally find them rather intrascendent). And finally, the set that revolves around "Cassandra Gemini" is quite irregular, it has its good moments and others not so good and the main problem here is the famous 'noise', that maybe intended to be original but that I find rather disturbing most of the time (although sometimes it seems to fit with the psychedelic nature of the album)

So, I'm not sure to say if this record was a step back from "De-loused in the Comatorium", simply because they are two different things (although there may be the ones who don't think so), but what I can say is that The Mars Volta probably exceeded themselves here. You know, chaos can be something interesting but an excess of it can distort the initial idea. It is a pity because this album has really good moments.

Report this review (#59820)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the most expansive and moving progressive albums ever recorded. The Mars Volta plays a darker, heavier and more sinister take on prog than most bands, and this contains their best work, particulary the sprawling masterpiece Cassandra Gemini, most of which seems to be improvised. The Mars Volta harnesses the madly layered orchestration of Mahavishnu Orchestra, borrowing not just John McLaughlin's style but also his guitar tone. Jon Theodore's drum work is also quite derivative of the M.O.'s drummer. Faster and harder than any other progressive band out there (with the exception of anything that may be considered metal), this album is brilliant. The songs are written by Omar Rodriquez Lopez, but the focus can be equally given to any one of the members, since they are all amazing players (John Theodore probably being the greatest rock drummer alive today). The orchestration is immense, with complete horn and string sections, piano, hammond, mellotron, and much more. John Fruiscante has a blazing solo at the top of one of the first songs. The album definitely sufffers from the lengthy soundscape interludes and the single the Widow is just boring. The real genius in this work lies in the first and last songs, particularly the epic Cassandra Gemini, which goes down in my history book as one of the great prog masterpieces of all time, alongside Yes' Heart of the Sunrise and Genesis' Supper's Ready. Rocking and awesome...
Report this review (#62073)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#63325)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Rain Man
5 stars At first listen, it just sounds like a complete mess and is all over the place, though bit by bit it begins to make more sense....

1st listen - Widow single (edit) clicks. 2-5 listens - Cygnus apart from the last 2 mins clicks. 6-10 listens - Miranda - (now I realise the true genius of it). 11-15 listens - L'Via L'viaquez -(brilliant). 15-20 listens - getting there with Cassandra Gemini but its still pretty tough

The bits such as the last 3 minutes of the widow and 2 mins of Cygnus along with various other parts of the album can only really be described as 'awkward' listening. When the later minutes of Widow were playing my Mum actually thought the CD was jamming! To be fair it does sound that way. I do wonder what Omar and Cedric think of these parts, as they must have a reason why they are included. Obviously no one could understand their music more than them so they must see something in these parts which make them special enough to have included them on the album. In saying that, what I thought were 4 awkward minutes in the beginning of Miranda, I now realise that it really does act as a superb build up till the trumpets slowly come in. The uses of the trumpets are what makes Miranda such a cold and chilling track and adds to the atmosphere of the album as a whole.

Like any good album you really can't judge it until you've listened to it a lot. I really didn't like this album for starter especially as it is meant to be listened to in one sitting. At 76 minutes long, I think the sheer length of it played mind tricks on me and instead of properly listening to the music, I was thinking of how long it was. As you keep listening to it, time gradually becomes insignificant and when that stage is reached you can truly appreciate the album because it will start to make sense, so you're focusing less on the time and more on the music.

This album is to deloused as deloused is to relationship of command (At the Drive-in) because from relationship to de-loused, they really did take their music to another level and now they've managed one step further. Whether they make the next step with their next album remains to be seen, where that step is I don't think they even know! But one thing is for sure they have the talent to be timeless.

One thing I really like about this album is the concept that it is never ending, it can just loop forever because the end of the last track Cassandra, turns into the intro for Cygnus. This album also shows how singer Cedric really has moved away from ATDI even further because there are virtually no 'shouty' bits at all. In fact Frances shows what an amazing singer he really is. He hits notes which most people could only dream of reaching, for example the "oh yeah" s during Cygnus or the "bring me to my knees towards the beginning of Cassandra. Overall his pure and unique vocals add a great deal to the album.

However the key to this album which holds it together is not Cedric's unique vocals, Omar's exquisite guitar playing or John's mental drumming - but it's the infectious baselines which set the tone for the whole album. While Omar, Cedric, John along with the other contributors go off into their own little worlds in the album, the base line is the constant throughout each song and brings it all together. In particular Omar's guitar playing seems to dance round the baselines not knowing which way he's going to go next.

To explain what their album is like compared to other prog albums I'll put it in to context by using the analogy of running. First of all I'll explain how much music in general can be related to running. Anyone can run a mile, maybe at different times, but they can still run it. Just like pop music, its east to understand. However longer runs require more training and you have to build up to it. This is like progressive music because you need to listen to it lots in order to understand it or to appreciate it to its full potential. To put this into context of this Mars Volta album is like a 3 hour long run. A 3 hour long run can take many shapes and forms. The MV album is like a mix of urban and rural landscapes. The urban bits are the straight forward road running bits, or the parts of the albums which are the easiest to understand. However they are still hilly sections in this part to keep it challenging. Then there is the rural parts which are the parts are the rough trails which take longer because it is more technical. This represent those 'awkward' moments of the album.

To sum up Frances the mute is a never ending journey through a musical landscape. A tough 3 hour long run may sound completely unthinkable to some people, but if you do the training its nothing short of brilliance........just like Frances the Mute!

Report this review (#64729)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For coming out in 2001 The Mars Volta caught many people off gaurd. I think in a good way though. If you are a total prog head then you would probably rate this a 3 or 2.But I'm going to give this a for sure 5star rating given the year this record was made and the intelligence invested in it. Sometimes the music may be very spastic and harsh on the ears but I love it. You name a great prog band thats at least a little exposed, not to mainstream, but have hits like L'via and The Widow now-a-days... The Mars Volta. I saw them live twice and It was different and enjoyable.But anyway about the album. Lets start w/L'via & The Widow because they deserve to be started with. Both make great hits, w/ catchy vocal melodies, mathmatical guitar playing and a talented and technical drummer. The sound of salsa and real Hard Rock is a great mix to. The amount of energy in L'via is insane and Cedrics voice is like an orgasm in a drag race. The Widow has great lyrics and the voice melody is somewhat genius. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus has a brain scattering guitar part and when the guitar solo comes in the energy and passion that is shown blew me away. Also again when Cedric comes in with his voice he blew me away again with the melody, the Lyrics, oh ya. The time signature changes and Key signature changes are I think an essential to this music and prog in general. I can't go on anymore and I don't want to get to "in depth" with all the little things in this album, Cause everything is great. Again, I cut the band some slack for thier daring risk with the music now-a-days. The Mars Volta are great artist!
Report this review (#65493)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Frances the Mute is one of those albums that you either love or hate. In my case I started out thinking Frances the Mute as being a loud and very unprogressive album, then over time I began to listen to it more and more until finally I actually like it now. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus puts the album into perspective, especially when the music suddenly erupts after the intro. The first time I played the CD I thought the volume was low, so I unknowing I turned it up and then it came the change of pace where the music becomes very loud (if the volume is turned up that is.)

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is a great song (collection of songs) my song on the album is Vade Mecum. The theme sounds like a thunderous storm coming when it is played by the trumpets, Bass Guitar ect. The two short songs that end the album (Tarantism and Plant a Nail In the Naval Stream) are great because it ends the album in the same way it was started. Cedric Bixler Zavala is a very good singer and he reminds me a bit of Robert Plant and Geddy Lee, he is kind of a mix of both. The guitarist Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez is very prominent in the music featuring with many solos and guitar passages. The presence of the extra percussionist (Marcel Rodriguez ) is noticeable as well.

Okay so I still don't like a few things about the album, in particular the way the songs are set out is very confusing. On the back of the CD case there are apparently 16 songs but in fact there are only 12, I'm bit confused as to where the songs are. Overall this is not a masterpiece in my opinion, but it scores a healthy 4 stars. The Mars Volta is the next big thing in prog... best of luck to them.

Report this review (#67204)
Posted Saturday, January 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars WOW what an album! every second of this masterpiece was just maddness in todays music there are few bands that capture the great music from the 60's and 70's such as (Pink Floyd, Yes, Jimi Hendrix ect. but the mars volta do it i love there sound its very much like yes in heart of the sunrise its very hard to put into a genre because in has so much in it. i loved Cassandra Geminni not just because of in fast fusion but because of its free jazz feel and sweet guitar. The Window was really good as well i really love the passion and beauiful music they create not just the hard rock element which is in all modern music i also like the lyrics MADDNESS!! i also like how the mars volta used latin drum groves in there songs maddness. REALLY GOOD ALBUM BUY IT FOOL! you will love it.
Report this review (#67389)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars alright. my opinion of this album was what it was before, and after i read these reveiws. i'm an avid fan of progressive/artistic music such as beethoven to bach, king crimson to mahavishnu orchestra. At the same time i can apreciate artists like john lennon, nice cave, bill frissel, tool, even led zeppelin. this album is simply a masterpiece. Omar a Rodriquez-lopez might be the musical genius of the world right now. He's an orchestrator. An invisionary artist. The end of casandra gemini, the last three tracks combined, right when the madenning saxophone clears, is a new sound. It sounds like the future of progressive music, and to me, is the greatest peice of music ive ever heard. deloused was great, a masterpiece as well, and a tough act to follow, but volta touched on so many sounds on this one. one of the most diverse albums you'll ever hear. its only flaw to me is the overextended ambience that divides the songs. however, i listen to the music, not what divides the music, therefore doesnt effect the rating. there's is genius on this album, and the lyrics are no exception. i think the people who quote this band as being pretentious just arent equipped to hear their brilliance. well done Omar and Cedric, and the rest of the band. You've out done yourselfs. BRAVO!!!! frances the mute is an astonashing epic masterpiece, that will probably be out of listeners reach for many, and graces the top of my alltime albums list. thank you mars volta, youve made some of the most emotionally off the wall music ive ever heard. youve inspired the hell out of me and have changed the direction of my own music. CTL theMickeyKnox
Report this review (#69020)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A band that is so scary its untrue! They are scarily talented playing with a degree of virtuosity that is scary and with an enthusiasm that is scary.None of the smooth prog a la Floyd for this lot.Its at your throat from the first few minutes and refuses to bow to conventional structures.This is exactly where prog needs to go.Forward and onward with no fear!
Report this review (#70014)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great music comes with certain "faults" that exhibit the effort of evolution. These guys are the only game in town when it comes to pushing the limits of where we are and are going. Floyd's "On The Run" could be considered so much noise, but the 'release' of "Time" brings all of that nonsense into perspective. So this band proceeds. I am not one of the "dream theater" fans, but a studied fan of Genesis, Yes, ELP, J. Tull and all the rest of those old farts, and I find these fellows (from their ignominious beginnings in At The Drive-In ){of course I mean great} to be one (if not the one) of the absolute most happening things going on right now. Riverside, Deus Ex Machina, Opeth, Godspeed, yeah, they are all great. But, these guys have something else going on. NOT TO BE MISSED!!!
Report this review (#71071)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first thing I based my self before rating this album 4 1/2 stars, is that I enjoy it more and more after each listenings. And let me thing that poeple who rate it poorly may not have given Frances The Mute the time to hypnotize their brain, Because I would have rate it the same way 3 month ago when I bought it. This album is one of those you will never stop discovering stuff because their is so much news ideas inside. And is'nt what progressive rock should be all about? The stranges beats, The sounds effects, The weirds and (so much) beautifusl melodies... etc.. Espanols music, Rock and Roll, pop, psychedelic, the Mars Volta are toutching a bit of all to create a very new style of rock. I mean REALLY new. we can feal a lot of passion and impulsion in the guitar playing Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez, and so much differents emotions in the voice''s'' of Cedric Bixler Zavala. And beside the ''affro team'' all others musicians have their words to say to make Frances The Mute an incomparable album. Drumming: WOW! Keyboards: WAH! Mars Volta: KAYABONGA...

Bref Frances The Mute IS great. Just buy it and give it A LOT of time and of attentives listenings. I put only 4 1/2 stars now because I still find some lenghts in some psychedelics moments.. But I sure that in one month, I'll be mad at me to not have rate it: MASTERPIECE.

Report this review (#72349)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It deserves excellent album if .

I have refrained from writing review about this album for two reasons: First, by the time I listened to it the first time last year it did not attract me at all especially the first track which to me sounded like music with disharmony of sounds and too many sound effects and distortion. The vocal and the music sounded separate and disjointed. Second: I was bias with so many reviews here in this site and other prog sites that critically acclaimed the album. I was questioning myself: "What's wrong with me? Why other people can enjoy this album while I kind like cannot accept it?". End of last year I started pplaying again the CD at player many times and amazingly it grew on me firmly. I started enjoying the album.

The first track started to attract me because even the different time signatures between vocal music has even made the composition is unique even though a bit of weird. One should expect to hear many abrupt changes throughout the music. Second track is even better in terms of accessibility to many ears. It has sound melody, and it's catchy, I would say. Track three is for me a humorous music with a combination of Led Zeppelin beats and Latin music like Santana. It's really cool and it has become my favorite. Track four is also a good composition.

I don't wanna elaborate further as this album has been one of Top Five and there has been many reviews (147 reviews!) by the time I'm writing it now. So, no need to explore further. You can read much better reviews from other reviewers above. What I can say is that I have gone through a period when I hated the album until now when I really like it. The band has brought in unique style of the music. The only lacking that bothers me is the excessive sound effects and distortions throughout the album. For example, track four starts with sound effects that last for close to 5 (five) minutes. It's so boring. Even though what comes after that is a nice woodwind / brass section that reminds me to Uriah Heep's "Salisbury". If there is no boring sound effects, definitely this album deserves a four-star rating. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#73526)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.4/5.0

A good album, but in now way a masterpiece. Intense, active, urgent, is how I would describe this work. Great vocals, agressive percussions/guitars, inspiring moods and atmospheres. That said, it is also messy, with too much electronic noise/ distortion/filling and there is not a good flow; every time a good ambiance or tempo is created it seems some experimentation will destroy it later. A good example is " Famine pulse" which starts as a really great active song with active guitar and ends in electronic distortion, completely wasting the climax it created. One could say it was wanted, but I just can't listen to this album from beginning to the end because such inconsistence bores me.

That said, still a good, but not essential album. 3.4/5.0

Report this review (#73616)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a good, but not great secound album from The Mars Volta. De-Loused was close to perfect, but this one is not. The sound here is caotic, as it should be. But lenghty sound effect passages, where nothing much happens ruins the flow of the album. It seems like they serve for no other purposes, but to be artistic. That beeing said, I find this album quite enjoyable. Cedric Bixler Savala has a great voice, and Omar A Rodriguez Lopez`s guitar play is astonishing. Without the mentioned sound effect passages I would have given this a 4 star rating. The Mars Volta is certainly one of the most original sounding progressive bands today, and this is a solid piece of work. I am definetly looking forward to be hearing more form them in the future.
Report this review (#75034)
Posted Saturday, April 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Probably worth 2.5 stars. Undoubtedly it is intersting and enjoyable in places, undoubtedly it is experimental and progressive to a degree, undoubtedly it is the product of fine musicianship (I especially enjoyed the drumming). However, I find it to be rambling, incomprehensible and at times incoherent music which is going nowhere. None of the pieces has any sense of structural integrity. Sorry, all you many Mars Volta fans, but this one's stricly for you only.
Report this review (#76425)
Posted Thursday, April 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Most likely the best progressive rock album in the last 10 years, Frances the Mute is as much an assault on the ears as it is a delight on the ears. This album's style makes me think of what would happen if Yes collided with Van der Graaf Generator. Brilliant musicmanship, abstract, Yesstyle lyrics, and noises that would make the most dedicated prog fan listen twice, Frances the Mute is a modern prog classic.
Report this review (#78724)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well having heard so much about this band i thought I would try them out - being a Pink Floyd fan and many others, and secretly liking a little punk rock in my early days (sorry), I wasn't disappointed. Infact, this is spectacular - infact metal heads amongst my sons' mates also like it - and have bought copies.

I guess I'm lucky in that I never heard Deloused first - as too many people try to compare it with that album. Personally I would recommend starting with this one before Deloused if you haven't already.

If you don't like extensive noodling then you won't like this - personally I love all that (I mean - who ever complained when Pink F noodled to the point of self-indulgence?). I mean - self indulgence is cool in prog rock. Besides the noodling tends to follow the main song/ track each time, so feel free to skip to the next track each time and you'll love it anyway.

If you like a mix of prog and punk then for the first time ever (except perhaps for VDGG) you have it.

It's wild - I mean really wild - and it rocks. John Frusciante's solos in L'Via are totally fantastic (if a little short lived).

It's also cool and laid back (Miranda that Ghost is a superb track in this field - listening to this track it really feels there is a bad ghost behind you - scary!)

Maybe prog? Perhaps 'creative rock' (I think this is a good term for bands who don't admit to being prog rock when they really are!) Perhaps punk prog - who knows? I don't care - it's so different and so good - at the extreme wild end of modern prog (at the very opposite end you'll find Sigur Ros, and in the middle Porcupine Tree, I guess - but all of these bands rock!)

Finally, when you listen to Cassandra Gemminni - focus on that picture of a guy upside down on that awesome tree - it really works!

Only frustrating thing - I understand that most shpos give out a copy of Frances the Mute/ Widow single when you buy - I didn't know this, and it didn't happen for me - hence I have yet to hear the title track - aaaaaarrgh! Make sure you ask when you buy...

Maybe if they re-release this in the future, they should include the single as a bonus disc.

Keep going please - when is the next album???

Report this review (#79243)
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I remember I first saw The Mars Volta on MTV (I'm not an MTV watcher at all, I find most of their music to be s**t), with "The Widow" and "Interstatic Esp". I wasn't surprised by "The Widow" (which is a typical standard song), but "Interstatic Esp" called my attention, specially by its crazy rhythm and vocal melodies. Anyway, a friend of mine lended me "Frances The Mute", which for most of people, is their masterpiece or best album. So, why not give it a try ?

First of all, this is to me a big dissapointment, because there are problems:

- One is the, as same reviews said before, the 'noises': What sense has to put after "The Widow", 2 minutes of effects (?) or noises (?) that make no melodies, and terribly bore me ? That noises are repeated along the album, specially on "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" (which has a duration of 13.09, but really starts at 4 minute, because before are unnecessary noises and effects). This is the reason that makes me advance the song, or just skip it. I don't know if the so called 'noises' are a part of experimental music, but it doesn't appeal to me, it's absolutely unnecessary. This is the main reason I do not like this album; it's hard to say it, but it' true ...

- It gets terribly BORING (yes, with capital letter) during the epic "Cassandra Gemini" (32:27), mainly because of the 'noises', and the constant repetition during some moments (and uninspiring melodies), in my opinion. Being myself a big fan of epics, this is a very big deception to me, and finishes destroying the album.

So, there's a description of the tracks (In my opinion, the album finishes in the song "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore"; the 32 minute epic doesn't count to me, and the reasons are explained upper):

"Frances The Mute" begins with the crazyest and most powerful song of the albumm, "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus". Well, starts with a nice acoustic intro called "Sarcophagi", with nice vocals. And then EXPLODES, yes explodes with a powerful and crazy drum bit, very influenced by the God Of Drum, "Bonzo" John Bonham. I find Jon Theodore drummer to be excellent. The vocals are crazy here. This is the typical song to wake up in the morning, and gives me an incredible energy. I can hear some cool guitar solos and fantastic rhythms. And before each chorus, a Queen choir, that's very well used. Ah!, and the bass does cool lines, combined with the drums. Nice instrumental intermission in the middle of the song, a bit repetitive, but it's OK. Funny to listen to. When I first heard this song, I was really amazed and hoped this album to be excellent, but unfortunately it's not as good as I expected. "Frances The Mute" is very far of being excellent, in my opinion ...

The follower track is "The Widow", an standard ballad, by far the more typical song of the record. I saw the video of this song too. This song doesn't mean something very special to me, but the chorus is beautiful: "Freeze without an answer Free from all the shame..." (and depressing too...). I can hear the callaboration of Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), playing the trumpet. Anyway, good song but it's destroyed by the unecessary 2, almost 3 minutes of 'noises'. What a pity, really ...

The other song I saw in television was "L'via l'viaquez" (obviously shorted, because its duration here is 12:21). Cool guitar riffs, and again a lot of energy takes prescence here. Here, the RHCP guitarist, John Frusciante collaborates with some solos. Yeah, I must say are a bit 'orgasmic' the screams before the latin rhythm enters; excellent, guys !! That latin rhythm goes very well with the song, as well as the spanish lyrics. Excellent song, I must say !!

Then the album starts to decay, with the follower song "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", as I said before, with unnecesary 4 minutes of 'noise'; and the final and very bad epic "Cassandra Gemini", that, as I said before, bores me A LOT (I almost fell asleep, honestly ...) Not more to say about this, because it bores me so much, that I can't pay attention to the music ... what a shame ...... !!

Overall, it's a good but (obviously) non-essential album, a bit mediocre; and I look to "De Loused In The Comatorium", because I don't want to stay with this opinion about this band (I hope this no to be a dissapointment).

Rating: 2.5/5

Report this review (#81424)
Posted Sunday, June 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hopefully the outcome of this band and this album will be looked at as a sophomore slump. While I find De-Loused to be a masterpiece of creative thinking, this album shows that the band still has a lot to learn. I'm hoping this is just a bump in the road.

De-Loused was a stroke of genius, this album seems like endless noddling at times. The vocals aren't near as moving, the guitar doesn't drive the music as it did before, and the drumming doesn't help carry any of the pieces.

Certainly fans of the band will find this album enjoyable. It still has many of the elements that characterize this band. However, it just doesn't have the "magic" that de-loused had. Many of the parts are completely unnecessary and should be omitted. That, and some of the songs are tritefully boring.

Not recommended for the general prog community.

Report this review (#82338)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I almost wish it were worse.

I know that sounds strange, but it's true; there is some very good music here, and there is also a lot of not good music. If the good parts weren't so good, then I could just write them off. But I can't. However, I have found a way to increase enjoyment of this album immensely, which I will talk about during the individual track reviews.

The lyrics very rarely make any sense at all. The best way to describe them would be to call them darkly psychadelic. "And scratch my itchy teeth" and "sink your teeth your teeth your teeth into the flesh of midnight, night forevermore" don't make much sense, but they can affect the listener. Somehow. Anyway, it's best to just ignore them because they aren't suppposed to make sense. The packaging is good; Storm does some more excellent work, although some of it is a bit unsettling.

One major problem with this album is that Omar absolutely LOVES doing freeform inprovisational psychadelic jams. The problem is that he's not very good at it.

Cygnus... Vismund cygnus--Quite a good opener, but like most of this album, very repetitive. There are traces of the avant-garde in this entire album in that songs tend to switch from different styles with out any transition. Not nearly as bad as something like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, but I'm just warning you. While there are some variations, most of the song is essentially the verse and chorus repeated over and over, broken up by a forgettable psychadelic jam in one part. So you can skip to the next song after you have heard the verse and chorus enough times for your liking. It also ends with noise, which is more than skippable. Obviously, you should listen to the whole album without skipping (except for the noise) first; perhaps there is something that I am missing.

The Widow--The radio song. Not that that's bad. The lyrics make a shred of sense here; unfortunately this nice song is marred by the sounds at the end. Skip them.

L'via L'viaquez--The song is the verse and chorus over, and over, and over, and over again. And then once more a cappella with distorted vocals. Skip ahead as soon as you've heard enough.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore--Skip the first 4 minutes. However, do not skip the rest of the song because the final repetition of the chorus is very good, and the jazzy part at the end is mostly good if you ahve the patience for it, and it leads into Cassandra very well. Assuming you skipped the stupid noise, the song opens with some very good trumpets; the brass are very prevalent on this song, which I enjoy.

Cassandra Gemini--By far the best song this album because it has the highest good music to crap ratio. There's no annoying noise intro or outro, and the only skippable track is track 9 (which I encourage you to skip because it's another one of Omar's forgettable psychadelic jams. It also rounds the song out to a nicer length.) The song ends with a cut back to the opening acoustic melody to close the album in a nice circle.

If this were 45-55 minutes long instead of 72, then it would EASILY be a four star album. However, I must deduct a star from them for making the good music so hard to get to, and that listening to this album without employing the skip button is one of the most horrendous things I can imagine. I actually have hopes for this band; although they probably won't do it, I would greatly enjoy an album from them if they spent the whole album getting down to making music instead experimenting with irritating noise or improvising a long jam.

If you're willing to hit the skip button and would like to see some of the things new bands are doing, I recommend a listen; however, I can't recommend paying for it. (I got it from the library.) Listen to it for free on if you like; you should listen to it before you buy it anyway just so you know what you're getting into.

Report this review (#82339)
Posted Saturday, July 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Frances the Mute. Heh. Very good effort by The Mars Volta, very good, but not their best, no way. Basically you get 60 minutes of music and 16 minutes of fluff, pure fluff. Example below:

1. Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus (4 minutes of a man seemingly raping a woman and then it goes into car driving by.)

2. The Widow (3 minutes of pointless, rhythmless, beatless noise.)

3. L' Via L' Viaquez (manages not to have ambiance)

4. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore (4 minutes of crickets and soft whimpering.)

5. Cassandra Gemini (Some spots are way too quiet, especially Cassandra Gemini V, 5 full minutes.)

Another thing that doesn't suit me well with this record is how easy it is to label the songs. Cygnus is funk, Widow is blues, L' Via is Spanish rock, Miranda is a fusion rock, Cassandra is fusion rock. The only real experimental point of FTM is the sometimes-boring ambiance. I know it is meant to keep an atmosphere to each song, but you could easily shorten the ambiance to 30 seconds, not 4-5 of ambiance.

Drums are good, but subpar to De-Loused and their newest release, Amputechture. The drums are also incredily quiet on FTM, which is a bit bothersome considering how talented Jon Theodore is. Omar plays a bit sloppy, especially on songs like Cassandra Gemini II, where solos can be found everywhere which makes the solos that less noticable. Bass is ace though, very very very good. So is Cedric's voice, as it always is. The horns are a good enhancement to the music but often, they seem unnatural to the song in its aspects. John Frusciante is only featured on one song throughout the whole album, 2 solos in L' Via L' Viaquez, and those two are a bit, I don't know, not good compared to what he did on De- Losued, like the guitar battle on Cicitriz ESP.

TMV, they're able to make music that is impossible to label, as shown on Amputechture and on De-Loused, but on FTM, the songs seem dumbed down mainly because you have 4 genres shown and nothing ever really goes crazy, something you'd expect from a band like TMV.

The music is good but easily labeled and too much nothingness. Good news though, their next release, Amputechture, is probably their best release ever, arguably better than De- Loused. So don't worry, TMV isn't going down-hill...

Report this review (#84326)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Allright here we go this is gonna be hard to review for me lol. But ya know there comes a limit in prog for a band's certain style. A couple of examples would be ME the most death metal band i can listen to is well Opeth, the most messed up and dark band i can listen to is Tool, and the most neo-classic stuff i can listen to is Rhapsody. But if there ever was a limit on the most experimental band i can listen to it would be The Mars Volta. I really liked the first album and i was hoping Frances The Mute would turn out just right and well it and it didn't. Its a great album alot of great rocking sections but there were at times where the sound effects REALLY started to bug me. So i just kept listening and listening and the more i did the more it grew on me. I think i've finally been able to used to the weird side of prog cause i swear no one can get as weird as these guys. But still Fraces the Mute does have MV at a nice creative peak as well to me most of the punk is gone as they had in some prog, avant, psychedelic, and even some latin, salsa, and fusion in to the mix making this quite to decide well what genre are you sticking with. But anyway it starts of Cygnus... Vismund cygnus i actually like this song a nice heavy rocker opener with some cool latin stuff, neat solos, and actually pretty cool vocal harmonies. The only complaint i have is the sound effect at the end......What is that by the way lol. Still though its a nice 13 minute opener for this album. Then you have the shortest song on the album The Widow and it did take me some time to get used to it since ya got some electronic stuff happening at the end but not a bad mellow song by MV. L'vi l'viaquez is up next and i love this song 12 minutes of glory in my opinion. The whole song is just rocking with an awesome solos by Omar and plus ya even got some salsa mix into this. It just enough to where you can dance to it. very cool track. Mirand that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore REALLY took some time for me to used to since it begins with....well yea sound effects but its not a bad mellow track just give it a shot there are some nice stuff in it. But then you have the highlight of this album Cassandra Gemini this track rocks over 30 minutes of craziness progressive stuff with amazing soloing, some fusion stuff, a little bit of ambience, but some moments. I love 30 minute tracks like All of the Above and The Truth Shall Set You Free but this one really does deserves a chance in the epic category cause there are some great moments in this song. So not a bad album there are some flaws but if you just get over them you can realize what a great realease this is from these guys. I would say it could be a masterpiece but at the same time its not for me so its definitely in between.
Report this review (#84357)
Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say? My favorite album ever. The sheer range of scope on this effort is amazing as is the music. Many feel the ambience on this album is in excess, which is a perfectly valid opinion, but to me it serves as a time to reflect on what I just heard.

Frances the Mute: (9/10) If you can get past the opening bells this is a powerful song with an haunting mid-section and a crushing finale.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: (10/10) A facemelting piece with insane drumming from Theodore. While some might dismiss the noodling in the middle as unimaginative, it never fails to effect me as it seems very emotionally charged. Especially before the chaotic ending.

The Widow: (7/10) A rather underdeveloped song. It's still great, featuring some nice trumpeting courtosy of Flea.

L'Via L'viaquez: (9/10) A very groove oriented song with some great Bonham-esque drumming. A very unique song too, as it transitions nicely from rocking all out to a great breakdown with Harlow on the piano.

Miranda that Ghost Just isn't Holy Anymore: (10/10) This song features possibly the best build up ever. When you finally listen to the amazing final chorus you'll know what I mean. The terrifying vocals at the beginning suite the song perfectly.

Cassandra Gemini: (9/10) The epic on the album. This song manages to plow full steam ahead for about 14 minutes (no small feat) and gives way to some other-wordly soundscapes and then comes full circle to an amazing finale.

The best Mars Volta album IMO. Omar's vision of the songs is quite impressive as none of the songs fall apart given the length.

Report this review (#84965)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Description: "We are a rock band that he/she wants to be a band of sauce", he/she said Omar A. Rodríguez-López once who besides being the guitarist of The Mars Volta, he/she wrote, it directed and he/she took place their second it releases duration, French the mute. Hardly 3 years after their premiere (Tremulant EP, 2002) the band has been able to capture the attention of a wide and diverse audience, this thanks to the concretion of that statement in three excellent productions that have revitalized the term "coalition" in the scene of the contemporary rock. French the mute is a work of art, a great cycle of 77 minutes, that takes off the "Sarcophagi" and he/she returns to close exactly there. During that trip we meet with 5 pieces. I don't dare to call them "songs", because a song is more or less a trip lineal that lasts from 2 to 7 minutes with a stable structure on the which we can, more or less, to abide to something predictable. And these pieces, definitively, are not anything resemblance to that. The album opens up with "Cygnus... .Vismund Cygnus", a topic that it explodes with a potent sample of funk-prog rock, decorated with a feeling Latin and a lot of psicodelia, an aspect that stays present through the whole extension of the disk. A little after 10 minutes it sounds "The widow", the first simple promotional, a relaxed topic that breaks up totally with the dynamics of the first act. It is the piece more "normal" of the production, to such a point that almost feels outside of place. In the track 3 it sounds "L'Via L'Viaquez", an energetic topic with letters in Spanish, in the which it enters a rhythm of sauceof 70´s like one on their main behalves and where we find some of the most brilliant melodies in this work, besides John Frusciante's collaboration (Red Hot Chili Peppers) with some alone of guitar. To the moment, without hurries "Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore" he/she opens creating a dark and humid atmosphere on the one slowly that, of a moment to other, we listen a trumpet, executed by Flea (Net Hot Chili Peppers), followed by Cedric Bixler's voice: "i've always wanted to eat glass with you again...". The fourth track of French the mute is maybe my favorite one. It is a piece that evolves slow and masterfully with a high experimentation dose, preparing the land and the conscience for what happens next, a powerful called psychedelic discharge of 35 minutes "Cassandra Geminni". The climax of French the mute is reached during this piece. A series of sonic multiorgies accompanies its complete development that embraces a little less than half of the work. During the first 5 minutes it is easy to conclude that this it is the best track in the album. And what comes of there it stops below he/she simply leaves me without encouragement. To Favor: The handling of the instruments is of very high level, impeccable and impressive. The coalition of rhythms and the master with which the sounds are managed -and in general all that represents this work - it is really something outside of the common thing. French the mute is the natural answer to The Mars's spirit live Volta, a band that concentrates on the musical free execution of a continuous one that doesn't stop in any moment. From the beginning and with a marked accent in the end, this recording is impregnated of virtuosity, experimentation and a lot of energy. In Against: While Of-loused in the comatorium it had the leading of the veteran producing Rick Rubin, French the mute was totally in charge of Omar A. Rodríguez-López. A challenge that was overcome gloriously, but that he/she brought I get something of dispersion along the work, maybe an inherent quality to the essence of the band. And from that point of view, it is possible that it is not necessarily a flaw, but of to moments it is felt that it lacks some pasteurization in the process of organization of the album. Some things here and there they have more than enough. Verdict: The second it releases duration it is a test difficult to overcome for any band. From their premiere, the public has always waited much of The Mars Volta and these have known how to respond to satisfy and even to overcome the expectations of his wide base of demanding followers. What The Mars Volta makes is to return to the music the spontaneity that has been snatched him little by little by the contemporary fashions.
Report this review (#84974)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#87238)
Posted Monday, August 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great sophomore effort that originall got me into their sound!

This album proved to be quite a different offering than Deloused was, but it's definitely the same band, and their sound is retained, albeit modified. While not as good as its predecessor, it still proves to be an interesting and engrossing experience from start to finish. At least, if you have the patience to sit through this 78 minute monster.

1. Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus- 10/10- One of my favorite TMV tracks! Starting off with a haunting acoustic guitar progression, Cedric's vocals come in, and they slowly fade into being distorted, and before you can even guess what's going on, the band explodes into full throttle, with the almost tribal sounding semi-chanting of "ninoooo preparate" and Omar and John Theodore tearing their instruments up for a funky yet frantic sound. The song fades into a more calmer section, with some trippy and experimental soloing on guitar. The whole ending section gives me chills, with Cedric's high pitched (damn, that's the highest I've heard anyone go) chilling wordless wails over the 5/4 (I beleive) outro section. Sadly, we also get a taste of this album's biggest flaw in the last 2 minutes, with random recordings and sound effects, which would add more to the concept if the listener knew exactly what the hell Cedric meant by "my nails peel back/When the taxidermist ruined/Goose stepped the freckling impatience", and finally the track fades into......

2. The Widow- 6/10- The most glaringly obvious candidate for the single of the album, it is a typical, almost Zeppelin sounding style ballad. While it doesn't borrow too much from TMV's characteristic sound, it does manage to maintain being a decent ballad style song, until the three minute mark, then....more noise, this time, some really offkey organ and some other noises

3.L'Via L'Viaquez- 8/10- Starting off with a reversed drum loop, it explodes into a latin feel, with Frusciante churning out a good, funky solo. And what's this? The lyrics are in Spanish? As if they made little enough sense in English! Anyways, onto the song. While not as frantic as the first track, yet not exactly as slow or looming as The Widow, the song itself does transition between midtempo sections and slower, almost latin/loungemusic style sections with lyrics in English, then transitioning back into the style of the first section with more backwardsness and atonal guitar. Finally, the song fades out into the loungey section until the band completely cuts out, leaving a heavily distorted (not like guitar distortion, more like phaser and 400 other effects) to fend for himself as he sings a capella to close out the song. Oh, and more noise

4. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore- 5/10- Why such a vicious rating? While the song itself is great, it only takes up a THIRD of the track, the other 2 thirds compiled of noise. Lots and lots of noise. Cedric making creepy ghosty sounding noises, and the the noise is occasionally pitch bended down a bit, then back up, to sound creepier, I guess. Anyways, after FIVE MINUTES of this and bird noises, the song starts in, with "Flea" (of RHCP fame) on trumpet, with a somewhat epic feel to it, and the actual song begins. Finally. The song itself is not bad by any means, in fact, probably better at achieving the ominous feeling that The Widow tried so hard to do within a much smaller timeframe. Finally, the song fades out, into a section with some weird trumpet, and a familair 5/4 section slowly fades in (the one at the end of Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus), and it lulls you with familiarity until.....

5. Cassandra Gemini- 10/10- BOOM! It explodes in a similar fashion to that of Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus, only much more frantic, and with Cedric sounding slightly drunk, or crazy, as inferred by the lyric "I think I've become one of the others". This track has truly an epic feel in it from start to finish (NOTE: TRACKS 5 THROUGH 12 ARE ALL ONE SONG, CASSANDRA GEMINI) It then goes into a slightly less crazy part, with Cedric reading an excerpt from (and don't hold me accountable for this I might be wrong) "Naked Lunch", which seems to be just as weird as anything else they've said so far. Then, the chorus: "No there's no liiiiight", which sends you tumbling into section after section of this insane opus. Note, it is not for the impatient wanting a quick song to listen to. Clocking in at 32 minutes, this song is quite a bit to tackle, and at times even trying (the instrumental section/jam at about 22 minutes til 27 minutes comes to mind) but it all builds up until the final amazing chorus, and ending on the "Sarcophagus" part that began the first track on the album


Lyrics: What. The. HELL!!? The lyrics may seem at first hard to follow, but if you get the general gist of them, the story is yours to make for yourself. Cedric's singing is, well, exactly like he always sings, although a bit clearer and less aggrivating as he was with At the Drive-In.

Music: Many a catchy riff here, and many more an epic or emotional section, that do however heavily suffer from an overindulgence of sound effect usage/ambient sections.

To summarize, this album is a great addition to any prog collection, and I cannot wait for their future releases, including Amputechture, as they move into more progressive territory.

Report this review (#88888)
Posted Sunday, September 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Frances The Mute

I didn't want to review this album, since it's been reviewed to death. However, I had to do it because this album is a great example of how an opinion about an album can change radically after a period of time.

When this album came out and a friend of mine lent it to me I hated it to death. I had heard "Deloused In The Comatorium" before and I hated it as well. I didn't like the indie/punk sound that the band has. Also, I couldn't stand the noises on "Frances The Mute" After a few months, I decided to give another try to the album. I fell in love with "L'via l'viaquez", because of the so called salsa sound, and the Spanish singing. I didn't care to hear another song until the beginning of this year. So I started hearing "Cygnus.Vismund Cygnus", which I found that had a very interesting approach and overall feeling. Later, after some research, I realized it was because it has some very tasteful approach to weird time signatures and excellent drumming, that carries the flow of the song.

But the best was yet to come. In June I said that I finally had the guts to listen to Cassandra Gemini. The length of the song had driven me away before. And woahhh. This is an epic song which never ceases to amaze me. I specially love the interplay between sax and guitar on this song, and the improvisation. Also, the vocals are quite good.

The last songs that I discovered were "The Widow" and "Miranda, that ghost just isn't holy anymore". From the last one, I'd like to point out the horn section, which is very good.

Now, the lowpoints of the album: "The Widow", which I really like, but isn't a very challenging song, and the noise. I don't care for it anymore, but in the first listens it can easily drive you away from this album. Get over it, and you'll discover some resfreshing and excellent music. Even so, I think the noise fits well with the overall mood of the album.

This album really is an essential addition, because it's one of the best from modern progressive music.

Edit: 4 stars (one star less), since it hasn't stood the test of time, at all. I listened to death to Frances, and now it has lost some of its appeal.

Report this review (#89698)
Posted Friday, September 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Well, at first listen of this album (had not heard to their debut album before this one), I was strongly taken aback and almost repelled to the point that it took me almost one year to actually gather up the courage to rent this album and give it a second listen. But by the time of this second listen, I had discovered their debut album and their third one Amputechture was announced in the coming weeks. The least I can say, though, is that I will not wait for their fourth album to be released to find out about Amputechture.

Back to this album: far from being flawless, this album seems to sacrifice like its predecessor to the modern trend/fad: obscure and impenetrable artwork, most lyrics publishing absent (or unpunctuated) and a doubtful unexplained concept. With an overlong album (this is almost jam-packed), this is exactly the type of flaws that costs them a full star. Nothing that cannot be corrected rather easily for future endeavours though, because for the rest there are many, many, many, many excellent features on FTM, and their 32-min finale is THE major asset of this album.

But let's start with the start, so we can end with the end (sounds un-Freudian, doesn't it?), and it one disenchanting fact is that the start of the "concept" is not present on this album. The 14+min title track was released on the previewing single and not available here. Sounds like a beginner's mistake doesn't it? And the last track announced as a five-part but really cut out in 8 is rather infuriating and downright sloppy and amateur

Well the album's concept here is of another form of alienation, but fuelled by the shock of one of their collab's drug-related death and a story that he was writing. So I gather, because again not much background and explanation are given as is usual in recent years in terms of concept: an easy way out to try to give depth to it, avoid possible fans to pinpoint unlikely twists and give the fan a reason to interpret the music as they feel. But as this was supposed to be a different concept, and they supposedly got their act together dope-wise, I can only see quite a bit of similarities in the construction of the musical trip at least in the first ten minutes: noisy electronic intro, then all out violence etc.

While their music seems to have refined somewhat, they still rely on extensive passage of RHCP-like violence and systematic use of electronic passages (unlike most I find them actually quite good, but can at times be too lengthy), and most of their typical twists of the debut album are ever-present in the opening Cygnus track. We are given a good clean breath of fresh with a rather straightforward The Widow, which happens to be emotionally (but not musically) the second highlight of the album after the finale. One track however that sticks out like a sore thumb, is the endless Via Viaquez, which starts out interestingly enough but steers off track by the Latino chorus and repeats itself an infuriatingly six or seven times, although the verses and frequent solos ease the pain somewhat. The reverse English/Spanish lyrics to the music is interesting as is the piano finale, which is clearly inspired of Los Jaivas' Parra brothers playing.

Around the halfway mark of the album (and a rather overlong interlude/introduction), comes a rather different Miranda (I think the writer was watching a certain Sex And The City TV-series) coming close to a post rock not far away from Sigur Ros. The main flaw of this track is as post rock goes, it takes forever to develop and even longer to die. This tracks overstays its welcome just as much as Via Viaquez. Then comes the 32- min finale Cassandra where Omar shines like the sun with his brilliant playing where him and Cedric pull a Zep's Planter's Page duo. Although a bit long, the middle section sizzles along quite frantically , almost as mesmerizing as Dazed and Confused could be. Overall this album is not better than its predecessor, strengthening in some departments (especially Omar's guitars), but duplicating some flaws, being over- ambitious (and awkward) in their storytelling, Isaiah being a little less present and incisive than on Comatorium, and Cedric's vocals are less manic.

So this album is one of confirmation, but no real progress or consolidation over its predecessor, so the real test is pushed back to their third album Amputechture, which will become a make or break. Either they move to the superior stage, correct their flaws and pull a real masterpiece or they will eventually stagnate a bit, unable to reach the stratosphere where their illustrious ancestors are desperately awaiting the new guard.

Report this review (#92502)
Posted Friday, September 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars Like many, I found The Mars Volta's first album 'De-Loused In The Comatorium' to be quite a surprise for the somewhat stagnant modern world of prog. Though unable to reach the heights of 70s giants, there were several factors on that record which came together successfully - the endlessly inventive guitar playing, the wailing slingshot vocals, and the lyrical soups brewed by what sounds like medical students who listened to prog and watched sci-fi when they should have been researching for exams. There was a feeling here of a band with great potential, and it is too difficult not to compare their second album directly with the first... not that a clone would be expected or at all welcome, but rather I would hope the spirit of the first recording would return to flourish on 'Frances The Mute'.

Unfortunately, I don't feel their follow-up strikes anywhere near the mark. Most of the things a listener would initially think was wrong with De-Loused, but were overcome by really studying the album, actually ARE wrong with 'Frances The Mute'. Small ideas seem totally over-stretched throughout the album, gone are the complex changes and the feeling of constant restructuring within single pieces. Cedric's previously extraterrestrial singing stays within a relatively safe (for him) range, no longer seeking out obscure and embedded melodies within and around the song, making him pretty much indistinguishable from most other whiny heavy rock/punk vocalists. The lyrics are, however, again quite interesting in the same abstractly poetic fashion as De-Loused, but there is a definite sense this time that more thought went into the words for their own merits alone, rather than how they might marry with or be elevated by the music. In this way, almost all vocal delivery on the album sounds incidental. The clichéd flash guitar soloing of guest John Frusciante also features quite heavily, especially on 'L'Via L'Viaquez', and is quite frankly pedestrian in comparison to the unique Rodriguez-Lopez and adds nothing positive here.

A widespread criticism of this record is the presence of extended atmospheric/instrumental sections, but for me these are among the most successful elements and capture some strong moods, occasionally also forming well-paced preludes to larger pieces such as 'Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' (probably the best piece on the album). By far the greatest let down of all, though, is the production quality. Even though Rodriguez-Lopez is no doubt playing as many layers of guitars as on their first album, here all of that detail is lost through bad balancing and EQ... and every prolonged 'heavy' passage sounds like the same wash of distorted guitar riffing. Even the wider range of instruments used makes little impression, since each of them seem to occupy the same dull frequency range. The intricate effects and melodies only stand a chance of getting through on the few quieter parts. This is a crime, and perhaps the crippling blow to an album that could have been much better if the distinctiveness of these interesting musicians had a chance to shine through.

Not good enough for the discerning progger, and unlikely to enter a regular playlist.

Report this review (#93896)
Posted Monday, October 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is...simply crazy! The music contained in this one here is pretty brilliant, surely meant to be very visual and supposed to take the listener somewhere else, and of course it is also very complex in its construction, so much that sometimes it's hard to listen to this work in one single take; as for the lyrics they're absolutely criptical and it's hard to understand the plot of the concept, anyway probably it's true that the sense of it is in the ear of those who listen to it. The songs are all amazing especially the opener "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" and the 32' min. epic "Cassandra Geminni". Defining their style is quite impossible, since they mix up a lot of influences: jazz, latin, prog, psich and others.....anyway the mix works out in a brilliant way. Personally I prefer "Frances The Mute" to "Deloused in the comatorium" by far, because this work is more homogenous than its predecessor, as far as we could use this term, when we refer to a TMV album.... It's gorgeous...the rating is 4.5 stars
Report this review (#94486)
Posted Saturday, October 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Mars Volta-Frances the Mute

After hearing a couple songs by the mars volta, they didnt really interest me at all, so I decided to just completely ignore them. Well, then I heard so much hype and good things about them, I just couldnt take it anymore. I had to hear them. So I bought Frances the Mute -- and it astonished me. It is so different, so odd, yet so beautiful and amazing. "Cygnus... Vismund cygnus", the first track, has some of the most incredible moments on the album in my opinion, however I must say that the main attraction on Frances the Mute is the 32-minute long "Cassandra Gemeni". "Miranda, that Ghost just isnt Holy anymore" is one of the creepiest and oddest songs I have ever heard. This album is groundbreaking, different, emotional, and just downright amazing. I strongly recommend it.


Report this review (#94666)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars I like this one a little better than "Deloused...", it's the "Cassandra Gemni" suite where we get some pretty freaky stuff happening that puts it over the top for me. Besides, they use more mellotron on this one. Love the scorching guitar throughout this record as well.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" opens with strummed guitar as vocals join in. It kicks in before a minute. Absolutely ripping guitar follows.This is intense. Mellotron after 3 1/2 minutes then it turns spacey and calms down. Nice guitar here, this sounds so good. Vocals are back 7 minutes then it gets wild again. It's getting spacy 10 minutes in as it settles.Electronics and samples follow. Very cool. "The Widow" opens with vocals and a laid back sound. It kicks in then relaxes again as these contrasts continue. Omar is lighting it up 2 minutes in, organ follows. It turns psychedelic before 3 1/2 minutes to the end. "L'Via L'Viaquez" kicks in before a minute with some great guitar. Vocals and mellotron come in. It settles after 2 1/2 minutes with spoken vocals. Ripping guitar a minute later as it kicks back in. Contrasts continue. Angular guitar 6 minutes in. Nice. I like the drumming too a minute later. A calm to end it with these weird vocals that sound like they're in slow motion. Birds are chirping as it blends into "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" then it turns haunting after a minute. Blasting sax after 4 minutes as that haunting mood changes somewhat. Vocals 5 minutes in, lots of atmosphere here. Sax is back 8 minutes in and then it turns heavy with vocals. A calm with strings 9 minutes in then the sax and other sounds come in.The wind is blowing. It building 12 minutes in with mellotron, drums and bass.

The "Cassandra Suite" is about 32 minutes long broken down into 8 parts that all blend into one another. Part I opens with vocals and angular guitar that lights it up. What an intro ! Processed vocals as it settles, flute too. Sax after 2 minutes with a great vocal section that follows. Part II opens with some amazing guitar and mellotron, in fact this part might be my favourite on the whole album as Omar really shows what he can do with his guitar. Check out the light show before 5 1/2 minutes. Drums are killer as well. Part III is where Cedric shows off his vocals and I like the guitar late. Part IV sounds incredible as they jam. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in before it settles a minute later with whispered vocals.They're jamming again. Love the guitar and bass. Organ before 4 1/2 minutes. Part V has a psychedelic vibe, this is trippy stuff. Eerie sounds 4 minutes in. Part VI is where the sax comes in.This is dissonant and spaced out, perhaps Krautrock inspired. Part VII is more normal (haha) and Part VIII is too with the acoustic guitar and vocals.

Just a monster of an album in many ways.You can't go wrong with their first two records.

Report this review (#95864)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I started off with The Mars Volta with De-loused in the Comatorium like most of you, and while it was good, Frances the Mute eclipses it. One of the greatest albums ever made in my opinion, there is little to nothing wrong with it, and everything that is wrong is made up for tenfold by everything that is right

The Tracks

Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus (10/10) a beautiful acoustic opening with Sarcophogi that soon explodes into a roaring 13 minute fury. The solos are masterful and its a fantastic album opener.

The Widow (8/10) its like Another Brick in the Wall Part II, any respectable fan wouldnt be caught dead listening to this. THough it has its moments, its the definite weak point of the album. A nice bluesy piece that really is just nothing like anything else on the album. A great work, but out of place. The 2 minute ambience at the end isnt as bad as everyone is complaining about. Its just a little much

L'Via L'Viaquez (10/10) beginning wiht a 30 second intro, it blows you away with blazing riffs, grinds to a halt, then blazing riffs again. If i had the ability, i would've chose to take Spanish for school, just so i could learn this song. after about 7 minutes, it slows and becomes a nice ambient piece.

Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore (8/10) after 4 minutes of building ambience (i personally love it, you guys can screw yourselves), it starts being the No Quarter to the The Widows The Crunge (not comparing greatness, just sounds). A beautiful piece that encompasses such sadness. It soon goes to the outro (well...not really) to Cygnus, and thennnnnn

Cassandra Gemini (15/10) I kid you not. The greatest song that lasts over 20 minutes ever recorded. I'm sorry Echoes. I have never gotten bored during a section of this song. Just perfect in every way. Some of the best guitar work ever. Especially toward Multiple Spouse Wounds (on the cd, that is track 8, Cassandra Gemini: A. Tarantism). 32 minutes of pure bliss. The climax of the album, then the ending is sarcophagi, a great touch

All in all, a 5-star album. But it is not for everyone. I reccomend it to fans of post-Barrett pre-DSOTM Pink Floyd. It took me 2 listens-through, but i began to love this album. Cassandra Gemini inspires and provides such great enjoyment to me to this date. Give it a listen, unless you aren't ready for something new...well, this is a prog forum...never mind

Report this review (#99382)
Posted Friday, November 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mars Volta took their sound to new boundaries, abandoning almost all of their punk approach, and focusing more on their latin/salsa, experimental and progressive vein. While building very complex movements, as the 31 minute last track, they also made possible the interaction with the great masses.

The soaring refrain, allied with the simple and energetic structure of "The Widow", were the perfect balance to catapult Mars Volta to mainstream and, curiously, the one that most resembles to the work of their debut. "L'vi L'viaquez" is another convincing mainstream track, despite its 12 minutes, if blends band's energetic guitar/vocal approach with a danceable catchy Latin salsa. "Miranda..." is the softer of the collection, after a psychedelic noisy introduction it flows into a grandiose symphonic-driven Mars Volta ballad. But the album's gem is definitely the last track "Cassandra Geminni". The use of classic instruments like flute, trumpet and saxophone help to extend to new levels the band's prolific and unique approach, while incorporating Jethro Tull's symphonic flutes, Pink Floyd's psychedelic space rock influences, early King Crimson's magnificence and Mahavishnu Orchestra's virtuous playing and rhythms. The result is an impressive and dynamic epic of the band's peak musicality while, in opposite to some of their longer compositions, in its 31 minutes it does not figures to be extended to exhaustion. A true modern ode to progressive rock.

Nevertheless the band's exaggerations at times, they prove, once again to be an original band and one of the best progressive rock bands of their time. Though not reaching everybody's tastes, it pleases both mainstream crowds and the intellectual elite.

Report this review (#104651)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars For someone (like me) who grew up in the 1970s listening to Genesis and ELP, The Mars Volta represents something close to the outer limits of modern Prog. Which by itself ought to be reason enough to recommend them to adventurous listeners not afraid to shed a few of their cultural inhibitions. In truth I can't recall being so totally confounded by a body of new music since my first exposure, while still an impressionable teen, to the sound of YES.

(The album, by the way, was "Relayer": a trial by fire to the uninitiated, and in many ways not all that dissimilar to this one. Listen again to a song like "Sound Chaser", and you'll hear a primitive echo of the same manic energy and unabashed weirdness embraced by The Mars Volta 30 years later.)

Anyone else in their growing tribe of fans could tell you more about the band than me. As a newcomer, I can only say I was initially drawn to them by one of those pandemic end-of-the-year ten-best CD lists (in, of all places, the otherwise strictly provincial Buffalo News), describing their music as "whacked-out Progressive Rock". And let's face it: who among us could resist a plug like that?

Whacked-out or not, this 2005 release is an acquired taste, to be sure: a free-for-all blend of metal, techno, ambient, symphonic, and psychedelic madness, dressed up in curious Anglo-Latino colors and played at lightning speed, with pinpoint accuracy and no shortage of power. The opaque surrealism of the cover photography, instantly recognizable to veteran Progheads as the work of Hipgnosis, suggests a concept album of sorts. As does the steady stream-of-consciousness lyrics (actually more tsunami than stream), sung in combined English and Spanish by a vocalist (Cedric Bixler Zavala) whose sometimes strident high-tenor exhibits enough emotion to send the heart of the late Freddie Mercury fluttering in its sarcophagus.

The album begins with a lush 12-string guitar melody, but otherwise all bets are off. What follows is an exhausting, relentless 77-minute roller coaster of creative energy, arranged into a near-seamless, uninterrupted flow of music, sometimes beautiful, sometimes abrasive, and more than occasionally both at the same time. It may sound totally off the wall at times, but in the end the album manages to resolve all its conflicting impulses by returning suddenly and with unexpected symmetry to the same 12-string guitar theme it began with.

My own initial verdict: this is astonishing stuff, and although it demands to be heard from start to finish, the entire album can be hard to digest in a single sitting. In its own way, it's probably no less disorientating than much of classic Prog must have been to untrained ears back in the early '70s. You might have felt a similar dislocation when introduced (for example) to a band like IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO, uncompromising Italian rockers from Prog's golden age (remember their 1972 album "YS"?). Imagine an urban NY update of the same music, and you might find The Mars Volta already beginning to sound halfway normal.

Report this review (#107614)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This work of the North Americans with Latin roots is without a doubt a clear sample of a recycled rock and adjust for the present generations, but easily and if it is had a customary ear to the progressive one in most of the styles we can sees that they are a compendium of styles that go from the power of the RIO happening through the trasmutados passages of the Avant Garde, coqueteando to usanza of KING CRIMSON, implorando storms style PINK FLOYD, YES and until ELP, by this it is not a bad work I want to clarify, seems to me if an opportunity so that the people that has decided to listen to know them that she is what they do, imposing sound if, upset rates that seem to disturb if, but I am not impressed, I have read each things in the network about them who in truth and with the respect that deserves to me its opinion this is not a revealing disc but well if a restaurador of the things imposed in the past, is not necessary to let give merito this work that in case it is good, the interpretation all a work of art and the system of recording clearly supported with many economic resources and a disquera of world-wide reaches, thing that strangely sees in the progressive rock, speaking of more of the final sound I will say to them that if is worth the trouble to pay the price of the disc because it sees desire and listens to much the soul, to my in the personnel it was not done as they say to me that way extreme dense, is smooth with pleasant changes and intense rates but nothing that anybody customary to KING CRIMSON and MAGMA cannot understand, in parts very traveled looking for space horizons, the suite "Cassandra Geminni" is but the impressive thing that can be listened of this disc and I agree with the writing in Manticornio is classic an instantaneous one or that will be it of course, a disc for those who are dangerous and with an open mind (in fact all the progressive rock demands this), affluent work made and taken to its culmination of a way very respectable and the best works of a 2005 indispensable one more to the list.
Report this review (#111583)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars By popular music standards, a very good album...borderline album of the year. This record puts images in your head when you listen to it, not always the best ones. It kind of makes me think of a trashy society in which everything is going wrong but a few really musicians are blasting their hearts out talking about it.

I was wowed by their energy. The spanish lyrics are sometimes very annoying. The guitar tones really contribute to the "trash progness."

Some very good prog moments. Some useless noise and ambience. Some very good noise and ambience. The "commercial" track is actually very good and sounds like Led Zep. (The Widow)

Definatly a must have for fans of hardcore art prog ala Volta, not for everyone though.

3 Stars

Good but non-essential

(If you are looking for many hours of analyzing hardcore prog this is the record for you)

Report this review (#111584)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a very strange music that mix the retro of the ends of 60,s with earlys 70,s and avant garde elements,this is a very progressive album with very long songs,dramatic sounds,there are hardcore,psychedelic sounds.blues,free jazz,latin music(salsa),the guitar many times is frenetic,the first song have riffs influenced by Crimson,the singer seems a crazy ,there are winds (trumpet)and the latin piano of Larry Harlow,theL,Via L Viaquezhave a very latin sound and I like the solo of Frusciante.In The Widow,the voice is good,original,emotional and dramatic,have blues,there are some of Zeppellin here and Pink Floyd in the next track.Cassandra Gemini is very very long,divided in parts,is full of sounds of improvisation.In definitive,this is not an album for people that only like commercial music,sometimes is noisy,AND ACID.I believe that 4 stars is ok
Report this review (#114735)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Masterpiece

This is the first of the Mars Volta reviews I hope to write in the future. This is the second album from this group and it is a good follow up to a strong debut. This is a blend of avant garde, space rock, free jazz, hard rock, and punk. That is the genius of it - combining different genres, and at times in one song! (of course some of the songs are over the ten minute mark, allowing for this type of progressing, Cassandra Gemini being way over the ten minute mark, clocking in at 32:27)

One problem people have with this album is the ambient noise. It is not too much of an issue unless you get aggravated by ambient soundscapes. The ambient sections always have a flow to them and never get dull but some people may feel the need to skip them. Personally I think they add another dimension to the already great masterpiece.

Cygnus..Vismund Cygnus starts out with a great acoustic intro, but soon it goes into what can only be described as craziness. The lyrics start out as English but then..what's this?!? Spanish! Yes, folks, part of the lyrics are in Spanish. At first I did not notice this, as I can understand a bit of the language because I took two years in school, but then I slowly started to notice that it sounded a bit odd. It was only when I looked up the lyrics that I saw it was Spanish. After a while the music calms down a bit and there is an instrumental section. It is contains wonderful guitar work from Omar and a good rhythm. At ten minutes it goes into ambient noise and weird recordings of something. I have no idea what.

The Widow starts off with a spacey feel. Here Cedric shows his singing ability as he changes vocal style a couple of times on this track. The song is in ballad form. This is the most commercial track with the last part cut off for radio play. The last bit is ambient noise. This is something I love, ambient noise. It lets my mind wander and yet still keeps it in one place. The noise has a common theme to it and it is very cool.

L'Via L'Viaquez bursts out of the speakers after 40 seconds of a backwards drum loop. The first 2 guitar solos are played by John Frusciante. They are good but I feel that Omar is abetter guitarist and I don't know why they invited Frusciante to play these guitar parts. Most of this song is sung in Spanish. It has a Latin feel to it and it can draw comparisons to Santana at times. My favourite line from this song is "and with everybody that they find and with every claymore that they mine". This line is repeated a few times I the song and it has a psychedelic feel (musically) when it is said. The guitar playing on this song is great. It ranges from craziness (like the first song - fast, frantic guitar playing) to slow Latin-esque sounds.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore starts off quiet with birds chirping. The song slowly builds up and it has a haunting feeling to it when it is building up. This song is quite calm when compared to the rest of the album. It has a very prominent psychedelic feel to it. The overall atmosphere is dark and it contains a bit of violin. It reminds me of some post rock that I have heard. It has a jazz feel to it with the trumpet (courtesy of Flea - like Frusciante is from Red Hot Chilli Peppers). This song also has ambient soundscapes, something I particularly enjoy.

Cassandra Gemini is the epic of this album, it being a little longer than half an hour. The music reverts back to its craziness. This time saxophones and flutes are added to the music and they do a good job of varying the music. The music is chaotic and it keeps on changing sound form avant garde to punkish hard rock to craziness! Unbelievably good. Guitar solos are great. One problem with this song is the fact that the CD breaks up the epic into 8 tracks. My favourite line from this song is "no there's no light in the darkest of your furthest reaches". It is sung very well and shows some bleakness from the last track. There is a jazzy section (more like back track) in this song with a powerful orchestra like playing of trumpets and sax combined with a violin. Its climax is very powerful and overwhelming. This song is very powerful and full of emotion. It is the track that has the most genres mixed in with its ambient noise, free jazz, rock, and avant garde scattered throughout the 30 minutes of music. The last few minutes of the song is reminiscent of the beginning of the album and if you repeat the whole album you cannot tell when it ends and makes an interesting listening experience.

The concept of the album is a strange one. It is mainly found in the last song Cassandra Gemini. It is based on a journal found in a car by the late Jeremy Wards when he worked as a repo man. It is about a man who was adopted and tried to find his biological parents with various people helping him along the way. The song titles (except the last one which is the main character of the story) are the people that help him find the way to his parents. The CD has a different track list than the official one for a weird reason. They planned on having five tracks but the record company defines this as an EP and the band would not be paid as much as they would for an album. So they broke the epic up to make sure it was classified as an album. An interesting thing to note is that the last track Cassandra Gemini is misspelled as Cassandra Geminni.

Overall this is a great album that should be listened to. But take caution when thinking about buying this album. I would only recommend it after buying the first and third album of The Mars Volta. It is a mix of the first and third albums. This is an album worth getting and is highly enjoyable if listened to when you are in the right mood for such things as described above. 5/5 stars.

Report this review (#115436)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I realize that I really can't beat Christopher French's review in its thoroughness, but I do want to give an opinion on this album.

It's very good.

There, I said it. Me? An indie rock fan? Me? Gathering in small, dirty clubs and getting pushed into sweaty mosh pits among kids in long underwear and Weezer glasses? Yes, indeed, for this band. They've captured the indie rock scene but they are undoubtedly progressive to the finest point progressive can be.

I don't speak Spanish. I know nothing about it. I took French in middle school, high school, and college. Yet the lyrics of these songs are beautiful to me. I can't explain it. The way Cedric sings, he could turn anything into poetry. I absolutely love his voice, I daresay he has just about dethroned Jon Anderson. (Don't quote me on this, but!)...

I get moved by this album. I love the tape-effects... Roxy Music / Brian Eno was experimenting with this stuff in the 70s, Radiohead had some nice results in the 90s, and this band brings it all full circle, with excellent musicianship to boot, in the 2000s. The drama presented in "Francis" is inexplicable. Very very f'in good.

Report this review (#115523)
Posted Sunday, March 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars That was the most ambitious CD from MARS VOLTA - before "Amputechture" has arrived. Supplied with 30-min long epic, it should have been a Masterpiece from the era. Sorry, I'm not from your crowd.

I liked TMV's debut when I got it - concise, short but energetic and proggy songs with that Psychedelic feel. Now they just made these concise songs longer - without any further development, only wondering around playing the same riff over and over again. Don't get me wrong, I like Modern Prog and impatiently look forward to another TMV stuff, but that was too much. A mind revolution for the children of MTV, but for those who at least familiar with THE DOORS and LED got the point I guess. Nice but overrated as hell. A funny thing, but the name-sake outtake "Frances the Mute" I heard on single is far better than the whole album taken together!

Recommended but don't tell me then that I didn't warn you. BTW, back to letters - TMV is almost MTV...;)

Report this review (#116022)
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars That Band Just Isn't Holy Anymore

When you know the bunch of influences that The Mars Volta has, their previous individual projects as musicians and their instrumental abilities, it's obvious that the singularity and originality will be as notable as it is. I've known this band almost since they were formed and I've seen them grow up, evolve and open their own way as in mainstream as in the most closed music critic circles, thing that makes me happy and disappoints me at the same time.

I don't know if I've missed in this album, personally, I think that the self-production isn't the best decision by Mars Volta, considering that they're one of the most excessive live bands, very extensive and pretentious.

I really see their first album "Dee-Loused in the Comatorium" as their best effort, even though this release has some good points such as the orchestration with some pretty interesting moments. This American band uses their huge universe of influences and their interpretative ability to create their second studio album.

This work is developed in a conceptual way, with some similar points as they've done it in DLITC, the lyrics travel through so many styles but keeping their own seal, using that intricate language they own.

Composed by just 5 songs, 'cause "Cassandra Gemini" is subdivided in some kind of suites, this album explores different audible textures that cover from the ambient and space passages, the remembering Latin roots of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez spiced perfectly with the unique voice of Cedric Bixler. I'd also like to notice the collaborations by the Red Hot Chili Peppers members, Flea and John Frusciante in "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" , which bring a very tasty sound to that song, especially the trumpets by Flea that catches you on with all its melancholy.

Unfortunately, all that sequence through the last track minimizes some great jams included on it.

In my humble opinion, this band has an awesome potential to turn into one of the biggest progressive bands of all times, but they got to canalize the landslide of musical ideas they have or to hire a producer such as Rick Rubin to focus that energy into a positive way.

Concluding, even when they this one is a good release, they can do it better so I'll give this one a 3 stars rating.

Report this review (#118253)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars A dissapointing follow up....

I love De-Loused in the Comatorium. Its tight, playful, powerful and a fun listen. Frances The Mute feels like a long jam session. When I heard the single The Widow I was happy. When I heard the rest of the album I was dissapointed of the result.

The album opens with "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus". The track starts of with a gentle acoustic interlude thats followed by guitar riffs, complete with screaming vocals and whistles. Quite enjoyable listen really. The album moves over the the albums best track "The Widow", a haunting track sung mostly in spanish

"L'via L'viaquez" is a uneven track that have some nice guitar solos and riffs, but it all seems to unfocused. The riffs are repeated to often. The track is to long. This is where the problems of this album starts.

"Miranda that Ghost just isn't holy any more." is where this album goes downhill. The track is mostly sound effects thats there to create some kind of ambient feeling. This track is just as windy as its name.

"Cassandra Gemini" is a whopping 30+ min track that really kills any enjoyment out of this album. The best parts of this song is used for sparse sounds, out of place breakdowns and no real structure what so ever. As i mentioned in the beginning, its all just a spaced out jam session.

The first part of the album is good and when I listen to this album I listen to the first 3 tracks and then turn it off. If you dont have any Mars Volta album, but are interested in checking them out, get their debut De-Loused in the Comatorium, its so much better.

This gets a strong 2/5 stars from me, the albums first part saves it from total distaster.With a little more focus on the song structures this album could have been close to a masterpiece. I hope they get back into shape.

Report this review (#122847)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nothing memorable, sounds like a bunch of stuff...from Latin to space rock...I listened to the album quite recently and I don't recall much more than great musicianship, weird songwriting and style......Excellent though for those who like TMV....I loved De loused way more....
Report this review (#123855)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is one of the most interesting releases of this decade. I have never heard a band more experimental or risky in its sound. The music is great, the sound effects are very interesting, if a bit overdone at parts. The only problem I have with the band is its leaning towards Indie rock.

Most of the band came from the indie group At The Drive In. I hate At The Drive In because there are no interesting twists and turns to the music, no change, just the same indie rock with some good guitar solos and terrible singing.

Cedric Zavala is defferantly a unique singer. His high register is a little annoying, but people have the same complaints about Geddy Lee and Jon Anderson. Cedric is a little higher than either of them. However, his interesting delivery and frequent use of vocal effect synthesizers is a deffinate redeption for his high and somewhat EMO voice.

Omar A. Rodriguez Lopez is one of the best guitarists I've ever heard. Take John Mclaughlin, Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth, mix them in a blender and speed it up and you have Omar. Simply incredible. He's also a very good composer. He never does solo's in a way that seems like he's saying "Look at my magically fast fingers! Don't you wish you had robot fingers like me?" They all sound good, its not just up and down the scale over and over again like alot of 'fast guitarists'. He uses alot of delay pedal effects in a way that has never been done before. He has a digital delay for a colder, more mechanical sound and an analog delay for a warmer sound. Anyone who plays guitar and uses any of the newer delay pedals knows how hard it is to use those things and make it sound good. I have alot of respect for this guy.

The drummer is very good and reminds me most of the drummer for Mahavishnu Orchestra. They have very similar styles and are both very talented.

I have to give a warning, I'm not sure that this album will be a hit among the older crowd. I would give the band a listen first before buying any albums. The song "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" off of their first album is free to listen to on this site and it is a good sample of what they sound like. If you enjoy the song then by all means get this album. Its very good. The only downfall is the vocals, and with all the other great sounds in the band, its very easy to look past the vocals.

Report this review (#125737)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my top five favorite albums ever! Frances the Mute begins gentle, quickly explodes with intense musical energy, and from then on it never stops. Prog in nearly every use of the word, Frances the Mute keeps things interesting as each song has it's own unique style. The bands varying influences rock in parts of "Cassandra Gemini," punk in "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus," and salsa in "L'Via L'Viaquez." The experimental elements could be discarded, but "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore"'s second half is well worth the wait of the four-minute frog introduction. The songs work well together, and the lyrics are amazing and memorable....but completely nonsensical. Omar's solos are fantastic, and the rest of the band is easily able to hold their own up to his skill. I cannot say enough about this album that would do it justice...the "unincluded" title track is another terrific tune, left off for God knows what reason (why didn't they cut out the ambience and included the title track?). Maybe because they knew that if they did that, they would have created the greatest album of all time. I sincerely believe that.
Report this review (#128301)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
5 stars Wow, I love this album. Like all extremely good prog albums (Yes' Topographic Oceans may be an exception), it consists of a few massively long songs, divided up into separate sections for operatic effect. The album has a very consistent 'hard rock' feel and gives the song a really good kick for the ear. Most self respecting prog fans will appreciate this album in its glory and although it takes a few listens, it is well worth it.

1. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: A great opening track with typical Mars Volta heaviness, sophistication and technicality. Also has a very nice 19/16 riff in the middle which gives it a Rush-esque feel about it. Good in most prog songs. (9/10)

2. The Widow: Clearly the main theme of the album, can easily get away with being an everyday power ballad. Some bluesy type arrangements and instrumentation played very well indeed, while Bixler Zavala's vocals and melody are also very good a moving. (8/10)

3. L'vi L'viaquez: Absolutely fantastic piece of Latin Rock here, vocals and guitar work at top notch. Despite the foreign lyrics, the song has a very catchy tune, making it yet another great Mars Volta number. The samba like breaks dotted around the song make effective progression and in my opinion makes the album worthwhile. Best out of the 5. (10/10)

4. Miranda the Ghost: A nice calming, atmospheric song to prepare you for the finale, Cassandra Gemini. The vocals and keyboards especially stick out on this one, and although there are some massive gapped of effects, they shouldn't really matter at all as the anticipation for a great middle is there. Despite being my least favourite on the album, it is still a very good song and deserves credit. (7/10)

5. For a final song, this really does bring the album to a whole new level. One of the very few bands to have reached the 30 minute target, one could anticipate boredom throughout the last 15 minutes. This is not the case. The music keeps you on your toes for the whole 30 minute period and has shifts in time signature, mood, key, volume, progression, you name it, it has it. I could describe it as a summary of all that a prog fan needs, however adapted to Mars Volta's style. Overall it is an extremely epic song that afterwards feels like you've been taken of the adventure of a lifetime. Truly a remarkable piece of work. (10/10)

A great piece of work from a truly underrated band, one of my favourite albums of all time, and probably one of the best from the past twenty or so years. An incredible masterpiece that's well worth getting.

Report this review (#131219)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars And what an album they make!

And after such power of »Deloused in Comatorium« album, they go even further in experimenting, showing themselves as one of leading groups of young, new prog rock. Cassandra Gemini is proof for that. This is one of the best epics I have heard: guitar melodies are inspirative, warm, effective, and drumming is superb. Drumkit sounds so different than any other drumers out there, and production is original over record. In this track guitarist plays in psychedelic manner, with lot of effects, and bassist is effective and interesting too. This is really narcotic thing. All of other songs are good as well, they have own identity, each is different story and landscape. Many listeners disliked some »noises« on record: at the end of first song, almost half of second one, and begining of fourth (more than four minutes of background sounds). Some call these things fillers, but I would not agree that they put it there just to have longer album. They use electronic and ambient pieces simply as one of their musical fabrics. I, also did not like the end of song »The Widow«, but I can forgive them on this. When I hear ending orchestra in "Miranda, that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", I could compare it to some of the most beautiful melodies of classical music, and Cedric made one of the best vocal performances I have ever heard.

The band is somehow connection between prog past and prog present. They use instruments of an old days (lot of horns and saxes), but they do not copy anyone and they transcend all influences. Combine these with great production and with many other flavours (just to mention some latino influences) to the great effects.

Report this review (#133512)
Posted Friday, August 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I ca n understand why this album get s such mixed reviews. It's so wild, so calm, so full of energy, that it's like marmite (strong flavored) - you either love it or hate it.

If you had a secret love of punk rock, but preferred prog, then this is for you.

If you are into extreme sports, and want it in your music - then this is for you.

If you like unexpected shocks (like in Thriller movies) - then this is for you.

This - thankfully for me - was my first MV experience, and it remains the best - too may people compare it with De-loused in the Comatorium. It stands alone and should not be compared with that earlier album.

If you want to try MV - please start with this - don't get Deloused first

The impact - when you first hear it is so unexpected it lifts you out the chair. A gentle acoustic Intro then this sudden explosion of wild noise, and immensely good - never heard before lead-style guitar of extreme pace, and this crazy high pitch singing over the top, with totally nonsensical lyrics. I cannot tell you how awesome this is.

Be unprepared for the ride of your life. Then there's all this noddling, which goes on for ages, which unsures you are totally unprepared for the next onslaught of wild energy. How they thought of such a combination, I'll never know! - Total genius!

Surely one of the greatest unexpected albums of the modern era - you just need to hear it once. Growing on you? No, it's not like that - the impact of the first time you hear it can never be repeated.

PS - love the Spanish singing PSS - the guitar work by John Frusciante on L'Via is awesome!

Report this review (#137056)
Posted Saturday, September 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolutely no compromise from the best thing to hit progressive music this millennium.

This album is almost impossible to bear. It roars at you with the sound of LED ZEPPELIN at their ball-breaking best, it claws at your emotions with the impassioned plea of a latin JUSTIN HAYWARD, it plays with your mind like some sort of satanic PAUL SIMON, it pounds at you like KING CRIMSON in their most contrary mood, it lulls you with the spaced-out atmospherics of PINK FLOYD, it pulses with a metronomic TANGERINE DREAM beat.

And that's only the first track.

Grandiose, overindulgent, impenetrable - yes, it's all of these things. Mind you, I thought 'Close To The Edge' was all these things in 1973, too. Nowadays there's hardly anyone willing to really express themselves the way musicians did back then. On the evidence of this album, no one can accuse THE MARS VOLTA of holding anything back!

The major talking point among listeners to this album are the ambient sections, slabs of sounds that seem to go nowhere. At first listen they seem like weirdness for its own sake. Why does the bluesy 'The Widow' tail off into three minutes of electronic noodling? I don't have all the answers. All I know is I need the respite when listening to this album. How could anyone stand the megamonster JOHN FRUSCIANTE riff of 'L'Via L'Viaquez' (and the accompanying mellotron!) straight after the energy of 'The Widow', with drumming by JOHN BONHAM reincarnated? Hey, THE MARS VOLTA did it the way they wanted, and I'm so incredibly glad there's a band out there who do it their way - even if it doesn't all make sense to me. Why does 'L'Via fade into distorted vocals and a mechanical squeak? I dunno. Why does the beautiful 'Miranda' begin with four minutes of noise? Pass; next question. Is the track worth persevering with? Oh yes. From the moment FLEA'S trumpet starts up we have the sort of majesty (akin to 'Televators' from their first album) that makes one's hair stand on end. The seven notes of the main theme are spine tingling. That last chorus, with BIXLER-ZAVALA adding emphasis and extending the last line, is a moment to die for. Then it fades away. In the last minute a theme comes in at half volume, seemingly a throwaway moment, of pure GENESIS. Madness. Why?

If there remains any doubt you have a masterpiece in your hands, it is removed by 'Cassandra Gemini', a 32-minute progressive suite. Part One sees the band indulging in power rhythms while throwing a series of vocal and guitar hooks at us, and by Part Three they have already reached a moment of glory most bands could only imagine ... cello-like sounds ascending and descending, gradually turning into an orchestra backing a screaming guitar as BIXLER- ZAVALA sings 'twenty five snakes pour out your eyes' ... oh yes, I can't stand it; anything you say CEDRIC. Then they settle down for a couple of jam sessions, before - in the tradition of all good symphonic suites - they restate the main theme from Part One and finish it (and us) off.

Let me remind those who cavill that this suite alone would have practically filled a 1970s album. Even if the ambient parts aren't to your taste, you still have an hour of power to listen to. The music here is so condensed, with more ideas per square inch of acetate than you'll find anywhere else. The nearest comparison I can find is it's like listening to a GENTLE GIANT album on 45rpm rather than 33.

A fair proportion of those who read glowing reviews like this won't like THE MARS VOLTA'S music. I didn't use the words 'pleasant' or 'calm' in my review. If you're looking for something to ease your mind after a hard day at the office, go grab a RENAISSANCE or a CAMEL CD. This hurts to listen to. Honestly, my chest aches as I listen to it. I have to find something to make me relax afterwards.

Oh yes, they left off the title track, the Rosetta Stone that allows you to interpret the storyline. You can get it on the single 'The Widow'. It should be listened to before the album proper.

THE MARS VOLTA paint on a larger canvas than virtually anyone else in music today. Naturally not all of this album will appeal to you the first few times you hear it. It's not perfect; that wasn't the point. But it is astonishing, and is guaranteed to spice up the most jaded musical palette. You might end up hating it, but you must give it a try.

Report this review (#137515)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars A fantastic progression of the band's sound while retaining their distinct aggressive creativity, "Frances the Mute" features more cohesive song writing (being less manic), stronger narrative and an increased sense of direction, giving this album a more mature feel. The songs themselves are a splendid mix of rock melodies and spacey interludes, with fantastic instrumental work throughout by all members. They have a unique pacing and style to them which grabs the listener with big builds and hooks. Moreover, I am consistently amazed at the level of musicianship that is packed into these songs, and discover new effects and sounds each time I listen.

While the opener is more or less a straight-ahead rocker, we're also given extended moments of atmosphere and nuance, such as in the 13:00 minute introduction to the central epic-- speaking of which, features some of the most powerfully dynamic melodies and instrumental moments I can think of (your head might explode), not to mention fantastic lyrics from Bixler-Zavala-- the end result being a nicely varied palette of creative sounds which never fails to impress.

Highly, highly recommended.

Songwriting: 5 Instrumental Performances: 5 Lyrics/Vocals: 5 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#140385)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I bought this album for about 10 dollars with no idea who the Mars Volta was.

i was very... very surprised to find an excellent album with some of the most engaging progressive rock i've heard in a while. The opening track, Cygnus (suite) is a hard hitting jazz/funk progressive sound with incredible vocals and amazing guitar work.

Lyrically, this album is impossible to comprehend, not because vocals are both english and spanish, but because its all abstract and psychadelic to the max. There are few "songs" on Frances the Mute, but the jams are long, quite and soft, beautiful, and exciting. Between the immediate jams of songs like The Widow and L'vi l'viaquez you get keyboards and strange sound effects that is in a world of its own. When the songs really start its a treat.

L'vi l'viaquez is my favorite track, its a punch in the face... than some ice on the wound.... than another blow over and over again. Its an excellent track on all levels and builds up and down perfectly.

Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore is puddled with trumpets, jazz, and those amazing, high-pitched vocals. However, its the only part of the album that i think is lacking at all. Miranda.... is an over-generous 13 minutes and it drags a bit near the end.

Cassandra Gemini is another highlight, the entire half-hour is guitar/keyboard insanity the entire time, i never tire of listening to the entire song.

Percussion is also consistantly strong throughout the entire album.

Definately surprised by Frances the Mute, i like it better than both of their other albums and it has potential to be a classic of the times.

Report this review (#142135)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars 20 Minutes of good music buried under 76 minutes of nonsense.

The Mars Volta along with Mr Bungle were one of the bands that got me into prog back in 2003, by most accounts de-loused in the comatorium was a stellar release, unfortunately the follow up is an exercise in tedium.

Thing start off well enough with in my opinion the best song on the album 'Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus' with that frenetic syncopated feel we were introduced to on de-loused but it' let down at the end by a 3 minute outro of semi-electro and random samples. Next up the widow is the token single it's easily the worst song on the album and really isn't prog in the slightest (and yet it's followed up with yet another 3 minute nonsensical outro). 'l'via l'viaquez' is a decent song with some hard rock wailing by John Frusciante and a furious latin motif with an interesting ethnic percussion breakdown, this song features an outro that's over 5 minutes long, thankfully it's not as boring as the first two. 'Miranda that Ghost isn't Holy Anymore' is pretty much a summary of what I don't like about this album, the whole thing is pretty much an intro (or is that an outro?, it's hard to tell).

The 30 minute Cassandra Gemini is a decent epic it has quite a bit of music in it comparatively but it still has about 10 minutes in the middle of pointlessness and it doesn't really hold my attention, the sax jamming is good at the end of the middle section though, the main chorus of the song is a bit of a sticking for me, it's a bit too whiny and poppy.

Frances the Mute was a grand disappointment for me, I was expecting something as good or even better than de-loused but I found myself drowned in a swamp of intros, outros and pointless noise with the occasional chunk of good music floating by. Recommended if you are prepared to press fast forward a lot on your CD player.

Report this review (#146705)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta create their most epic album to date, Frances the mute. This album contains 5 song and what ride this album is. This album is nothing like their debut masterpiece Deloused in the Comatorium. It is the first time the volta include some sapnish lyrics besides tremulant, and it makes their more more different than other Prog bands. The Mars Volta create very impressive music on frances the mute, the first track is Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus. A mindblowing opener, a very chaotic volta song with spanish and english lyrics, and great riffs by omar on this one, crazy vocals by cedric also. A great way to start off this crazy album. Next is the widow, this is the weakest song on the album by far, this song got the volta more recognized, more of straight foreword song, not usually done by the volta.But this still is strong track. Next is L via the second best track on the album, this song is almost all in spanish, a real latin feel to this song. And a guest appearance by legendary piano player lary Harlow. Next is Miranda, a very dark song, cryptic lyrics. The song kind of takes a while to start.At first i did not care for this song, but as listened to more time it is one all time favorite volta tracks. And the grand finale is what makes this album so awesome, Cassandra Gemini. The best Mars Volta song ever created, a 32 minute epic. What a ride this song is. The song is split up into sections, my faves are plant a nail in the naval stream and faminepulse. I'm a big mars volta fan and i think this is most epic album, but this is not my favorite volta album. If your getting into the volta start with deloused then work your way up. Frances the Mute is a modern prog masterpiece and should not be overlooked by any fan of great music. 4 stars
Report this review (#150428)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is an experience, to be sure. It is unlike anything you will ever hear or have heard. On Deloused, in my opinion, the band was still trying to find its footing. I'm not a big fan of at the drive in, and some of that was still present on Deloused, which didn't quite fit my tastes. Now the band have truly progressed and they sound amazing! The addition of horns and strings add to the elevated drama and tension of this album. Intended as one song, this makes for some intense listening. Omar and Frusciante have great chemistry here, especially on L'via. Cedric screams his way through some of the most emotional and personal lyrics I have ever heard, and the rest of the band is outstanding as well. Ikey Owens does some good keyboard work, but the real star here is Larry Harlow on piano. He has some great moments. Anyways, on to the Beast that is Frances the Mute.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: A nice acoustic opening, very uncharacteristic of the Volta, some nice strings augment in the background. Cedric croons for a bit, then the band kicks in in a big way. The guitar shrieks and wails, and Cedric matches it with his interstellarly-high voice. The rhythm section is going insane, with the bassline jumping all over the place, and it sounds like the drums are being played by 2 people. The rocking, epic chorus is a highlight, as is the wah-wah distorted guitar riff right after. After the second chorus, the intensity kicks up with some insanely fast riff/drumming. Then we get treated to a funky bassline and some mellotron (What?) slowly down to a shimmering smear on the mural that is Frances. The pace slows down a ton, and its just some light high hat, bass, and light guitar. However, any Volta fan knows this is just the slow build part to the next epic release/climax. Omar has some very angular riffs here, and its clear how far they have come from At the Drive in. The cymbal crescendo veery slowly builds, and when it hits the right moment... BAM! In comes Cedric again, wailing about lost chances. The strings get added in here, following the main riff and adding to the drama Cedric creates. Then the drums lose it and go mad, and the chorus blasts in again. This dissolves into a riff that repeats many times while Cedric screams his head off, and it fades out for about 3 minutes. As it fades out, random noises come in, verifying the fact that this is indeed one song, as the noises bridge the gap between this song and the Widow. An electronic bumpy noise rises and falls along with some spacey, ambient noises. Over all this is a track of children talking and other noises.

The Widow: The shortest piece of the album, and hence the only possibly single, besides a cut-and-pasted version of L'via. Even with this, though, its only the first 3 minutes because the rest is more ambience. An acappella intro brings us into this nice acoustic, mournful ballad-type song. The chorus blasts in though, showing us that the Volta are not going to slow down much. The lyrics are scary, talking about Never Sleeping alone. After the second chorus, the trumpet-played by Flea- comes in and it is magnificent, seeming to soar away while the guitar runs up and down intricate lines. The hammond organ is finally heard after the third chorus, and has a couple great fills. As mentioned before, the song basically ends at 3 minutes with Cedric's repetition of alone gets put through an electronic garbage disposal, but very sloooooowwly. The synthesizer than takes the spotlight with some eerie and ambient riffs, with some bongos clashing in the background. After 3 minutes of this, we get to the highlight of the disc...

L'Via L'Viasquez: with more ambience/interesting drumming building into the opening, this song starts off perfectly. The cymbal rush cuts off to reveal a blistering guitar solo, followed by Cedric shrieking in spanish. The chorus is wordless, merely shrieking from Cedric. After 2 lovely verses and epic choruses, the guitar takes us down to the salsa section, filled with magnificent piano from Harlow and the most full percussion section I've ever heard. Cedric switches to a breathy, right-in-your-ear voice, and to english. We get another crescendo into an absolutely stellar solo from Frusciante. Then the first verse is repeated along with the salsa section. The second buildup/guitar solo is much scarier, and very dramatic. The spanish lyrics to follow suit the mood, and an epic drum solo brings us to the final salsa section and fade out/solos. The piano here is absolutely perfect. The guitar solo over it is also amazing, but the piano really makes it, along with the voices in the background, giving the feel of a cantina. After all this is over, the main salsa verse gets some weird effects and gets the sole spotlight. This ambient space-out continues directly into...

Miranda, the Ghost that just isn't Holy Anymore: a record-breaking 4 minutes of ambience and random Cedric wails. These odd sounds last longer than most pop songs. That alone says something about the Mars Volta and their purposeful uncommercial actions. The horns and guitars at 4:15 are absolutely hair-raisingly dramatic and mournful. Cedric's voice seems to reach a new high: both physically and emotionally. The chorus is so subtley beautiful, and Cedric delivers with poise and grace, with someone, I'm not sure who, harmonizing in the background. The strings start to fade in beautifully, and the guitar begins to echo gorgeously. The drums come in with a militaristic rap, and the trumpet comes to the foreground. The chorus is now even more powerful, but dies out to reveal delicate string parts and trumpet musings. The guitar jumps into the upper register to join the trumpet, and it is amazing. All of a sudden, the trumpet blares, then dies. its so well done its a crime. As it fades out more and more, we get more weird sounds. these sounds do not detract from the album, but add to the drama and mystery. A short jam fades in for the one minute remaining before the mind-blowing...

Cassandra Gemini: It busts in without warning, and it envelops you. It holds on to you for a full half hour and when its gone, you're out of breath. Cedric moans with some scary lyrics, and after the blazing intro, it slows down a bit for some delicate flute work and a computer voice musing. its hard to hear the lyrics, nor is it entirely necessary to. When the Sax comes in, it is killer. The chorus is dark and scary, and Cedric delivers as only he can, and it gets followed by a short guitar solo, a precursor of the 4 or so more yet to come. Soon, after more screeching, the sax comes in to introduce the chorus again. The guitar cannot wait til the chorus is over and starts to solo under Cedric. The drums get funky after this, and the guitar hits the power chords mightily. A blistering guitar solo follows, and it leaps the octaves like only Omar can. The mellotron can be heard as Cedric comes back in, and adds even more eerieness to the already diabolic atmosphere. The pace slows slightly, but only for a bit. More guitar insanity underlies Cedric's paranoid vocals, and he is complemented by some VERY scary screeching noises. As the drums turn more to tom work and the piano starts to fade in, the guitar gets very spacey and Cedric starts whispering and making odd noises. The piano is veeeery dissonant, but perfect. Another insane guitar solo follows, followed by s general slow down. Cedric starts whispering the next vocal theme: 25 wives in the lake tonight as the piano hits the most wrong-yet-right notes ever. The new guitar riff is alone at first, but the strings and horns add in to make an epicly dramatic theme, as Cedric gets louder and more intense, then finally jumps the octave for maximum hair-raising. When Cedric leaves, an epic wailing noise fills the gap, followed by Omar starting to mega-riff and Cedric jumping back in with impossibly high falsetto notes. As this all dies down, Cedric breaths into the mike, and a distant synth is heard while Omar riffs away. Throughout all this, the drums and bass anchor it all down by being extremely patient. Now the bass starts to go off course a little, hitting some higher notes than normal, only to reduce to almost nothing along with everything else. Cedric starts to whisper and make odd slurping noises, adding to the tension. Omar hits some odd sounding notes while the bass repeats one note in a singular rhythm. When it starts to kick back in, the sonic landscape is doubled in size by the beastly presence of the hammond organ. it gets plenty of cool riffs and runs in, while Cedric yells, Not forevermore!. However, this is only a false climax, and dies down again. Cedric gets very scary with lyrics now, whispering I peel back all of my skin, peel back and let it all run. Some oddly distorted guitar comes in, and the sonic landscape is again doubled in size. Now, the piano comes in with tiny tinkling notes, while the guitar is electronocized. Then it turns to normal guitar and does some nice, softer soloing. Now, for the first time, the drums cut out completely, and the hammond organ creates a sound reminiscent of the 70s symphonic prog. Yes is the first thing that comes to mind, surprisingly, and the guitar gets plenty of effects added. Plenty of keyboards and glissando-like guitars accompany this part, as it is no longer intense, but maddeningly genius. about 5:30 from the end, the angular sax starts to come back in, accompanied by the trumpet. The drums are finally back, and the indulgence is very evident. Soon the sax takes a full force, full skill solo while the guitar slowly builds the drama along with the mellotron and rhythm section. Cedric comes in again, commencing his sensuous moans and screams, while Omar loses it. His riffs get so insane. the desire for a climactic release is HUGE, and when it comes, holy mother of god is it good. The strings build for one measure, everything stops, and the epic chorus comes back in. WOOOOOW this is good. Suddenly, it all dies out except for the acoustic guitars, reprising the opening sarcophagi. A perfect ending to a perfect album.

Overall, one of the most mindblowing journeys ever committed to a CD. I think ive said enough.

Report this review (#160389)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars How about the variability of views regarding this album! As usual, I find myself smack in the middle.

First of all, based on some of the reviews, I was expecting to find an album half full of ambient noise. That is not the case, although the 10-15 minutes is certainly too much for my taste. On the other hand, many reviewers see Frances the Mute as a modern-day Red, or something equally mindblowing for its historical period. I'm not ready to go that far, because Frances is too inconsistent, but when it's good, it is absolutely mindblowing!

Cygnus. How cool is this intro? A nice strumming crescendo leads to an absolutely furious cacaphony, full of itchy guitar by Omar, maniacal wails by Cedric, and absolutely bombastic drumming by Theodore. It just doesn't get much more chaotic than this. Then we have a spacey mellotron-washed half tempo shift, followed by a nice build-up to do it all over again. Great stuff (except of course the ambient ending), and incredibly not the highlight of the album.

The Widow, L'Via L'Viaquez, Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. These songs are a major drop in quality, from the fairly formulaic dirge (Widow), the catchy-at-first--but ultimately way too repetitive--L'Via, and the ambient, eerie and tone-exploring Miranda... I don't fault TMV for trying any of these songs, but they simply aren't as interesting as Cygnus.

Cassandra Gemini. I had said not a couple days before getting this album that 30 minutes seemed to be the cutoff for a great, coherent, and consistently interesting epic. At 32 minutes, Cassandra will force me to alter my opinion--this is just a roller-coaster of intensity and absolutely killer music. Unlike Cygnus, where the opening sequence is by far the best, Cassandra just keep hitting you over the head with great stuff. It's really an assault, and just when you think they are going to slow it down and lose momentum, they pull out another great melody and beat your head open once again. It's also not a simple case of structuring a great epic (like Neal Morse)--they manage to have an improvisational, gritty, chaotic element that really puts things over the top.

It really is difficult to describe Cassandra's greatness, because at its heart, it's just 30+ minutes of rumbling triplets, but the growling bass, spacey guitar, and double helping of keys and synths really make this a special experience. I haven't even gotten to the grand finale yet! After a spacey freakout, rippling saxes signal the build of a phenomenal, Area-style jam (but with mellotron!), and then a memorable refrain from the beginning. I even hear some snippets that remind me of prog greats, such as Area, Rush, Crimson, Zappa, and even just a bit of Dream Theater (but in a good way--I promise!)

In sum, Frances the Mute contains one phenomenal song, one excellent song, and three average tracks. Not a masterpiece in my book, but required listening just for Cassandra Gemini.

Report this review (#162815)
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars 2 years on from The Mars Volta's incredible debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, comes the follow up, Frances the Mute, which proves to be one of the most frustrating albums I have ever heard. The problem here is that experimentation, by its very nature, doesn't always work and this is one of those times. The band made extensive use of tape loops, electronic samples and noises on most of the songs and for me, they drag on ad nauseam. And this is what makes the alum so frustrating, the music is, quite simply, stunning, showcasing the abilities of the band to a tremendous degree but its tempered by usually flowing out into these electronic soundscapes that go nowhere and last for several minutes. The endings of Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus, The Widow and L'Via L'Viaquez are all ruined like this but that's nothing compared to the travesty that is Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore which is blighted by the constant electronics, save for a 2-4 minute section a third of the way through. If the album ended there I would be giving it two stars as there wouldn't have been a single song that I could have enjoyed all the way through, but it doesn't. The album ends with the 32 minute Cassandra Gemini, a song that isn't marred by an overindulgence with electronics and as a result is the strongest track ever recorded by The Mars Volta. It is simply amazing, everything is perfect, nothing is over or underdone and not once in its half hour of play do I lose interest, this song is worthy of the albums price tag alone.
Report this review (#165016)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars A lot of people give five-star reviews out like candy. An album that they just really like to listen to might get a five star rating. For that reason, many five star ratings can't be taken seriously, and all people who truly believe an album is worthy of being called A masterpiece of progressive music, have the weight of their feelings compromised by superficially positive reviews (I'll admit, a couple of which are my own).

When I give a four-star review, I go with the guideline that at least 70% of the total album time is fun, carefully composed, artistic, and intelligent music. However, when I give a perfect five, I have to ask a few extra questions. When music historians look at this album, will they see it as an essential moment in the development of music? Can you trace the influences too easily or has the band really stepped forward and created something new? Will people take this album seriously, or will they look at it for its 'fun' value- whether you can dance to it or blast it in the car? Is the album as a whole a work of art in itself or is it just a few good songs that were all put in one CD case?

I have to say that Frances the Mute delivers in spades, more than many albums that are considered hallmarks of prog at its best. Yes, it's a concept album, and yes, the songs segue into one another between tracks, but it's more than just that. You can just tell that the band intended for you to listen to the album the full way through. More than anyone else, The Mars Volta is criticized for its ambient style and excessive use of white noise. However, with Frances the Mute, you know that all that noise has a purpose that contributes to the album as a whole.

Cyngnus... Vismund Cygnus-

This opener is really something special. I remember first hearing the album and turning the volume way up in the first thirty seconds- this is the point. Sarcophagi is like a prayer before a battle, and the opening slam is like the first gunshot. This was the first Volta I'd ever heard, and I was immediately hooked. I was immediately introduced to a fast, heavy, energetic sound with a really unique style. However, after a few more listens, I began to realize how multi-layered and complex the music was, how genuinely new the sound was, and how forcefully the music moved at some points. There are come incredible rising climaxes in this piece, counterpointed by the calm, ambient moments and, yes, white noise.

The Widow-

The is the track I listen to least, but it's still pretty good. It shows another side of Volta- one that you briefly saw during the opening track, but it's not until here that you really get a feel for the compositional range of Cedric and Omar. Unlike Dream Theater, who I've become a bit disenfranchised with, all the music is composed by Omar, and it shows. There's a feel of ensemble, that everybody realizes that they're part of something greater than their individual instrument. The beginning of this track is very vocal-centric, and you can feel the instruments backing that up rather than trying to be impressive and showboaty in the background.

L'via L'viaquez-

I don't know what the lyrics are and I don't care! This song is just a lot of fun to listen to. It's really amazing to listen and learn how the music evolves- every time the tempo picks up it's a different thought from Omar- the sound is never exactly the same from Cedric. This is the way symphonies were built! The sounds get awfully odd at some moments (not Sun Ra odd, but you get it), but it's all with a purpose. It feels like it's catchy without compromising any of the art, something many prog musicians aim for but might never truly reach.

Miranda that Ghost Just isn't Holy Anymore-

This song gets a lot of criticism, but it really is the lynchpin of the album- that x-factor that means I can answer yes to all those questions I mentioned. The truth of the matter is, it isn't a fun song. It doesn't make any sense by itself- it needs the context of the rest of the album. This is what makes it so essential- it unites the first half of the album with the incredible Cassandra Gemini. All the ambient noise is a slow crescendo- the whole song is like that.

But enough about how important it is, on to the song itself. It can be divided into two parts- the first part, which is a slow (very slow) buildup to the massive climax where the chorus overlaps at a great fortissimo. After the instrumental establishes, you can notice the music growing in intensity- not in pure volume, but in terms of layers and musical complexity. The second part is the essential transition point between the ambient, jazzy tracks preceding and the showpiece of the album. Cassandra Gemini itself starts out with an explosion, so it's like Miranda does the dirty work and brings the album all together.

Cassandra Gemini-

What can I say? It is what it is. It's a more turbulent song than anything I've ever heard in the world of prog rock. It's sound is explosive and it's lyrics are all over the place. However, these are superficial details. In terms of the intensity of the music, the crescendos, the changes in tempo, the layering of the parts and the interaction of lyrics and music- it's all mindboggling and unbelievable.

And yet it is believable. The sound is incredible and original, yet it's not like it's difficult to connect to. The structure is undefined, but it's not as if other prog songs aren't just like that. The climaxes are very realistic. In truth, this isn't a hard band to get into. It's also not that hard to get really deep into the music either. You can develop to ability to pick apart the sounds, see the layers, see the structure and the train of thought, and you understand what mental transformations this song is capable of creating.

What this song is, then, is a piece of musical engineering. It was all the best ideas, the best concepts, the best parts, and then just enough of that special drive behind it that makes it what it is. It's amazing to behold, but when you peel back all of its skin (is Cedric trying to tell me something here?) it's easy to see the real depth of intelligent and artistry. This is why it's the feature piece of such an amazing album, and this is why I have no choice but to give The Mars Volta's own Frances the Mute a five-star rating.

Report this review (#166008)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars So who is Mars Volta's biggest influence???

".everyone's always throwing Led Zeppelin at us. But if we're going to own up to anything, it's Syd Barrett's influence. I can't even think of how much he's influenced what we do. I always dug his guitar playing and I loved his lyrics. His music, especially his solo albums, those really did it for me. They made me want to make songs like that. Syd Barrett's all over what we do in The Mars Volta. I tend to think that Omar's guitar playing is a weird combination of Greg Ginn, Sonny Sharock, and Syd Barrett. For me, Syd is one of the main influences of The Mars Volta." [Cedric Bixler-Zavala]

I can't personally say I notice much solo-Syd influence in their sound though I'm happy that yet another artist is giving the man his due. But like many people I notice that the Volta sounds on occasion like Zeppelin, the Chili Peppers, Santana, Floyd, and I dare say even Queen. I have a hunch that these guys are just huge music fans in general. After hearing this album I believe The Mars Volta may be the Quentin Tarantino of rock music. You all know the story about Quentin working in a video store watching all these movies over and over until he exploded with his glorious homage Pulp Fiction. Frances the Mute sounds like the work of guys that hung out listening to their favorite albums for years before blossoming with their own sound, if not exactly influenced directly by, perhaps just an unconscious by-product of.if that makes any sense. Just a theory of course.

Once again I find myself disagreeing with most reviewers on this title, both with those who love it and those who hate it. I would contend that Frances is neither the progressive masterpiece that many trumpet, nor is it the pile of bunk that some others believe. It's just an interesting and rather unique rock album. Aside from the fashionable art work, instrumental histrionics, and bizarre lyrics lies a base of retro hard rock with Spanish, funk, and psych-prog influence updated for another generation of teenagers (and old guys like me still longing to be a teenager.) As willing as I am to give points for being sprawling and unpredictable, pretentious and weird, there is the other part of the bargain the artist has to fulfill in quest of the masterpiece. TMV falls a bit short in that category of having enough overall focus and self-editing wisdom: this album would be a better one were there 20 less minutes of it. Criticism aside I enjoyed this album quite a bit and look forward to hearing their others. The menageries of madness, the wicked guitars and funk, the spirited vocals and the frenzied all adds up to a lot of fun. And it must be heard to be believed.don't expect to understand what this sounds like by reading reviews, you really need to hear them. Not for the musically faint-of-heart. 3 ½ stars.

Report this review (#166243)
Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Attracted by the progressive track lengths, the frequent praise I heard for the band, and the single of the track The Widow, I felt compelled to give this album a shot. However, the result was pretty ugly. Let me tell you right away here: I absolutely love weird music. If it's good music, I'll like it. But if it's good music and really strange, I'll spin it constantly for a long time. And the real pain of The Mars Volta, at least for this album (I may yet give some others of theirs a chance or two, seeing as how many fans of the band aren't huge fans of this one either), there actually are some good parts. The first half of The Widow, most of L'Via, spots and shimmers of brilliance here and there, you know. Of course, most of the time when they pull through with some quality melody or something, the sound is very, very reminiscent of Rush. I'm not a big fan of comparing bands and sounds, but this one was too painfully profound to me for me to let it slide.

But the real problem with this album is the fact that the majority of it is just noise. And don't get me wrong, I've got a special place in my heart for simple noise and painful ambiance. Heck, I regularly spin Devin Townsend's Devlab for fun. But this stuff just doesn't work. The production is inconsistent, the sound choice obnoxious, making the doodling and wheedling merely come across as a band that wants to be able to play something serious technical but can't. And I KNOW this band is talented. They've got some chops sprinkled throughout. The vocalist has a fantastic voice. But the songwriting throughout this CD is simply weak at best. This is most likely the only source of long songs that I actually prefer cut into singles. Weed out the noise, and you could have a pretty good fifteen minute mini-album.

And that's where I stand. Two stars for some good bits. And I think that's pretty generous, at least from my standpoint. I respect what these guys are trying to do. But I don't think it works, at least not in this case.

Report this review (#168657)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
el böthy
5 stars Set the controls to the heart of the sun

The difficult second album. The one that will prove where the band is leading towards, what they have left behind and what they have brought to the table. So what have they left behind? For starters the initial bang is gone. The explosive mix of punk-prog (although I would say it had more of the hardcore emo than punk to it) that set the tone in De-loused, even though present, is not that shocking anymore. And that´s only natural, not even nuclear explosions last forever. But what have they to offer now then? Well, compositions, that´s what! If De-loused proved that new music is still posible, Frances the mute takes it to new levels... and long ones! For the exception of The Widow all songs are well over 10 min with everything some love and some others hate about the band. And yes, for the haters there is A LOT to hate, for there is more sound... well noise manipulation and soloing than in De-loused... a lot more! Also, although the music still rocks hard it doesn´t feel like a rock band, but more like a small orchestra playing their version of what rock music can be. Now, it´s funny, cause for some this is a sign of pure negativity and what not to do in order to make a good album and, most of the times I would agree... but not here. Cedric and Omar (specially Omar) have managed to pull this 76 min monster off. Taking no prisoners, these so called "Puerto Rico terrorists" by a fellow reviewer hit and deliver from the get go and do not loose grip, not even when the noise starts and the music stops, which by the way is not even true as they find a way to mix both "styles", and the result comes out as the confusion of when does one end and the other begin. This also helps all the song dive into each other and make the whole album feel like one big piece of music, which, being a concept album, can only help. Although all songs are terrific on their own, two stand out as being (for me at least) their best so far: Cygnus...Vismund cygnus and Cassandra Gemini, the opener and closer respectively. With a soft acustic intro which doesn´t last long until the ultimate surprise assault of the whole band droping in and Cedric manic vocals, both in spanish and english, the band sets the bar of what the rest of the album will have to deliver. And with Cassandra Gemini that bar is ripped apart. 32 minutes and 27 seconds of atonal melodies, haunting vocals and metal salsa drenched in psychedelia makes for a beast of myth proportions. I will not lie, this is one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard and by far Volta´s top creation. With time I am sure this will go down as one of the pure classic epics and will share room with the great Close to the edge and Thick as a brick, it´s seriuosly that good! The rest of the album is no let down either. The Widow is definitly their lowest number, but that does not make it a bad song. It´s a nice change from Cygnus over the top sound, a calmer more simple number. L'vi l'viaquez is a delightful cha cha cha and salsa like mutant that features some great drumming by John Theodore and some excellent off beat piano provided by guest musician Larry Harlow. This song actually holds one of my favorite moments of the album, the gong in the third chorus! And then the have Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore. A song that takes forever to build up but once it does... once they reach that chorus... the release of that tension is almost cathartic. Goosebumps will surely appear.

As I finish this review I have to warn the listener and explain one last thing. Although I give this album 5 stars, it´s not perfect. First of all, it´s not fit for anyone, not even for the Volta fans, many think of it as their worst even. But even then, even having said that and now I talk as a fan, this album is not perfect. It´s a flawes masterpiece, just like King Crimson´s lark tongue´s in Aspic (an album that must have surely served of inspiration, but that´s for a latter topic). When it´s on it´s on! But there are flaws, the noise, which is not bad itself, may be to much at times, even though I now like it, I can´t say, speaking as objective as I can, that it´s good all the time... it can get down right annoying... but then again, the music is so damn good forgiving is way too easy.

Report this review (#168867)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This music could level a building

The Mars Volta have been one of this decades biggest names in prog (and ironically, also in the punk scene) thanks to their combination of sheer sonic-noise-music and progressive leanings mixed very heavily with the kind of bombastic moments that we prog fans both love and hate oh so much. Often when it comes to new bands the biggest thing that most proggers look at is how unique the band is. Well, while there's claims that the band has been influenced by all the classics from King Crimson right down to Genesis there is really nothing from this that shows.

I suppose this is what happens when a hardcore-punk band such as At The Drive In decides to regroup into a prog outfit and change their name. But, while never claiming to be a fan of either incarnation of this band, I can say that this music is really something else. This is the kind of music that everyone needs to hear just because of how new it is... because of how fresh it is. You can listen to their music a hundred times and you will never be able to claim that you've heard it all before.

So what they sound like? Well, for those unfamiliar with the band - you've been warned. Just read the header of this review again. Producing harsh, dissonant noise that is so incoherent that it gains a kind of sick and twisted melody, this music also has something else going for it - it's heavy. Anyone who likes a little bit of aggression behind their music will get a kick and a half out of this. Also a strength is the use of multiple languages. For those of us who are not Spanish the music has a very unique feel to it when the band decides to whip out the dialog.

In terms of songs, each is quite strong and there's really nothing to complain about. Most of the tracks are long suites which have enough drive and power to keep them very interesting to the ears of the listener. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus starts out the bombastic powerhouse with a bang, getting the tone of the album with it's non-stop attack of sound that will leave you either clutching your ears to make them stop bleeding or making you wake up in another room after having realized that you got carried away with the music. Heck, maybe even both.

There's a couple of moments on the album here the music turns into strange ambient noise reminiscent of something like Hawkwind on speed. The Widow is the first song that really makes large use of this about halfway through, and though it's kind of strange the first couple times you hear it (especially at the points where it sounds like a skipping record), but it catches on eventually.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is easily the most chilled out song on the album, but the others are really where it's at. L'Via L'Viaquez continues on with the bombastic approach, while the final suite on the album really takes the cake. The 32+ minute suite Cassandra Geminni is the track that most prog heads will likely be looking forward to on the album. Combining all the bombastic, spacey, powerful and destructive elements of the album the band has produced a magnum opus of (I hate using this word) epic proportions. The album could have been this one song and it still would have worth the money.

This band is certainly one to watch (if you didn't already know that for some reason), and though I certainly can't recommend it to everyone in the world I would definitely recommend it to most. Heavy Prog is an appropriate label for the band... and like it or not they're on the rampage with their music. 4 stars for a solid offering! The only people who should avoid this album are those who like their music calm and those who are prone to seizure.

Ah, as an aside - The track listing on iTunes is incorrect for those who put their CDs on their computer. Cassandra Geminni goes from track 5 to the end, not from track 8 to the end.

Report this review (#169940)
Posted Monday, May 5, 2008 | Review Permalink

The debut album form Mars Volta was an extremely good surprise for the rock community (including myself). The ocean of wildness combined to a fantastic guitar play was an absolute topper.

IMO, this one is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long and holds too many useless "experimentation" passages to be a masterpiece or even a great album. The major problem of this record sits in those endless improv which don't make any sense.

The opening number holds a bunch of rock influences but its own structure (especially the closing part) just makes it somewhat useless. I was amazed to read that the band doesn't SEEM to acknowledge a DEEP similarity or even Led Zep filiation.

My favorite song from this endless album is "The Widow". For about three minutes, I could cope with a great sub- Since I've Been Loving You". But the second half is just a filler. And this is again the negatives of this album.

Each of the tracks are filled with either a useless intro or outro. My second fave (if "The Widow" would have been cut after three minutes) is the bloody good "lviaquez". Fantastic and incredible guitar play. Only this comment: Spanish lyrics during the wild beat and English lyrics during the Latin rhythmic part. Quite in opposition with one could have expected. But the long and closing section (three minutes) is just a filler. Did I miss something?

The band acknowledged some deep influences form Syd (and hence the VERY early Floyd). The only moment during one can feel this relation is during the psyche intro of "Miranda". But as usual, after a decent song, the band is going to experiment some useless directions which will culminate in the closing part.

"Cassandra" is IMO, an overlong and self-indulgent piece of rock music. Nothing original in here. The first part of this song has the indefinite flavour of "Achilles Last Stand" in its early phase and again during the "improvisation" the glued structured of "Dazed " is so much a remembering.

I am hilarious when I read that this album is incredibly innovative, modern, original... This is a good album but should have been at least twenty minutes shorter. It borrows lots of the great music from the late sixties. Not too much originality in here.

Three stars.

Report this review (#170165)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute 4 stars

An excellent album: hindered by noise and sound manipulation to be something of musical nirvana.

The Mars Volta comes back after their groundbreaking debut in superb form. They cut back on the number of songs and increased the length of the CD on this release. This is certainly a mark of progression and maturity from an outside scope, but when you listen to this CD, you cannot deny the gross amount of 'noise' thrown on this work. I tend to no exaggeration, and my version of just 'noise' is high frequency pitches being blasted, CD skipping and effects that are manipulated for minutes. As fellow reviewer ZowieZiggy stated, there can be 10 minutes taken off this CD, I would have to disagree. I would say at least 15 minutes could have been hacked off this masterwork. Now, enough with the negatives.

I like this CD a lot. At first, I would have given this a very high 3, but it has warmed up to me when I got past the noise and focused on when I was hearing the 'real' music. Omar wrote all the music and the horn and string arrangements which were aided by David Cambell. Cedric once again does the entirety of the vocal and lyrical work, a great job again. Since there are only 5 songs.I will just go song-by-song.

'Cygnus..Vismund Cygnus' is about as great as a song can get. The intro consists of an acoustic guitar interlude which is very melancholic and sappy. Cedric accompanies with some voice after one go around. When the intro closes, a pompous guitar riff is brought out of nowhere and the song is fired up without warning. By this time all the instruments are wailing away, chaotic, but in sync. The chorus is also a sweet one to, which again, just comes right out of left field. An atmospheric middle section is tagged in the middle and then past ideas are brought into play again. In my opinion, this is a very representative song of Volta. It has the chaos and subtleties that define their new brand of music. By the way, there is about 2 minutes of just 'noise' in the end. This is the least of troubles.

'The Widow' is a decent rock track. Somewhat like 'Televators' on the first album but with a catchy chorus. This track takes a heavy hit in my point of view because of the three minutes of noise that just ruins the whole song. Was this an attempt to make a mainstream track, but avoid suspicions by added terrible 'noise' at the end? Part of my reason this album cannot be essential.

'L' Via l'Viaquez' is another great song. It features some of Omar's best guitar work to date. He really takes a great role in providing some great rhythms and some rippage on the fretboard when necessary. Kind of like the title, there is a Spanish vibe to the song.

'Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' suffers from about 5 minutes of noise in the beginning. I honestly cannot understand the point in it, because the track is great. I find this to really be a song for Cedric. Omar mostly sits in the background of this one, playing in a Barrett style, which is a big influence on The Mars Volta. The main feast of this song is the horn work that is very nicely arranged. Great verse and chorus mixed with the horns makes it an awesome track in my eyes. Once again, there is a good 4 minutes of noise to end this song.

'Cassandra Geminni' is roughly a 32 minute epic and one of the best in the decade. It is not perfect but a really good one; making it shorter could have helped. There are really only one or two places where things started to get a little seamy. With all the different verses and choruses brought about in this piece made it consistent and brilliant. The outro also closes out the album bring the chorus from the first section and then the intro from 'Cygnus..Vismund Cygnus'. All of the apparent influences can be heard in this song. I agree with most of the accusations being Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin.

This album had potential to be something really beautiful but was a little ruined for me. But my faith in the band was still strong as ever, since I knew they were capable. This album bought me over into supporting them until the end. I highly recommend this to someone looking for something new and energetic.

Report this review (#170570)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute

Strap up, this one's long...

Well, this is the second studio album from space-punk-proggers The Mars Volta, and, when you really get down to it, I think it's my favorite studio release of the four (five if Tremulant is included) that are currently present. Frances the Mute is really quite a different experience from any of their other albums. In De-Loused in the Comatorium we have a dark, punk/prog sonic blast of energy that's quite fun and very emotional--a very solid debut release--in Amputechture we have a completely different TMV--a jazzier, more sequenced, more progressive, and more experimental TMV sound that's not necessarily any better or worse than their previous sound--in The Bedlam in Goliath the band seem to try to combine the sonic energy of De-loused with the jazzy eclecticism of Amputechture, but the result gets rather tired quickly...So we have all of this, historically, but what's missing? The closest thing to a masterpiece album The Mars Volta have conjured yet Z(and are likely to conjuure), which is to say, this album.

The reasons I may prefer Frances the Mute over their others is mostly semantic when you get down to it: instead of the spliced together antics of Amputechture, the simple (yet nonetheless effective) prog-punk style of De-loused, or the not-so-successful splicing of the two on Bedlam, Frances the Mute is comprised of five songs that take the best aspects from all of these albums (foreseeing the development in post-Frances albums) and, essentially, amplify upon them. Where De-loused punk-rocked, Frances prog-rocks; where Amputechture jazz-rocked, Frances does it better; where Bedlam fused and squished songs together, Frances elaborates (Cassandra Geminni is 32 minutes long.) and finalizes. Frances is the pinnacle, the other three are the supports in my eyes--the foundation for the tower; and what a monumental tower it is.

Now the music:

The album begins with a serious hint of genius in Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus, which is an insane romp-track from any camera-angle. From the acoustic beginning segment all the way through the jazzy, oddly-timed building section--and the great, sonic choruses (something present throughout the album), it just is completely magnificent--and, obviously, is a great way to open up this album.

While I'm on this one, I'll address the largest complaint attached to this CD--the ambiance. Personally, I love ambient and effects-laden music/projects (it's a pleasure of mine for sure, something I look for in bands)--so it does little but enhance the CD for me (not including the useless The Widow ambiance, which is a nagging, useless flaw of the album)--making it even more dreamy than it already is; however, for some (many perhaps)--it is obviously going to seem like bad taste and unnecessary--but it's really all opinion. Consider before you toss around complaints that the ambiance is present mostly as a homage to the late sound manipulator Jeremy Ward, who died after De-loused was released, while this album was being created.

The Widow is the single of the album, and is a traditional rock ballad in waltz time and tempo. It holds strong ties to the masterpiece Since I've Been Lovin You by Led Zeppelin, which is a very good thing; this is the most De-loused reminiscent track on the album in my opinion--and the video is worth checking out as well for anyone interested.

L'Via L'Viaquez is phenomenal as a song and as a rocker--it shows off the band's talents very well. What makes this song truly great is the recurring salsa-interlude and piano solos, which actually brings up another point of complaint that I actually share: Ikey. The keyboards on this album are strangely void in the mix at times, and this can be rather sad, as Ikey's touch was certainly something that defined De-Loused.

Miranda....... begins with some Puerto-Rican frog noises coupled with Cedric's high crooning (Thom Yorke gone choir boy, basically) before emotional trumpets break in and close this amazingly dramatic and inclusive song into an emotional box of awesomeness. The introductory ambiance, however, does seem to drag a bit. Flea's trumpet playing (also featured on The Widow) is quite nice--and this song is a great one, full of emotion and individual just fits the dark mood of the album extremely well, while successfully pulling off what it seems Amputechture managed to do not-so-successfully: slower songs (with Vermicide, from that album, being my absolute least favorite TMV songs ever bar none).

Cassandra Gemini is a crazy, roller coaster ride of a track that spans over 32 minutes long yet manages to stay on it's feet--and not just that--but running on it's feet, for the duration of the song; like the great prog-epics, this one will keep you interested until the closing theme. The chorus to this song is instantly memorable (again, a trait the album holds in high regards), and the 25 Wives section near the center is just great. This song features the band's first hints of "jazziness", in structure at least, which would later appear a bit on Amputechture, as saxophones and flutes are present throughout this song at certain points. The album ends with a variation on the acoustic riff in the beginning--which, of course, forces the Pink Floyd likeness in album structure; which I think is a good thing, as it gives the album, and whatever crazy concept it may holster, more unity.

All in all, it's one great album--and is undoubtedly the band's closet thing to a masterpiece yet, if there is indeed one. I think that this album manages to find the nearly perfect balance between edgier, more aggressive sounds, and softer, freer, jazzier sounds. De-Loused was a bit too formulaic and edgy, and Amputechture a bit too free and spliced-sounding in terms of the compositions (again, others may disagree with this generalization) and rather mechanical compared to this release--which feels much more organic; even the vocals just sound more natural on this record.especially compared to the latest two releases, which are more effects-laden than any other album I've ever heard.

In other words, if there's one TMV record you feel you should pick up, and you're likened to prog...this one should, without a doubt, be the one you choose. While it's certainly not perfect, I definitely believe it is the closest to perfection that these boys have yet to come, or likely will come. 8.4/10 on my scale. I'll settle for 4 on mine, giving it the edge above the other TMV albums.

Report this review (#170852)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first track - Cygnus, is one of the highlights of everything this band has ever done, up there with Take the veil Cerpin Taxt, and Roulette Dares from De-Loused. The Widow is nothing incredible, but flows with the story and doesn't need to be skipped. I'm not particulary a fan of L'Via, I think its good, but way to long and repetitive. Miranda is a great song, slow but strong. Cassandra Gemini is a true epic. In a class of it's own amongst Mars Volta peices. Possibly the most evil sounding peice of music I've ever heard.

The story is captavative, and worth boggling your mind to try and grasp. The album should get a 5, but here is the flaw: Too much unneccesary noise, and no it's not like Echoes, that was essential noise, the noise in this album is just pointless filler. All of the tracks except Cassandra should be shorter.

Report this review (#173091)
Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow, I first bought this album right after buying De-Loused and the first time I listened to it, I was in awe at how absolutely different it was! It sounded like some freaky mix between techno and psychedelia! This album is just a wonderful piece of art, top of its class.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus, Wow. WOW. It starts so quietly with Sarcophagi, that I put my volume up full blast to fully hear it. Then this spaz prog funk blast, shoots me in the face and I have no time to stop it. It's wonderful. The beginning is like some trippy mix of Can and Vanilla Fudge. It was very entertaining. Then the song cuts off to this prog creative improv jam to get shot back into the main chorus. The song ends with some wicked fading drum fills. That slowly becomes, a random spastic bunch of ambient noises. It's very weird for me, because one of the voices I can hear yelling sounds like this kid I know from my school. Masterpiece! (10/10)

The Widow, starts off a little like a Coldplay song, but that doesn't last very long. This song is basically a purposeful effort to put out a proper single. It's good, it relaxes me. The random ending annoys me to no end. I usually just shut it off once the noises begin. (7/10)

L'Via L'Viaquez, what a concept. A on/off switch of music. It's either a heavy hitting prog song with wicked guitar playing, or a slow, soft ballad with obscure lyrics. The first time I heard this, I didn't realize it was spanish and was basically blown away by the idea of it. This song, for some odd reason, doesn't get repetitive at all! You'd think after hearing those two themes played for 13 minutes, you'd sick of it, but you don't! Overall solid track, great addition to the album. (9/10)

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. Long title. Longer song. The beginning sounds like what I would picture a jungle/post apocalypitic future/western movie would sound like. It's all that and a bag of chips. The song takes a while to actually start, some people don't like that. I, on the other hand, see it as a level of mega progression, that is unheard of in music today. Once the song actually starts though, it really does start. It becomes this wonderful slower song that is like some Pink Floydian acid trip. Then, it ends in the ending theme of Cygnus. (9/10)

This song starts immediately and without warning. The very very first part is sort of annoying, but it becomes this progressive epic that goes on for almost 35 minutes. It has its ups and downs, (writing wise) but it comes out triumphant. My personal favorite part of the song is Faminepulse, which sounds like the Mahavishnu Orchestra on acid. Then, like a true progressive record, ends the way it began. With Sarcophagi. Sprawling and wonderful, this is definitely and without a doubt the best song on the album. (10/10)

This sprawling landmark record, is generally very well appraised by the prog community. I give it an easy 4.5 stars. It's outlandish, experimental, technical and progressive. Truly music at its best.

Report this review (#173757)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is maybe even the best release from The Mars Volta.

Frances The Mute is a very diverse album. It was quite hard to get into this music mainly because of the odd sound effect sections that appear every once in a while. For example Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore starts with this unusual part where coquí frogs are singing in the background.

Although this album differs quite radically from their first album, it still has the mars volta sound. The album starts with Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus, which is maybe the best song of this album. It has some cool heavy-funk-prog feeling and some of the lyrics are sang in spanish. The Mars Volta uses alot of spanish in their lyrics. L'Via L'Viaquez is sang almost entirely in spanish.

I'll have to say a few words about the longest song: Cassandra Geminni. It's 30min long and very, very different. The song has a sort of wave-like structure. First the song is catchy and heavy and slowly it calms down, but soon it will again get louder and heavier.

Frances The Mute is an essential Mars Volta album. It's maybe weird for some people, but it's extreamly rewarding when you get the hang of it, so to say

Report this review (#182713)
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Mute-ilated

There's no denying that there are prog references throughout this The Mars Volta (TMV)'s second album. Credit is due to The Mars Volta for venturing beyond the boundaries of most of today's rock based bands, and exploring new avenues. Where I have to admit to significant reservations however is when it comes to the question, is "Frances the Mute" actually any good?

In some ways, this album flatters to deceive. Yes the tracks are long and in multiple parts, yes there are melodic parts, fusion orientated parts and experimental parts, and yes there are distinct Pink Floyd "Atom heart mother" references. Put them all together though, and the sum of the parts is actually more than the whole.

Why this should be is down to several reasons. Firstly, the singing is generally a significant weakness; much of it is to my ears out of tune. Secondly, when the constituent parts are looked at more closely, many of them are actually just rock tracks which have been bound together, or extended through repetition.

The opening 13 minute, four part "Cygnus... Vismund cygnus" is a perfect case in point. Here we dive straight into a mishmash of improvisation and basic indie rock. Perhaps it is my natural aversion for improvisation which is without form together with a perception that indie rock tends to lack originality which taints my view of this album. There is no question that TMV have gone to significant lengths to create a work which challenges the listener, and which seeks to explore the blending of styles which may appear at odds with each other. To that extent, this is a milestone album. Where, in my opinion, it falls flat though, is that it simply does not entertain me.

Report this review (#186758)
Posted Friday, October 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Volta suddenly got a whole lot crazier. Every album this group puts out makes the previous seem weak and comprehensible (their debut made music in general seem weak and comprehensible). Frances the Mute is their prog rock stereotype album. A few songs (ranging from short to long) leading up to a monster finale.

There are a few reasons why I think this is the Volta's best album. And those reasons are:

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: This song tightropes between frantic guitar improvisation and soaring melodic arrangements. Add in some indecipherable lyrics caterwauled by the great Bixler-Zavala, and by golly, you've got yourself a great album opener.

The Widow: One of my favorite sing-along songs. Not joking. I always try to sing along with this guy, but sometimes the lyrics are too incomprehensible and complicated. This song though, I can hear clearly enough to sing along with. Behind Cedric's pipes are everything from horn arrangements to organ and guitar solos. It ends on a creepy psychedelic note.

L'Via L'Viaquez: My favorite song on the album. The short bursts of guitar solo that recur throughout the song are some of the best the Volta team have to offer. But nothing's better after a hard rocking Volta tune than some latin jazz piano, which this song has plenty of. A top-notch eclectic track.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: Four minutes of creepy psychedelic build up, and then a haunting lyrical masterpiece begins. This song seems mostly to be the build up to the albums finale...

Cassandra Gemini: It's difficult to describe this song: complex, frantic, dark, brilliant. Thirty six minutes of the Mars Volta showing us just what it can do. Cedric brings us his best dark-poetic lyrics, and Rodriguez-Lopez spares no effort. From blazing solos and arrangements to spine tingling psychedelic improvisations...Cassandra rates high with some of the greatest modern prog masterpieces (as well as with some of the classics).

Although many will agree that Deloused is a better introductory album to the band, it remains true for me that their greatest masterpiece is Frances the Mute.

Report this review (#187769)
Posted Monday, November 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best album the Volta's ever done. It's carefully composed, meticulously crafted and has what's perhaps both Omar's best guitar performances and Cedric's best vocal takes. Like every Volta album - with the possible exception of De-Loused - it's an excess feast, but a very well done one.

The main complaint every non-diehard-fan has about this album is against those stunningly long segments of ambient noise found on many of the songs, which make a sizeable contribution to the track lengths in every song except L'Via. It's important to notice that, since their use is intentional, they are music as well (not noise), so overlooking them would be missing the point. I found them boring at first, mostly because of the amazing intensity of every song here (which accelerates you), but then I realized what they meant and how they integrated and contributed to the overall flow of the album, and I really enjoyed them. The only one I still struggle a bit with is that strange distorted-organ coming after The Widow, which is indeed a bit too shocking. But the one coming before that sounds great, and L'Via and Miranda flow so well with those parts that I was amazed to open my mind by enjoying them.

As for the album itself, I found that what makes TMV so unique is upfront: Blasting, furious intensity all over it. Not only in those guitar seizures or the violent moments, but also there's a feral intensity in the quieter parts, a sense of tension that I felt a bit stiff on Amputechture and not quite so accomplished on The Bedlam In Goliath, since in that album everything is just very loud. There's a great control of intensity here. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is a great example: Can you really calm down when that solo comes? The answer: Yes, but only for the following 30 seconds... There's tension everywhere, all over it, and it shows itself gently, very well displayed. That's this album's main virtue. When both the explosions and the chill-outs are so excellently managed, it's a treat to hear.

Another great thing about it is how Omar manages to tie most of his influences into his own style, creating original sounds. There's a lot to appreciate here, from Crimsonian solos popping up every now and then up to what sounds like a crazed P-funk in Cygnus' manic delivery, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. It's pure prog-sound attitude, totallly devoid of committing to anything but its own rules. Cramming many things into one song it's even easy, but making a great song MIXING things is quite an accomplishment.

As for the song themselves, they succeed at being both part of a whole and unique entities at the same time. Each track is a world by itself: Cygnus makes up for the perfect introduction, 9 relentless minutes of fury exploding at full tilt on Cedric's final screams; there are dramatic crescendos, both in a short version (The Widow) and in a full-on, bombastic, fierce chill-out (Miranda), and L'Via, which refuses any easy description (it would be something like a freakout progged-up metal-salsa night). It's so well done that you tend to sing (or scream?) along without caring exactly about its meaning.

As for that, I find the lyrics quite hard to decipher but also quite intriguing. There's a nice lyrical work here, very mysterious and thought-inducing metaphores, something quite lacking for me on most of the other albums. But of course what really makes those lyrics lift off is what are undoubtely Cedric's most amazing performances, peaking specially on Miranda, which scares and amazes the hell out of me at every single listen. It's a wonder to hear, absolutely stunning at every single verse. He even manage to succeed greatly in blowing my mind off on L'Via, despite the fact that I can detect the slightly sloppy accent on his Spanish easily since I'm from Argentina. Clean, powerful, intense (how many times I've used that word already?) with the right performance nuances, and a cool effect every now and then (like Spider-Cedric at the beginning of Cassandra Geminni). A great development from De-Loused, and Cedric never sang like this later, or the many effects of the following albums didn't let him.

Cassandra... deserves a part of its own. A 32-minute monster which is (and at the same time isn't) an album by itself, which starts originally by avoiding a long intro and blowing your ears right from the first second. From then Omar goes on a rampage with his guitar, while Cedric sings the hell out of his lungs (AND ITS MULTIPLE SONS WITH THEIR MANDIBLE TONGUES SET CRUCIFIED FIRES TO PETRIFIED HOMES... amazing!!!) like for 18 minutes... A few minutes of a mysterious, chilled-out interlude and the re-emergence of the whole thing in full force, with sax? flute? whatever it is before crashing in one last chorus. As a nice extra and to bring a fitting closure, Sarcophagi gets a reprise at a higher volume than the version found at the beginning of the album. As an amazing thing: Most of the song's many riffs are built around one single note, E. Check it out by yourselves and you'll hear it.

In short, this album develops things that were in primary stages on De-Loused At The Comatorium, and it's a final point in a way for TMV, since from Amputechture on things take another direction (I really like Amputechure and Bedlam, though, they explore many things that this album doesn't). However, neither Omar composed anything so flawlessly intense, nor Cedric sang as well and hypnotically attractive (with the tremendous exception of the amazing Asilos Magdalena) like what they display here. A masterpiece.

Report this review (#189943)
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here we have The Mars Volta's second album. The question is, does this measure up to the their debut, or was generally excellent Deloused in the Comatorium a one-shot deal?

Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus begins with Sarcophgi and it's gently-strummed, melodic acoustic guitar before exploding into a vicious metal funk hybrid. The song then transitions to a gentler pace for a guitar solo which builds dramatically to the end of the song, which reprises the metal-funk, this time backed with strings. The album then offers up a bit of noise, a pulsating synth, over which ride waves of ambient sound.

The Widow is a haunting prog ballad, with acoustic guitars building to an electric peak, guitar shards interplaying with trumpet, before devolving into yet another dose of less compelling noise than heard previously. Minus the noise, this is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Too long for its own good, L'Via L'Viaquez is for me the weakest track on the album. It offers up another dose of metal-funk, though taken at a somewhat slower tempo, before it transitions to some sort of pre-Castro Havana rhythm, after which it alternates between the two.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore starts with a few minutes of noise, including ghostly wails, at which point the song proper tries to begin, but...

Trumpets, genuine Sketches of Spain-quality trumpets, sounding out a melody reminiscent of The Widow, over leslie-processed guitars suddenly appear. This is an absolutely chilling and majestic moment, follow again by a bit more noise which leads into a mellotron-backed revisitation of the previous themes.

Cassandra Geminni is epic, shot through with saxes, brutal guitars, frantic vocals, chirping synths, and incredibly varied, melodic riffs which rise and fall from the song's rhythmic depths. What is amazing is how the band has absorbed their sources: I hear a little King Crimson, Led Zep, Doors, Hendirx, Floyd, et. al., in this song, but it's never just imitation or emulation. It is a synthesis of all that has come before, and the song is a remarkable achievement in that it always transcends its sources. When Sarcphogi repeats at the end, the album has come full circle, a la Escher's Reptiles.

So how to judge this album? The excessive noise, while providing the listener with some sonic relaxation, is a bit too represented here. As mentioned, I find one track to be overly long -- nothing against long, but if I'm going to take that journey with the band I'd prefer we go somewhere rather than run in place. As for the rest, I have not heard music this good for years.

Report this review (#190176)
Posted Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is, in my opinion, the greatest piece of modern art to come out in this millenium. Simply listening to the whole of Cassandra Gemini should convince anyone that this is the best prog rock band out there today. At first I thought that the weird electronic sequences that precede The Widow and L'Via were just filler, but after continuous plays, they really are integral to the experience of this album. My mind is going haywire trying to think of all the good things I can say about this album; there are just so many moments that are absolutely breathtakingly innovative. The guitar work is downright jarring one minute and insanely melodic the next. The breakdowns on this album are stylistically similar to Pink Floyd, but the sheer musicianship that is displayed surpasses anything that Pink Floyd ever did. This comment is coming from a huge Pink Floyd fan, who loves their more obscure space jam albums like Atom Heart Mother and the Shine On suite from Wish You Were Here. Miranda is the strangest track of the five, but it is one of my favorites. It is just so trippy and epic. Jon Theodore is absolutely brilliant on this album; I'm so glad that The Mars Volta found such a great drummer in Thomas Pridgen after Theodore left. One thing is for sure- this album would be nothing without Jon Theodore. I can go on and on about how unbelievable I think this band and this album are, but I won't be able to describe the wonder I have at listening to Cedric's bizarrely beautiful lyrics and melodies, Omar's amazing atonal riffage, and Theodore's godly drumming. This will be the quintessential prog rock album for years to come.
Report this review (#192082)
Posted Saturday, December 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yeah, yeah. I know. Only assign 5 star ratings to absolutely essential albums. Well, I can't think of a more perfect description of this, the Volta's second masterpiece.

I was a fan of their debut, but not a rabid one. This album changed all that. This album, in my opinion, established the Mars Volta as the one-and-only true successor to the Prog crown which was vacated after the 70's by those greatest of great bands Yes and Pink Floyd.

Frances the Mute is uncompromising, heavy, beautiful, chaotic, majestic, rousing and hypnotic, all at once. These aren't just the random superlatives that came off the top of my head. There are moments across the album that snugly fit these descriptions. Hell, I think that one could easily argue that all these words are apt descriptions just for track 1!

The first track, Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus is an absolute powerhouse opener. After a brief but beautiful acoustic introduction, showcasing Cedric's wonderful voice and obtuse lyrics, the song explodes into something so chaotic and frightening it almost certainly takes several listens to digest properly. But once you do...oh man. Just marvel at the intircate rythms of Jon Theodore's drum kit as they intertwine with Omar's waves of distorted guitar blasts. Cedric's wail soars with epic confidence over the whole ordeal. I tell you the chorus sends shivers down my spine every time.

I won't go into each track seperately, for fear that the review will become tediously long. I will however, make specific reference to the 32 minute epic which closes the album. I honestly didn't know music could still be this good until I heard this song.

Like most of you, I think all the best music in the world was made during the 70's (even though I was born way afterwards). All the songs I would cite as the best ever were recorded during that decade. Until this album came out. Cassandra Gemini is a song so wonderful, complex, entertaining and well, just plain ROCKING that I feel compelled to cite is amongst the best songs of all time, along side such classics as Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Yeah, I think it's THAT good.

It never gets boring, which is an achievement for any song so long. But it's so much more than that. The shifts in mood, the complex polyrythms, the sheer creativity on display. Omar's production is second-to-none and contributes to what is the grandest, most accomplished work by a band which can only be described as wholly original.

I firmly believe that this is the finest album of progressive rock since sometime in the late 70's. Others can and will disagree, but this is my opinion. And after all, what are reviews if not subjective opinions?

Report this review (#199238)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Francis the Mute is the second album by The Mars Volta. Great ideas that were just drawn on too long. From the soundscapes on Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore, to the chaos on Cassandra Gemini. They arnt bad songs, its just that they get boring and a little noisy after a while. Im not totally ranting against soundscapes and long songs though, dont get me wrong.

The strongest track is definetely L'vi l'viaquez. The gutar work is pretty interesting, and the piano solo towards the end of the album is pretty awesome. You almost never hear Ikey doing anything, and this song definetely shows off his talent and diversity. Because it is inspired by Latin music the whole song is totally different from what they had done before. Cassandra Gemini isnt bad, but its just too freaking long for its chaotic nature. The widow is a pretty good song and its sounds like some stuff they did on de- loused and Cygnus is a fast paced song with some slower soft sections thrown in to create a solid beginning to the album.

Nothing weak throughout the whole album, but everything drags out a little too long. A good, but non- essential album. 3.3/5

Report this review (#201304)
Posted Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definitely TMV's best!

De-Loused in the Comatorium, don't get me wrong, is a great album...

But Frances the Mute is way better in terms of musical composition. I think De-Loused contains too many easyli-accessible songs. The songs on this record have sometimes melodies, sometimes choruses or riffs that very easily catch someone's attention.

It's not the case in Frances the Mute, or is it? It's not a mystery why so many have said that L'Via L'Viaquez, which is the 3rd track, is the greatest song on the record. To me, nah, not even close!

Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus - Great start with an agressive rocking track with a funk groove and foreign lyrics. This song is actually the whole frame of the album as the other songs, refer to this one in some ways. Great track with a lot of musical variations. 9/10

The Widow - If that song wouldn't have been a single, I probably wouldn't know and love TMV for what they are. I love the voice in this one with a great heavy chorus. For me, this one is too short... 8.5/10

L'Via L'Viaquez - Rock, Funk, Exotic beats... Piano SOLO! You have everything in this one... even made it on a Guitar Video Game... A little redondant to me, but still great guitars by Omar and Frusciante... 8/10

This is where the fun starts!

Miranda... - 10/10 Nothing much to say there but a song that makes you live every emotion possible there is to live in the human body and spirit... Listen closely and don't skip the jams and sounds

Cassandra Gemini - 9.5/10 TMV's longest track and one of their best. Take a ride and listen to this one very loudly and appreciate, there is so much psychedelic beauty in this one to not be known.

So, make it a five star album, by a five star band... and please don't give the rating after only one listen... took me 3 years and a half to fully comprehend the power and richness behind this album...

Long live Frances the Mute!

Report this review (#202455)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Spanish-flavored heavy progressive rock band The Mars Volta made their second album equally as conceptual as their first; this time, they rip out five songs that all flow into one another. If the last album didn't do it, this one certainly establishes Cedric Bixler-Zavala as a dark and menacing poet, melting words and phrases and languages together, producing some gruesomely contorted lyrical fiends. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez again shows himself to be one of the most creative guitarists of the twenty-first century, using outlandish effects and frantic fretwork.

"Cygnus.Vismund Cygnus" What an excellent way to begin an album of such hyperactive and distorted proportions. For forty-five seconds, things are quiet, with an acoustic guitar and Bixler-Zavala's hushed singing. Then the music explodes like a blast from an overextended pressure cooker. One of the major riffs to this song always reminds me of "Sound Chaser" by Yes. The longest segment of the song retains an odd time signature in which the accents count two, three, then one, keeping a 29/16 time signature throughout and giving Rodriguez-Lopez ample time for soloing, although he keeps an economy to his sound as the music builds. Over that same rhythm, the vocalist returns as the band assumes a fuller sound. After some cacophony (still keeping the rhythm in the background), the original loud part comes back with just as much force, if not more, especially from Bixler-Zavala. Everything fades out to static. The voices that break through are a tad unsettling, sounding like a woman having sex, being raped, or being abused in some other manner. Some sound effects carry on to take the listener directly into the next track.

"The Widow" The softest song on the album, "The Widow" flows right in from the sound effects at the end of the first track. The lyrics have several evocative verbs and haunting language overall. After the song proper, all manner of sound effects enter, with an otherworldly organ-like instrument. The whole section sounds cut and spliced back together in a sloppy manner, which no doubt was the intention.

"L' Via L' Viaquez" Again, bizarre sound effects bridge the tracks, and in this case, strange percussion does the trick. The music is slightly more conventional than anything else here (although less so than "The Widow"); it is like heavy metal meets mariachi music. Much of the lyrics are in Spanish. In between the heavier sections, there are quiet, sinister sounding bits, and during the last time around, Bixler-Zavala's voice is laden with shadowy effects. The song closes with Latin percussion, almost unrestrained piano, Rodriguez-Lopez's unrepressed guitar, and Bixler-Zavala's dark and gradually slowed vocals.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" Coquí frogs take up the first four minutes of this piece, as Bixler-Zavala's voice and synthesizers build to the song proper. As with the previous songs, the vocal melodies are incredibly strong and memorable. The lengthy instrumental section in the middle features brass instruments and spacey noises, and the band reenters very casually, repeating a wonderful riff. Even if the music drags somewhat (and the song is almost half over by the time the singing begins), this is an excellently crafted track.

"Cassandra Geminni" The most complex piece on the album (although divided up for business purposes) has an abrupt beginning and is certainly the hardest on the album to digest. The vocals in some parts are burdened with effects (although only briefly). Even though they do not stand out quite as much as they did on other tracks, the drums play an integral role on this lengthy song, and Rodriguez-Lopez's creative guitar riffs, runs, and general insanity make for lots of interesting listening. A long instrumental section lets the music breathe, giving Rodriquez-Lopez a chance to dabble in more atmospheric and experimental guitar playing. A riveting saxophone solo takes over on top of the spacey sound. Most of all, I love how the final fifty-four seconds is a reprise of the very beginning of the album. At times, "Cassandra Geminni" is something of a mess. It's hard to get into, but has several exciting moments that make it worth hearing. I do feel that since they broke the song up intro different tracks anyway, they would have done better making different songs from the parts. Despite its length and complexity, this is the worst track here.

Report this review (#203074)
Posted Monday, February 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Frances The Mute' - The Mars Volta (9/10)

In the footsteps of 'De-Loused In The Comatorium,' The Mars Volta had some very big shoes to fill for their next album, and expectations were very high. What resulted was an album that is very different from the first one, and yet another masterpiece. There's a really spaced out feeling for most of the album, but the actual music itself far overshadows any of the atmospheric stuff. Some of the atmospheric 'trips' I find sort of annoying, but the music is far too good to give the album less then a masterpiece rating. There is not a single weak track on here, and the albums longest song, the half hour 'Cassandra Geminni' is probably the band's most powerful song.

The lyrics are half in spanish, and half in english. This combination gives a good latin vibe that runs throughout the album. Songs like 'L'Via Viaquez' feel like this is a prog band from deep within South America, instead of El Paso, Texas. The best vocal performances of Cedric Bixler-Zavala can be found on here, in songs like 'Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' and 'The Widow.' On another note, the song titles are very cool, and tell stories of their own... (Just a thought.)

The only problem on this album is that the flow is interfered with because of the constant space trips that seem to decommercialize every aspect of this album (in a bad way.) Besides that, it is a really amazing album, and every fan of The Mars Volta should own and love this. The best Mars Volta album.

Report this review (#205551)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, this album is incredible, as the Mars Volta is usually.

It is such a masterpiece that I do think it deserves 5 stars, and to be appreciated up there with Dark Side of the Moon and other such relics. The Mars Volta just has so much flavour in it, and in this album it is no less than usual. From soft ballads to sudden loud funky passages sung in spanish, quiet avant garde instrumentals, and punk-influenced psychedelica, it never ceases to entertain you.

There is a certain thing in the music that gives you that original feeling... the feeling that you can find no where else.

For progressive fans, all songs are good, Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus is amazing, etc. Most songs exceed 10 minutes, and a real progressive fan would love the final track, Cassandra Gemini.

Sometimes there is confusion within the Distribution. Though the song Miranda that Ghost just isn't holy anymore has 4 parts, it sometimes mistakenly puts the entire song in the first part, and labels the beginning 3 parts of the Epic Cassandra Gemini as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th parts, and the following 5 tracks as the 5 parts of Cassandra Gemini. THIS IS WRONG, trust me. If your CD does this, then everything from Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore B: Pour another icepick is actually Cassandra Gemini. The CD version broke the song into 8 tracks in spots independent of its 5 main movements. In the end, Miranda should be 13 something minutes, and Cassandra should be longer than half an hour.

About Cassandra now... It's obviously my favourite song on the album just because it's really epic. I've always appreciated longer and longer songs and this progressive rock suite is a perfect example. It has some heavy parts, some quiet parts, some bizarre Pink Floyd-ish parts, and more. The whole melody is very memorable, and it will definitely not bore you, and pass by quite fast.

Overall, the album is great, and the artwork is too. That's storm thorgerson for you. I think he worked with the Mars Volta for this one. Anyway, this album is great, as if all of the Mars Volta's stuff.

Report this review (#209010)
Posted Friday, March 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars OK the Mars Volta is one of the best bands in the world! Just after resurrecting prog to mainstream stuff again with Deloused In the Comatorium they made even more improvements when they released Frances the Mute! Too me it sounds even more prog than the Deloused because they lost whatever remnants of punk they still had from being in At the Drive-In. Now it's just total heavy prog! Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is a good way to start the album a nice little almost freak-out jam that still contains elements of a good prog song. It just goes uphill after the Widow which is undoubtedly the best prog song released this century! Then in L'Via L'Viaquiz things get crazy with a whole bunch of Spanish vocals and roaring guitars. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is downright creepy but in the end it starts sounding like the Mars Volta again. Cassandra Gemini may seem hard to listen to at first (Probably cause it's 32 minutes) but once you get through the whole thing it's rewarding. It is a must listen! 4.4 stars!
Report this review (#211783)
Posted Sunday, April 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is definetely one of the more compositionally sound Mars Volta releases. Although many will complain about long spacey segments between tracks (and trust me, there are quite a few of them), others will argue that it serves to bring a well-deserved atmosphere to an intense album.

From the opening acoustic guitar picking of "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus", one wouldn't think it is very intense, until suddenly everything explodes. The instruments and their layers are much more complex and dense than the atmosphere of the predecessor. Horns are more prominent, and there are much more odd rhythms and wacked out time signatures. The latin influence becomes much more apparent in "L'Via L'Viaquez" where there is great guitar soloing with slower more percussion oriented chill stuff in between. The strength of the album is the pure energy found on it, from "Who do you think you are" in the opening track to the crazy soloing in "L'via" or the opening madness of "Cassandra Gemini", with even the softer parts of "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" getting a lift from a stellar horn section.

Most great albums have their weak parts, though, and Frances the Mute is no exception. There are lots of spacey ambiances, including an exceptionally lengthy break featuring nothing but coqui frogs, which could cause more impatient listeners to grumble. Most also don't care about the softer "The Widow" which is a more ballad-type track with a haunting refrain. Other than a bit of padding in the 30-minute "Cassandra Gemini" though, there really isn't much in this album that should cause many to dislike it.

So get Frances the Mute for its sheer energy, wonderful creativity, and for some the killer atmospheres. It is a great addition to many music collections.

Report this review (#218763)
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is The Mars Volta's full second outing. Most of those who don't think De-loused is their masterpiece will often cite this one as being the ultimate TMV album, or many of the rest will say it's at least really close in quality to the debut. I happen to agree with the second group however. Instead of this being a collection of multiple songs, the band instead put together a collection of 4 extended epics and one song in The Widow. This album has been reviewed so many times like their debut, so I'll try to keep it short.

Again, this is music that focuses on rocking out really hard with extended jams and weird noises throughout. Although this album makes me think that it's TMV's jam album. In some ways this is good, but in others it's not. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus and L'via L'viaquez are two of my favorite TMV songs and if the whole album was like both of those songs, then this would easily be a 5 star album. However, two songs prevent this from happening for me: the last two. Miranda could really have had the last quarter or so of the song trimmed and Cassandra could very well have had the second of the song chopped off completely. This extended jamming works well live from what I've heard, but I'd prefer to hear it there instead of on a studio album. Come to think of it, the major flaw of this album is the extended jamming. It was only in small quantities on the debut, but here it comes in large chunks on nearly every song except the short The Widow. However, there's enough present here that makes this album more than worthwhile. But while TMV's debut is something like 4.5 stars for me, this is more like an even 4. The band would really begin to pick up some steam on their next two releases however.

Report this review (#222791)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was skeptical of The Mars Volta when I first heard them about two years ago. I didn't understand why such adoring praise was bountiful for a group that, to my ears, lacked construction, felt disingenuous and seemed gimmicky. I simply wrote it off as another fad and left it alone for the time-being. Then after a couple years of intense musical maturation, I heard that these guys were still a force to be reckoned with, but remained unconvinced until a friend of mine, who's opinion towards music I hold in high regard, told me that this was not a group to pass up. So I decided "eh why not? I suppose these guys deserve a second shot." I was stunned and excited to find out that I was wrong with my initial thoughts on the band; dead wrong!

I would recommend Frances the Mute as a starting point for anybody who is unfamiliar with The Mars Volta as it is a good representation of everything the band is capable of. If you already consider yourself a fan, this is one that you should not be without! And a special note to the skeptics out there, take it from a guy that saw this band as "complete garbage", if you approach this album with an open mind, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus kicks off the album with an atmospheric prelude which quickly explodes into a chaotic maelstrom of quirky guitar licks accompanied by the tight bass and drum kit rhythm section. All of this is held together by the vocal melody provided beautifully by Cedric. Then as soon as you start to get familiar with the commotion, the intensity abruptly halts and you are treated to the eclectic guitar-work of Omar-Rodriguez. Here's where the song drags just a tad, but is quickly brought back to life with more energy. The song ends with an ambient soundscape that again drags on a little bit, but fits well with the album as a whole. 3.5/5

Next up is The Widow, a wonderful ballad (or at least as close as The Mars Volta will ever get to a ballad) that starts off with a very nice acoustic guitar treated by a memorable vocal melody that will surely have you humming along. The main vocal melody is what makes this song shine, and the latin flare makes the song very unique indeed. Again, it drags on a bit with the spooky outro, but it is tastefully done and flows well into the next track. 4/5

L'Via L'Viaquez showcases the bands latin roots and let me assure you that you do not need to understand what is being sung to fully appreciate the vocals in this tune. The exotic sound is constant throughout the entire song which features a very slow latin piano-based groove. This song also introduces Cedric's experimentation in odd and intriguing vocal effects that keeps the eerie feel of the album alive and well, especially the solo voice outro. 3.5/5

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is a song covering four tracks. The first track, and bulk of the song, is heavily ambient from the start and builds to a ghostly, (much as the title implies) latin trumpet-laden ballad. The song then peaks into the next track which is full of great guitar playing from Omar-Rodriguez and absolutely incredible vocals from Cedric. The main melody in this song is so delightfully infectious and I have no idea what effect Cedric uses on his voice, but I would like to hear more of it! The song keeps the intensity flowing right into the next track in which the main riff is high-lighted by trumpets as an added bonus. Then things start cooling down a bit and leads into the epic finale track of the song, I can't stress the word epic enough, what a perfect closer! Near perfect song! 4.5/5

Cassandra Geminni the other multi-track song on the album is heavily relient on the idea that you listen to the album as a whole since it directly continues from where the previous song left off. The opening guitar insanity is the initial hook but soon the song transforms into something less intense and spacey with more exceptional guitar-playing from Omar- Rodriguez which continues and drags on a little bit, but starts to get really interesting when the sax takes over in true Pharoah Sanders fashion and builds to again another incredibly epic climax only to be ended by a somber acoustic guitar and vocal duet! Well-played The Mars Volta! 4.5/5

From start to finish this album is nothing short of incredible, definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The two multi-track songs definitely being this reviewer's favorites! The only criticism I have is the occasional over-indulging in ambience. But the creativity expressed by these guys is more than words can describe, so the only true way to appreciate this album is by listening to it yourself. I hope I was able to give a good basis for what to expect from Frances the Mute though, and I leave you with these words: start this album with an open mind and you will be VERY pleasantly surprised!


Report this review (#229080)
Posted Thursday, July 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars How good it is! It unbelievable that in year 2005 in our world full of faceless and boring neo- prog clones, symphonic rock skeletons and total decrease of REALY progresive music, album like that was born!

My long career as serious rock music fan told me that it's extremely difficult to find something REALLY new or interesting in progresive rock starting from 80-th ( ok, early Marillion is OK, but who else?) and almost till now. So I just feeling my soul with prog archives from 70-th.

And now - this album! Absolutely crazy ( and modern!) mix of Led Zeppelin heavyness and great voice, Pink Floydian heavy psychodelica, perfect metal guitars, some dark ambient from modern Scandinavian metal wave, jazzy arrangements from Zorn and Latino salsa (Santana?).

All melted in one explosive mix, destroying your sleepy conformist sympho planet! Great!

We have new King Crimson and new Led Zeppelin and new Pink Floyd right here!

I believe, that this album isn't for everyone taste. If you like real energy, real new ideas and sounds ,real crazyness of rock - just take it! For those who prefers boring faceless classic sympho repetative sleepy sounds from closet this music could be too shocking, too real, too ROCK!

Report this review (#240968)
Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars From my personal point of view, this album exceeds by far that acclaimed debut album, Frances the Mute, is much more accomplished... landed... this is an album that consolidates their sound and even have the (luxury) to makes "experiments", and not fall into the easyness or the pretension. Continuing on the same line, although he added details that make the difference... the fusion of latin sounds, coupled with hard rock, melodic passages and psychedelia TMV make a band to consider. Also the lyrics are so surreal and dreamlike that one can easily lose in this feast of sparks and colors. A great album is here!
Report this review (#242014)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is: metal, symphonic, psychedelic, free jazz, krautrock, latino, cabaret music, ambient, Darmstadt school and whatever else I forgot to mention! Truly progressive music, King Crimson ca 71-73 an obvious reference, but definitely up to date, yet timeless and unique. Does that sound like a contradiction? Well, it sounds very modern to me, but I still think people will listen to this in twenty years from now, and beyond.

If you're into modern heavy prog like Porcupine Tree you might like this, but it is weirder, uglier (that is not meant as criticism!) and definitely more avant garde. If you're into the softer side of prog you might think that it's to high-strung and speeded. It is music that points in many different directions and demands serious listening.

Several previous contributors have delved deeper into the individual tracks; I just want to point out that it is really just one long suite: for example, the theme of track number five reappears in track number twelve.

This said, I think The Mars Volta should properly be filed under "Eclectic Prog", even if "Heavy Prog" is by no means incorrect.

Report this review (#245698)
Posted Thursday, October 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Did I mention in my previous TMV review for De-Loused how overwhelming, excessive, nerve-shattering, unique, emotive, innovative, original, boundary-breaking and progressive this band is? Well, on their second full length, TMV sound even more mature, for a number of reasons.

The music has opened up a bit more, having longer stretched out jams and more quiet parts. Occasions aplenty where Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez and the other band members get ample room to freak-out. Also, the more relaxed sections and songs allow the listener to catch his breath. Another advantage is that they let some of their more experimental side come to the fore. Early Floyd has a strong influence here and I like their psychedelic noise parts ( for example the end of The Widow). Kraut is back!

On L'vi l'viaquez their Latin side prevails, it's a great funky vibe that expands their prog with the sexier and wilder side of rock, an element usually absent in progressive rock, which normally talks more to the head then to the hips (so if you still wonder why women usually don't like prog, look no further, that's the reason, prog has no balls :). TMV have that edgier element in their sound and it's what makes them remind me of Led Zeppelin, the sexiest band ever to grace the planet. With a voice that sits somewhere between Tom York and Robert Plant, TMV have the best possible singer they could dream of.

This band has let in some more then welcome fresh air into the prog-scene. Of course there are great melodic progressive bands aplenty these days (Opeth, Anekdoten, PT, Riverside?), but TMV bring the whole Crimson/Kraut/early Floyd experimentation and innovation back into today's scene. Combine that with their Zeppelin'esque groove & guts and you hit gold! My favourite TMV album. Classic album art as well by the way.

Report this review (#252670)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Frances the Mute" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive rock act The Mars Volta. After releasing what is widely regarded as one of the most innovative debut albums in modern progressive rock history, The Mars Volta returned in 2005 with "Frances the Mute".

"Frances the Mute" shows lots of progress from the debut especially in the way that the band gives the compositions time to develop and sometimes also a focus on jamming instead of tight structures. As on the debut there are tons of different influences in the music and it´s hard to say that The Mars Volta sound like anyone but themselves. There´s the latin and fusion influence in the music that gives some obvious hints toward Santana and the more noisy avant garde elements that smells a bit like King Crimson, but again those influences never overshadow the unmistakable sound of The Mars Volta. Cedric Bixler Zavala´s high pitched vocal style is as always a defining element for the sound and the same can be said about the experimental and innovative guitar work by Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez.

There are only 5 tracks on the album but the playing time is impressive 76:55 minutes long. The closing track "Cassandra Gemini" alone is 32:27 minutes long and 3 out of the remaining 4 tracks exceed the 10 minute mark. "The Widow" which is by far the most accessible track on the album is also the shortest track with it´s 5:50 minutes long playing time. As a new thing the lyrics are a mix of English and Spanish which actually works really well for the band. I really enjoy the added latin elements on the album and a song like "L'vi l'viaquez" is greatly enjoyable to me, even though it took some time getting used to. Opener "Cygnus... Vismund cygnus" is also a favorite of mine while I have a hard time understanding why the first minutes of "Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore" were included. My only complaint about the album is probably the experimental ambient parts that occur a couple of times on the album. But then again I never did enjoy the experimental part in "Moonchild" either (from "In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)" by King Crimson) if you know what I mean? The actual music, which there are plenty of on the album, is excellent though.

The production by Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez is powerful and professional sounding. A great sound which suits the music perfectly.

"Frances the Mute" is a great second album by The Mars Volta. No sophomore jinx here. It´s a more loose album than its predecessor and some people might miss the more structured sound of the debut, but I actually enjoy "Frances the Mute" more than "De-loused in the Comatorium (2003)" myself. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved.

Report this review (#253683)
Posted Monday, November 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars My first though after hearing the album in its entirety was: Wow... this sounds nothing like the debut!

This was remark had a neutral tone to it but after reading a couple of extremely positive reviews and listening a couple of more times I started to feel positive about Frances The Mute. In retrospect I guess it's safe for me to say that it was an over-hyped experiment gone wrong. The album features almost 80 minutes of material where about 30 of those minutes are just intros/interplays/outros which I got tired of after just a few spins.

Take for example Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore which is a 13 minute track that starts off with a whooping 4,5 minute intro and puts Pink Floyd to shame! The same track ends with a long outro which in result doesn't make this much of a composition.

Don't get me wrong this album isn't terrible and does feature some great material but as an album experience it's definitely not as enjoyable as The Mars Volta's debut album so I cannot recommend it to anyone but the fans.

**** star songs: Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus (13:02) The Widow (5:50) L'Via L'Viaquez (12:21)

*** Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore (13:09) Cassandra Gemini (32:27)

Report this review (#259556)
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Before The Mars Volta lost their minds and started recording music that sounded like traffic accidents, they actually released a couple of really good-quality albums. Their debut LP, De-Loused in the Comatorium, was a brilliant modern-day Prog Rock record that breathed new life into the genre in many ways that didn't feel re-hashed or mimicked. Afterwards, they began to get a little more ambitious. Frances The Mute was the second release from the band, and it in many ways expanded upon the ideas that were first laid out in the first album.

So many things have already been said about this album, that I'm honestly not sure what else I could say that makes any more difference to the majority opinion. Let me just say that this album is a very good one, albeit a little more focused on the pointless distortion of the tail ends of the recordings and sound effects. However, despite there being some moments of filler on this record, I still think the music that is present more than makes for it. Things are much more intense this time around, and it leads to the album experience being an arduous one, but you feel like you've been through a great journey by the album's end, which subsequently features the same orchestration as the beginning, which gives the record a singular, self-contained kind of conceptual feel. Possibly taking influence from The Wall in that regard, but who can say for sure.

A very good album, but it would only go downhill from here. Not as good as its predecessor, and certainly not as good as what would follow, at least in my opinion. If you enjoyed De-Loused and haven't heard this yet, I do recommend picking it up. It's like the most aggressive moments on that record turned up considerably, surrounded by some haze. It's fine for what it is, but doesn't quite reach the same heights as what came before it. Fans of the first record will still like this one, though.

Report this review (#273995)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Okay, I'll start by saying that this is my 3rd favorite of 5 MV albums. It is behind Deloused and Amputechture but ahead of Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron. This is not a bad album, but it does not have the immediate "new and different" impact that their first album gave me. One major problem I have here is the ambient and background noise parts. Now, a little of this is ok from time to time, but on this release it gets annoying really fast. I don't think there is really one weak track on this album, but I think a pared down version would have gotten a better rating from me. My favorite tracks are #3, and "Miranda"...they don't wear out there welcome as quickly as the other tracks. So, to rate this album? 4 stars for music but I have to dock 1 star because of excess and overkill. 3 stars.
Report this review (#278721)
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frances The Mute, the second studio album by The Mars Volta is one of the most interesting and creative albums ever released.

No other album has ever had such an effect on me, at first I hated this album, resented the large music free sections, impenetrable lyrics and Latin music influence which had largely been absent on the band's debut.

Eventually I grew to enjoy about half of about half tracks on the album, hating the beginning or end of some songs, or enjoying the choruses of songs but not caring for what just seemed like jams that weren't going anywhere. Then one day, I just 'got it' and ever listen since has been an absolute joy, one of the most impressive growers in musical history. Every listen reveals more saxophone parts, more keyboard sections, a new bass slide or guitar vibrato or a 3rd guitar part altogether.

The lyrics too, which frustrate the listener so much on first listen, intrigue for years afterward due to Cedric's unique style which at times seems like a stream of consciousness, at times seems like a word replacement puzzle and at times seem to contradict information given in press releases.

The story which accompanied the album was about the search for the character's biological parents, which is portrayed in lyrics like 'All the brittle tombs, Five hundred little q's I'm splitting hairs to Match the faces,' or 'Who do you trust Will they feed us the womb Chrome the fetal mirage,' ' and 'Umbilical syllables Left to decode, There was no cradle I can taste it, Come on now, All night I'll hunt for you, Let me show you what I mean.'

If these are examples of the most obvious lyrics you can imagine how difficult it is to interpret lyrics like 'She was a mink hand-job in Sarcophagus heels.' Its easy to get caught up on the lyrics and forget about the quality of the album, an album which begins and ends with an acoustic guitar piece called 'Sarcophagi,' that sounds like its coming out of a transistor radio in the distance, and album that opens with a 13 minute song and contains a 30 minutes song called Cassandra Gemini, which is supposed to be split into five movements but is instead slit randomly across eight tracks, some of which are incorrectly labeled as being a part of the previous 13 minute track, 'Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore,' which is contained entirely on track four.

The album is best listened to as a whole, from beginning to end as each song relates to another lyrically or musically at some point or another, and the majority of tracks have atmospheric intros or outros to establish a mood or help tell the story that you are more tempted to skip if you just wish to listen to one track.

I am a big fan of concept albums, but never before have I heard an album that had more thought and effort put into it, nor an album with more secret alcoves and hidden meanings, where sections of music represent sections of the story or means of story telling.

On paper, Frances The Mute is one of the most interesting albums I've ever heard of, but I'm glad to report that on CD its also one of the best albums I've ever listened to, and it entertains me just as much as it impresses me.

Report this review (#278833)
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta release once again a masterpiece, after the brilliant landmark album De Loused In The Comatorium. "Frances The mute" is probably the most progressive album of TMV, not only because all the songs are very long, but especially because of the content.

The style of the album is incredible, something that TMV were never able to repeat in their following albums. Shattering, confusing and incredibly wild moments played with guitar, keyboards and vocals are alternated with bizarre electronic soundscapes or calm moments that are heavily influenced by Spanish and central American music.

The unbelievable opener is "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus", a 13 minute masterpiece. After the one minute intro, the song explodes, and the band has one of their wild moments, moments that really blow your mind. After a few minutes it get's calm and spacey, and when 8 minutes tick it returns wild again, even though not as much as before, but there is an unbelievable moment when the singer does some high pitched vocals, so beautiful that it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. When only three minutes are left, the song fades away and some bizarre electronic samples that I mentioned earlier reign supreme. Definitely the best song of the album, and maybe the best Mars Volta song.

"The Widow" was the only song that got a bit of success (it was released as a single), probably because it;s the shortest of these songs, almost 6 minutes. The song for the first three minutes is a great ballad, very touching but interesting at the same time. The second part of the song is completely dedicated to electronic weirdness, a great intro to the following song.

"L'Via L'Vaquez" is a very interesting song. It starts almost immediately, and it's probably the most Spanish influenced song of the album, thanks especially to the lyrics, which are in Spanish, but also thanks to the music, which isn't as wild as "Cygnus....". After a while, we hear for most of the song some piano accompanied by the singer, who now whispers, making the atmosphere tense and creepy.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is the most experimental song of "Frances The Mute". It takes a couple of minutes before some music shows up (the intro is just the sound of birds). When the music kicks in, the song isn't wild at all, and before you know it you are once again immersed in experimentation until the end of the song. Nobody really likes this song, I personally think it's extremely interesting, a song that is quite different from the rest, a 100% progressive song in my opinion.

"Cassandra Gemini" is the most epic Mars Volta song: more than 30 minutes of wildness, crazy time changes, amazing experimentation, weird calm parts, and of course a great melodic chorus that echoes that comes up in some parts of the song. The first ten- fifteen minutes are the most wild, with many changes of themes, making the song a 100% suite. After a while, the music gets mellower, and the massive use of electronics returns once again, even thoug the guitar has an important role too. Only when thirty minutes pass the bands starts to get more enlivened, and the last couple of minutes are a reprise to all the previous madness.

What more can you say about an album like "Frances The Mute"? An album that in my opinion must go down in prog history, since it did bring back some elements that were trapped in the seventies and never exposed again. An essential masterpiece.

Report this review (#289079)
Posted Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my first Mars Volta album, and I'm glad it was, beacause it is my favourtie.

The moment I put on the first song, I knew this album was something special.

This album was incredibly different from their debut, but way better in my opinion. Taking song writing into more experimental paths and even using noises to create atmosphere, it's just breathtaking.

This album is just perfect, and I would even say it is one of the greatest albums ever made (it's in my top 10)

1. Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus - The intro does suprise you. Amazing instrumental work, very catchy and some amazing vocals from Cedric. One amazing piece of music. It's also in Spanish & Englisgh, how cool is that.10/10

2. The Widow - Having loved the song and video for Televators, I loved this song and video. But the album version does end with a lot of noise, which is pretty cool, and the production does make it sound like out of this world. 10/10

3. L'Via L'Viaquez - This was the song that got me hooked on the band. I can repeat each word of this song, even the Spanish parts and even know the translation (thats what 2 years of Spanish taught me). John Frusciante's guitar work is amazing in this song. The atmosphere is also incredible. 10/10

4. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore - The intro is ver solemn and noisy, but when Flea's trumpet (which is played phenomonoly) comes in, the ture beauty of this song comes intro frution. The arrangement is also amazing. 10/10

5. Cassandra Geminni - Wow, 30 minutes. This one massive mind mess, and it does take alot out of you. This song doesn't loose intrest in it's slightests, just a mammoth of amazing insturmental work and some incredible improv noise sections. 10/10

CONCLUSION: It's in my top 10 albums of all time, I would strongly advise you to buy it.

Report this review (#289514)
Posted Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The Mars Volta improved on their sound for this, their second album. They still are masters of the high speed, hard rocking prog sound, but they have added a lot more experimentation to their repertoire. With spacy sound effects and odd noised for extended segments, they are now more akin to Pink Floyd (in a good way). And some of the jazzy jams (in Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream and continuing to Faminepulse) conjure up a harder rocking Soft Machine. Adrian Terrazas plays a mean be-bop sax solo that was quite unexpected.

While I enjoyed De-Loused In The Comatorium, it was this album that really made me a fan of the band.

Report this review (#291907)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars An absolute sonic masterpiece.

No denying that I'm a fanboy of Omar Rodriguez- Lopez and his musical excursions, namely The Mars Volta, and Frances The Mute is the prime reason. After hearing this record all the way through for maybe the 3rd time, I found that I could not escape it. At the time I recall not really being taken back by any new bands I came across. My overall desire for mood-altering and mind-expanding music had begun to slowly sink, only to be ripped from the depths and abruptly resuscitated once I put this on. I needed to hear it more and more. Many years have passed since my obsession with Frances, but the album's overall power and intrigue have remained strong.

At 76+ minutes of music this album is not made for a quick spin, especially considering it consists of only 5 "songs": 3 mini-epics (Cygnus.../Miranda/ L'via L'viaquez), 1 standard song (the Widow) and 1 grand epic (Cassandra Gemini). Cassandra stands atop all the epics I've ever heard, and is usually a favorite among Volta fans. The combination of frantic intensity and beautiful psychedelia is ever present in the music and vocals alike. Overpowering and lush, and exquisitely creepy. I absolutely love getting trapped in this music, not that I can fight it. With Frances The Mute, Omar and Cedric and their gaggle of superbly skilled musicians provide a dark and dream-like world yet to be rivaled, even by themselves.

With 300+ reviews I guess I'm not adding anything new, only spewing my adoration. Amputecture is my favorite Volta album (for now), but I can't deny that Frances is their masterpiece. The songs are long and occasionally repetitive, and there's a ton of ambient and spacey filler, but it works extermely well. The ferocity of Cygnus, the eerie alure of The Widow, the intertwining song styles of L'via, Miranda's tranquility and crescendo, all of these gripping in their own right, only lead to the albums grandiose sonic onslaught Cassandra Gemini. And let's not forget the absolutely haunting vocal performance and warped bi-lingual lyrics!

Frances The Mute is nonetheless a marvelous soundscape that I highly recommend navigating through. It sounds like a never-ending battle between good and evil, and will likely remain in my top 10 albums for eternity.

5 stars is not enough.

Report this review (#305960)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a very self-indulgent and pretentious release for 2005. Francis The Mute shows everything that is both good and bad about The Mars Volta. It's a very long album as well. So long in fact that they had to take the title track off the album. Even though that song is not included, the lyrics to it are under the CD. One of the reasons it's so long is because of the long, drawn out spacey sections full of effects. I admire them for putting out such a un- mainstream album at the time, but this really could have used some editing.

The album begins and ends with the same section of vocals and guitar. After the beginning, "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" goes into funky Latin rock territory. Later changes to a spacey part. Then a part with snare rim and nice laid back guitar playing. After a guitar solo. Cedric's vocals come back. Then goes back to the main part of the song before a new riff on wah bass. This part is called "Con Sofo" and gets reprised later. Street noises and sequencers at the end.

"The Widow" was the first single/video for the album. Sounds like a 'classic rock' song. Some trumpet here from Chili Pepper Flea. Last half of the song is just sounds that are sped up and slowed down. "L'Via L'Viaquez" is a highlight. Begins with tape effects and a looped drum part. Really awesome guitar playing in this song. Most of the song alternates between a rockin' part with Spanish lyrics, and a more subdued Latin section with English lyrics. Great drumming throughout. In the middle is a different section to the other two. At the end it sounds like Cedric is drowning.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" starts with various ambient sounds for the first four minutes. Reminds me of Gong. Then some trumpet and acoustic guitar. I love the main melody in this song. Cedric starts singing with some tremoloed guitar. Later drums appear. The "Con Sofo" riff is reprised at the end. "Cassandra Gemini" is over a half hour long! I listen to this as one piece and never skip any part. Oddly enough, though this is so long, it has the least amount of spacey 'filler' sections. It is also the most consistently heavy part of the whole album.

"Cassandra" has great guitar playing throughout. Some manipulated vocals. Occasionally some orchestra and piano. It changes very often. Early on there is a type of 'chorus' that goes: "there's no light". This part comes back later. I like the part where Cedric goes "alalalalala". At one point you hear "25 wives in the lake tonight" repeated. There is a cool riff on guitar doubled with the orchestra. Then a bit of synth and math-rock style guitar. After a nice part based on three notes. Later some organ and guitar freak-outs. Some sax squonking. Some Mellotron. Goes back to "there's no light" part. Ends with the same part as the beginning of the album.

Francis is not as consistent as De-Loused or Amputechture. But it still has some of the best moments this band ever recorded. This was a shock to people who already thought De-loused was self-indulgent. You may or may not like the compositions of Omar Rodrigues-Lopez or the lyrics of Cedric Bixler Zavala, but you can't deny that this band knows how to play and are not afraid of taking chances. One of the more important prog albums of the last ten years. This deserves a 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

Report this review (#353507)
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have come to know The Mars Volta for not being that conservative with the lengths of their albums, often filling them to max capacity. FRANCES THE MUTE began that trend (DE- LOUSED was only an hour), but has only five songs, one of them being this 32-minute thing. In essence, the album becomes water-logged in frantic jams. Only ''The Widow'' sneaks in under the ten-minute mark, and while it's not bad, the two fantastic pieces overshadow the psych-pop ''The Widow'' tries to accomplish.

I find it hard to defend the Santana-esque jam of ''L'Via L'Viaquez'' not because of content, but length. No doubt the jam is fiery in places, but it doesn't really say anything in thirteen minutes. Even worse is ''Miranda''; that ''thing'' takes four minutes to even start, and the theme is very weak once it gets going. Only Flea's trumpet performance gets kudos from me. At least the great songs keep the album afloat.

''Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus'' opens the album with a bang like only the Mars Volta can, and the intensity bobs and weaves throughout, but always keeping you on the edge of your seat. Particularly mesmerising is the ''Facilis Descenus Averni'' section that starts slow, but builds to a climax when Cedric comes back in. Drummer Theodore is most impressive here, but we aren't even at the best track yet.

''Cassandra Gemini'' might just be the best epic in recent years. Only Cedric's odd robot vocals in the beginning attempt to screw everything up, but once everything settles into a comfy jam, it's lights out from here. The guitars, bass, and drums are frantically intense, but in a locked groove that is so enjoyable. Like the first track, it alters dynamics well enough to keep interest. Best yet, the band really knows how to lay down a jam like the old masters of rock could, and they let Owens and Alderte cut loose instrumentally. They also can put a spacey atmosphere in the right place, keeping the suspense going until the intense finale, ending the way it began.

The opening and closing numbers are easily essential listening for those into progressive rock and want a modern representation of the genre. I wouldn't hesitate to call FRANCES THE MUTE a masterpiece if it was just ''Cygnus'' and ''Cassandra'', but the load of fluff jams weaken the overall appeal. Not recommended if you don't care for your music to be loud or jammy.

Report this review (#362833)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars With "Frances the Mute" TMV changed their music totally. You cant compair it to the debut-album "De-loused". While there the sound is very hard and eclectic, is it on their second album more psychedelic and you can often find space-rock like passages which will remember you a little bit to hawkwind or pink floyd (or maybe it's a little bit like "Solar Music" from "Grobschnitt"). But don't be afraid, the typical Mars Volta - elements are still there, for example at the beginning from "Cygnus Vismund Cygnus" or in L'Via L'Viasquez", which is very freaky. But especially on the last two tracks (which are actually one long song) are very long, spheric sound-collages which can be multiple minutes long. The question is: Is it good or bad? I think its brilliant! I love this album. The changes between freaky Mars Volta - Prog and psychedelic Rock are excellent and you will never get bored while listening. I don't know if it's better then their debut, this is a matter of taste. But for me "Frances The Mute" is at least as good as "De-loused" and all in all an fantastic album for all people who want to get on a trip while listening ;)
Report this review (#367875)
Posted Thursday, December 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
3 stars This noise just isn't holy anymore

The Mars Volta wowed everyone with their beyond-amazing debut De-Loused in the Comatorium, with their incredibly unique style and breath taking stamina and agility while playing. Two years later, the Mexican-American sensation returned with their next studio album, the adventurous Francis the Mute. Originally composed of just five lengthier tracks, they were forced to split up their 32 minute long giant Cassandra Gemini because the label threatened to pay them an EP's pay for so small a number of songs. Despite this, the band was still able to split the track into eight subsections, making 12 tracks. The one thing that really sticks out is the true length of the album: five tracks, 77 minutes. But, one may ask, how could it be this long? Yes, in part because the album is composed of five lengthy songs, but mainly because of the ambient noise added to each and every track (also known as "filler"). Filler was seen on the band's debut, but was tasteful, coming in only to accent a theme or feeling about the album. Of course, musically, the album is just a genius as the band's debut. Full of intense energy, inventiveness, and a whole slew of other creative aspects this is a very good album, but I cannot stress how much that noise, pointless and jarring at times, really alienates the good parts of this album.

First, I'll talk compositionally how great this album is. Compositionally, this album is great (ha ha). Consisting of the same pep found on the band's debut album, the entire band, led by the guitar mastermind Omar Rodrigues-Lopez, jumps leaps and bounds through musical wonderland, reaching incredible Avant tendencies in a purely Mars Volta style, with raging guitar solos and rhythmic insecurity accenting beautifully orchestrated movements, with perfectly preformed crescendos and decrescendos making it obvious how wonderfully skilled Rodrigues-Lopez truly is at composing. Through the insanity of Cygnus?Vismund Cygnus (which I'm convinced is a Rush reference) to the more mellow and almost popularly acceptable The Widow to the great Latin-fusion piece L'Via l'Vaquez to the incredible (and incredibly long) Cassandra Gemini, this album truly has a number of compositional masterpieces. However, they happened to be near ruined by a certain additive the band seemed to insist on?

Filler. It tends to leave a bad taste in a music lover's mouth. It signifies the band was either too lazy to make an adequate ending or needed to lengthen the album. This band didn't need to do either. Of course, filler was seen on the debut, but in tasteful amounts to compliment the music. On this album, numerous minutes have been pointlessly added to the end of each track (excluding the last track), making for an extremely annoying and unnecessary addition to the otherwise incredible album. I barely fast forward during tracks on an album, but on this album, I skip every second of the wretched filler added to this album. Truly I cannot see any reason to add 3 minutes of noise to the end of virtually every track. It seriously ruins the album for me.

Overall, however, this is a good album. I cannot despite the filler in the album overlook the genius put into all five tracks on this album. The whole atmosphere is that typical adventurous feeling that The Mars Volta emits from their music; scratchy but well produced, raw but very clean, and an overall extremely well executed performance by the band. In the whole scheme of things, however, I still can't ignore (and I know by now you're sick of me talking about it) that horrible filler added. Although I sound like a broken record, that really was unnecessary. Although this is one of the more pretentious things the band has released, it still is a good album. 3+ stars.

Report this review (#450376)
Posted Friday, May 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Frances the Mute ? 2005 (3.4/5 almost 4 stars) 11 ? Best Song: L'Via 'L'Viaquez

Sheesh! When you give somebody an inch, they certainly claw and fight to get that mile, don't they? Mars Volta had a good run with an album, so now it's a double album super rock opera that's thrice as convoluted and twice and esoteric. But that would all be much more horrid in the grand scheme if the band had forgotten what it mean to write interesting music. 'The Widow', It does a body warm to see some pups doing what they enjoy, when that hobby just so happens to have some vicious ingenuity to it ? not that they're reaching insurmountable heights, but when dealing with beavers we ask for river dams, not the Hoover dam (and only ever so rarely do we receive an Alberta dam).

Frances the Mute, by most rights, has little place in 2005, which was home to Eminem's rampant loss of humor, the rise in popularity of Katy Perry, and all that such and so. Why, then, was Frances loosed upon the world to rave reviews? I dunno, because I don't give it a rave review. It's friggin' overblown. 'Miranda' takes forever to become a thrilling number, and the buildup isn't fulfilled with the beginning of 'Cassandra Gemeni', but 'L'Via L'Viaquez' is a monster that just can't be topped. It's a searing hard latin rocker, sung completely in the native tongue ? which strikingly adds depth to the experience. It's raucous, charging, and undeniably energetic, but couldn't they have trimmed things down a few notches in the pomposity department?

Report this review (#459128)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Damn fillers ...

"Frances the Mute" was an album that appealed to me more than "De-Loused in Comatorium." The sounds and break beats, the furious pace and energetic with influences from jazz and Latin sounds, all these elements were in your album premiere, but are taken to another level, clearly demonstrating the maturity of its members.

But of course for being mature does not mean they will not commit a major errors.And the error of "Frances the Mute" is the sound effects and collages existing at the end of each song-the called "fillers" . This is really annoying, they are wasting several minutes that could be used so that they could esbajar creative genius they have.Aside from that album is pretty good, but "L'Via L'Viaquez" sometimes tends to be boring,the first 4 minutes "Miranda that Ghost just is not Holy Anymore" is overwhelming to my ears and edit I downloaded contained only 8 minutes of "Cassandra Gemini", which is terrible considering that the song is 31 minutes (or not).

3.5 stars, rounded down.

Report this review (#470340)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The pinnacle of this band's career, and one of the best prog albums of all time.

While "Amputechture" was the culmination of culture fusion within this group's signature style of Latin-style spastic punk prog rock, this album came together as one of the best albums of all time in my opinion, mostly because of the 32 minute jam epic "Cassandra Gemini", but the rest of the songs are good, although I will say this; if you couldn't get into "De-Loused In The Commatorium", do not, repeat, DO NOT listen to this album; it is by fart the most experimental of their records and can be a bit thick at times.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" starts off in typical TMV fashion with a slow intro bursting into a frantic breakbeat manned by technical god Jon Theodore. The whole record starts off like "De-Loused" did, only one difference though. After chorus #2 in "Cygnus" (very epic choruses at that), the band decrescendos into a soft jam. This is their first record that clearly exemplifies their jam elements that would also be present in "Amputhecture", their live shows (like "Scab Dates", albeit innacurate at best) and even a bit in "Bedlam In Goliath". Eventually the jam picks up in intensity and speed and finally charges full throttle into the final chorus, before the ensemble jams their way into oblivion and obscure 5 minute long soundscape filled with weird people talking and screaming, a slamming metal gate and sonic textures that feel like a huge, f***king spider is crawling all over your back.

Many people credit "The Widow" as their most accessible song to date. Yes and no. While it is a huge contrast to the spastic energy in "De-Loused" and previously in "Cygnus", this is a completely different band than the previous album, despite many elements present in both records. At this stage the band has completely divulged into the experimental aspect of their genre, most clearly identified by their 2 minute long outro (yet another element common in their music, as sonic outros were now becoming common place in virtually all of their songs)

"L'Via L'Viaquez" is the first example in which Omar Rodriguez-Lopez incorporates Latin influences and instruments, a technique he would use to this day in his solo albums. It begins as a typical TMV song, however. Slow intro gives way into frantic rock and then slows into a Latin jam, back to frenzy then into Latin jam, for which the process would be repeated one more time, with an extended Latin jam that ends in Cedric Bixler-Zavala's tantalizing pipes spreading fear in every nerve of your body through a voice modulator that's as creepy as Freddie Kruger driving up to your house in a Mazda Miata.

"Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore". Quite a mouthful for one of the thickest songs in The Mars Volta's repetoir. It begins with the subtle but furiously irritating murmur of croaking tree frogs (those things live outside my house, I don't need to hear them again in a song). It's by far one of the longest intros to what would, to most listeners, be an extremely dull song, as the instrumentation is nearly vacant, besides Flea's trumpet piercing through the eerie silence. It's more of a textural droning atmosphere than an instrumental jam, but the way it's done is a sheer masterpiece, and an excellent example of song structure from one of the most technical bands in all of prog (capped off with a reprise of "Cygnus", which segues into "Cassandra Gemini"

I'll just say this right here and now; the only problem I have with this song is that my version of the album has "Cassandra Gemini" cut up into 9 different tracks, and it ticks me off. Nevertheless, it is the highlight of the entire album. Unfortunately, for you, the reader (if there are any out there), the song is actually just way too long and complex to describe every single detail, but just know this: This is an instrument's favorite song. It has virtually every element you love in a progressive epic of this magnitude. There are numerous jams scattered throughout the track and is sort of built like a Shakespearean epic (Pour Another Icepick starts off loud, Con Safo (middle of the track) is sort of the peak of the track, Plant a Nail In The Naval Stream is the slow transition, while Multiple Spouse Wounds and Sarcophogai send the song [and album] out with a bang)

All in all, it's a progressive masterpiece that is duplicated by no other, and never will. Only the truest of progressive music critics will be able to understand how much ass this album kicks. To quote Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, once it ends, I recommend you to "go home and take a bath". You'll need it after this baby.

Report this review (#490813)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The second Mars Volta album is as near to perfection as anything that has come out of the heavy prog scene over recent years. This is in my opinion the best album for the band after hearing all of their studio releases. It buries anything to come after it and is as good, actually better, than the debut which was an excellent album on its own merits. On Frances the Mute it all fell into place. Everything seems to work on this somehow. the psychedelic polyrhythmic indulgence is dominant throughout, especially the insane percussive time sigs and very loud guitars. Zavala's vocals are a dominant force and unmistakeable on every track. He blasts out in full voice sounding possessed by some unknown preternatural spirit. Many times the lyrics are nonsensical sounding like a mixture of Spanish and some Oriental language. This adds to the high strangeness of the atmospheres, and the puzzle deepens considerably as to what the songs are trying to say.

The band continue to borrow elements from free form manic jazz, to heavy power riffing and trippy psychedelia, every track becomes part of the whole. The conceptual framework is hard to pin down but is open to interpretation. It feels dark and moody, with dangerous explorations into the psyche and perhaps loss of sanity and identity being a key theme. There is a half hour magnum opus at the end that detours into many directions and never really settles on a particular melody for long. The lavishly illustrated booklet gives a few hints away as to what this puzzle is all about, although it matters not. the music speaks for itself as its own entity. The Widow was actually on the charts in a shorter form and is perhaps the only commercial sounding track on the album. The rest merges together seamlessly and at the end of the album you realise you have heard something completely out of the box. the ferociously original approach is a dynamically refreshing sound that can not be denied. A masterpiece of heavy psyche prog that was never bettered by The Mars Volta.

Report this review (#511193)
Posted Monday, August 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Frances The Mute - Masterpiece. 5*

"No there's no light, In the darkest of your furthest reaches "

The first Mars Volta album was something incredible,one of the albums I respect the most and then I listened to Frances The Mute and I could see a evolution/progression on every respective elements of the band! Well the construction has a high level of musicianship that is off the hook! The all composition of this album makes me feel happy and know that we really have good musicians on this "modern era",well let's start the review!

1- Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: The album starts with this prologue of 13 minutes,a psychedelic song and a song that Cedric has strongly harsh vocals! incredible one! 9/10

2- The Widow: The most or one of the most famous songs of TMV,I'm talking about a incredible soulfull ballad with a malignant feeling! This is also (on the composition of the album) a rest from the first track and a opening for one more big track of TMV. 9/10

3-L'vi L'viaquez: IMO the most vibrant song of TMV and one of my favorites,we are talking about a masterpiece that lenght's 12 minutes!Featuring awesome spanish lyrics and returning to english,also mexican sounds on the mix. so good. 10/10

4-Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: Very boring track,I dislike this one but this song helps the construction of the album resting one more time and opening a triad 4/10

5-Cassandra Gemini: One of my favorite songs of this album! I always feel so good to ear this song, it was the power to give me good feelings 9/10

6-Tarantism: The continuation of Cassandra Gemini,starting with a incredible solo by Omar Rodriguez and ending up with a amazing psychedelic vibe 9/10

7-Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream: The end of the triad,starting up on a relax sound that goes embracing a crazy tone. Interesting song 8/10

8-Famine Pulse: When the triad ends,we start a resting and relaxing part of the album, with 3 songs being the first Famine Pulse. 6/10

9-Pisacis (Phra-men-ma): Instrumental track,groove,relaxing and psycho are the adjectives to this one 6/10

10-Con Safo: What? incredible!!! this is a jazz song from nowhere ! Terrazas and his great skills on the sax gave a magnificant jam with everything...astonishing. 9/10

11-Multiple Spouse Wounds: "No There is no light! In darkest of your furthest reaches" it's the phrase that opens this song and the most important of the album! short and very good song 9/10

12-Sarchoghagi: This is the last 54 seconds of the first track of the album and in a consequence is the epilogue of the album. 5/19

Report this review (#781331)
Posted Monday, July 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Mars Volta was probably the most important new Prog Band of the 00's. Finally there was a band that could write songs that stretched out for 15 minutes, play in odd time signatures, create some of the most esoteric lyrics you are likely to hear in modern rock and still recieve some mainstream attention. Most importantly they were resonsible for showing kids like me that there was more going on in Rock N Roll in those days than either Jack White or Two-Bit Metal band no. 511! "Frances The Mute" is for my money, The Mars Voltas magnum opus. On this album they succeded with creating what they failed to do on "Deloused In The Comatorium" (also an amazing album) and that is proper dynamics. Roughly speaking, the album can be said to follow a pattern: Two peices of fiery Heavy Metal and two beautiful soft songs, all connected with ambient passages that finally leads up to the 32 minute nuclear war of an album finisher: Cassandra Gemini, wich combines the moods of the rest of the album brilliantly. The ambient sections that i mentioned has been a controversial topic for many, and one of the reasons why many people choose "Deloused" over this one as The Volta's best album. But i think that they are beautifully directed with the horn section deserving special praise (in fact the horn playing for all of this album is superb.) I appreciate the more than i do the extended instrumental jams of latter albums. Thats all i am going to say on this topic. A true masterpiece.
Report this review (#951228)
Posted Sunday, April 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars 10 Years On: The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute

I think I have a rather big slice of humble pie to dig into.

There have been some rather negative opinions pointed towards Frances the Mute that have been flung around the internet over the last year or so, many of them coming from my mouth (or fingers, I guess). If this album came up in discussion, I'd immediately jump onto my well- developed 'Deloused, cut in half, and filled to the brim with absolute nonsense' argument, which utterly tore apart those people who enjoyed this album with logic and reason (I hope). And to be honest, I still subscribe to that view a bit, just not so much. To me, this album was the manifestation of Volta going too far, of them losing sight of restraint and subtlety and in the process losing all of their marbles and all of their ability to write a coherent album. 'About twenty minutes of it is really solid, fantastic Mars Volta material', I would often say, pointing at the major song sections of 'Cygnus' and 'The Widow', but when a 30 minute epic has about 12 minutes of real song time, you know you've got problems.

I was so content with this opinion that I didn't even feel like I needed to re-listen to Frances the Mute that much before I gave it a good old 10th anniversary scolding, but I did anyway.


I like it.

How embarrassing.

Frances the Mute is a stupid record. In fact, it's borderline moronic, but once you realise that, and accept it, you can truly start to see the fun in its stupidity. And I'm not talking about this being a tongue-in-cheek lelsoquirky album filled with 12 year old humour, attempting to be 'satirical', I'm talking about the way Volta make prog fun without making it cheesy or needlessly self-indulgent (mostly). At times we're laughing with the music, at times we're laughing at the music, and at times they drop that whole charade and put out quite beautiful passages of music, reminding us so eloquently that they aren't a bunch of bumbling retards being laughable on purpose.

I always liked 'Cygnus' Vismund Cygnus', at least a bit. The song has such an loveable charm in the way it goes about its 13 minute duration. Sure, the instrumental parts are a bit too wanky for what they're trying to achieve, and there's that entire section at the end that quite frankly doesn't need to be there, but it's got some hella fun parts. I think this song works so well because of the consistently catchy vocals from Cedric, that manage to be very poppy and therefore very fun, but without running into cringe-inducing over-saturated pop cheese. The main body of the song is so damn catchy that you basically forget how crazy the instruments behind the vocals are. And to be honest, for much of this song they're crazy in a good way as opposed to a bad one. The drumming is as good as drumming will ever get, and the guitars all sort of gel together to form a manic backdrop that actually works for once. And then there's that breakdown after the second chorus. Man, if that isn't a joke segment I don't know what is.

Past me used to say this song was utterly pointless after four minutes. And he's partially right - that two-minute solo at about 5 minutes in is frankly embarrassing, although the idea to break into a moody solo after the mental first few minutes is a good one, and the music behind the solo is pretty nice. The second half of the song does warrant some great moments, mostly courtesy of Cedric, with the entire vocal section of the bridge being one of my favourite parts of the album. Omar does get a bit of messy wanking going before the (admittedly glorious) drop into the chorus, but it's made fantastic by some glorious snare work from Jon Theodore. But I will give past me this - this song is utterly pointless after about 10. Oh yeah sure a nice ambient break with some ~spooky~ field recordings. Genius. Aside from the fact that it leads brilliantly into 'The Widow' it is totally pointless and at least two minutes longer than it needs to be. Still, four minutes of filler in a thirteen minute song isn't that bad? Right?

I always hated 'L'Via L'Viaquez', for various reasons. Never been a fan of latin music, I think it's corny as hell. Never been a fan of prog bands pulling from latin music, it makes the corniness worse. The messy solos here are still too much, and again, this could easily be a lot shorter. Overall, it's still probably the weakest track here, but time has taught me to enjoy it, at least a little bit. The 'ohohoh yeaaahhhhhhh' part before it drops into the weird chorus is absolutely glorious, and counters pretty much every bad part on this song, seeing Cedric hit stadium-rock levels of over-the-top theatricism, complimented perfectly by Theodore's manic snare hitting. The chorus itself is' odd, to put it lightly. It's ceritanly a bit surreal, dropping straight out from latin rock fusion into a piano-led section in a completely different tempo and mood. And then it flies back into the main section with a nice big old wankfest from Omar. The good and bad on this track balance out pretty well, although as it progresses, the bad gets dragged on far more than the good. I mean what on earth was the point in that final chorus section going on for five minutes?

'Miranda That Ghost Just Ain't Holy Anymore', above all of its flaws, is probably the Mars Volta's best track. The band said the entire thing is meant as a homage to western films, particularly the work of Ennio Morricone, and it does come through a bit in the instrumental. After a minute of (garbage) ambience, we get some really nice ambience coming in, setting a scene so unlike any other Mars Volta song - serene, vast, and subtly ominous. The song portion of this track, ie when Cedric is singing, is fantastic. Truly fantastic. The horns are glorious and upfront, the organ and ambience in the background wandering, and Cedric singing with some true soul that many of his ilk go without. The only thing that stops this being flawless is the utterly anticlimactic finish. I love the big reprise of the chorus, but surely Volta could have exploded it a bit more. Eight minutes of build for a 30 second release and four minutes of nonsense ambience.

And I guess I can't review this album properly without mentioning the centrepiece, a 32 minute song arbitrarily split into 8 segments, entitled 'Cassandra Geminni'. And while the wikipedia page does use the word 'arbitrarily' to describe the track splits, I must say they're oh so useful for separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of this song's duration. Because as you can imagine, this is The Mars Volta with a 32 minute song. Less than half of that will be actual song, the rest will be nonsense.

For part of the song at least, it feels like they've tried to structure it pretty well. It would certainly be a great 16-20 minute epic at least, because of the fantastic way they use recurring themes and mood-setting elements. After a ripping intro, we get Cedric with some strange effects introducing the story. Of course, 'the story' is likely meaningless gibberish, but the way it jumps between spoken word sections and sung hooks is reminiscent of the very best classic prog epics, and it's clear they've done their homework on it. The chorus, which shows up in the first track, and later on in the seventh (26 minutes later) is brilliant. A really awesome, memorable, simple hook, that can easily be transitioned back into without much effort, and is simple enough to do some basic referencing from.

The feeling of restraint stays pretty well throughout tracks two and three, with these pretty much feeling like bridges to the first track, with the only real complaint being that track two does drag on a bit long and lose a bit of momentum leading into three. Fantastic horns in track three as well, really excellent stuff. But then truly it starts to lose it a bit. Track four is the longest single part of the epic and is honestly where they lose any restraint. A softer, more subdued section is always needed in the middle of an epic, but eight minutes? That's practically an epic in itself, and listening to Cedric whispering over noodling jazz nonsense isn't exactly enjoyable. The fifth and sixth tracks sadly continue this trend, but while four and five may be wanky messes of bad solos, I actually quite enjoy the free jazz saxiness of number six. If this was the only solo on the song I would be pretty happy with it to be honest, but we know that can't be true. It also gets bonus points for an utterly brilliant transition into the chorus, which after 26 minutes feels like the absolute ultimate release.

And I guess while I'm at talking this album through track-by-track, I'll give a paragraph to 'The Widow'. I also think it is a testament to this album that each track can be discussed so thoroughly, because each is so unique, and 'The Widow' is the token pop song of the record. Similar to 'Televators' from the debut album, this is probably my favourite song here behind the main part of "Miranda". A brilliant contrast to the opening track, this is an emotional ballad about' something, and Cedric's vocal performance is truly one of his best. Honestly, the only thing I dislike about this track is the fact that the verses are too short. The hook of the song is so utterly fantastic, and it regularly feels as if it comes too soon. I mean, this song is basically three minutes long. A three-minute Volta song, and it's one of their best. Come on, they could have pulled that out a bit longer. Also, bonus mention to the utterly garbage last minute of trashy ambience in this song. Somehow it managed to top the closing minutes of 'Cygnus' for pointlessness and break of album flow.

This album is a laugh. Sure, sometimes it pushes beyond that and goes into material that is just stupid as opposed to being funny, but really I was trying to take it far too seriously, and The Mars Volta, at least in this incarnation, are not a serious band. But the best part for me is that they aren't purposely trying to be crazy or wacky or funny, it just flows naturally with their songwriting style. Too many times have I cringed endlessly at bands who think being as manic as possible is how you make technical music, and many of them were undeniably inspired by this record. Those albums feel like little kids laughing hysterically at people on youtube being random, whereas this is a touch more sincere and its comedy is a bit less childish. It still has problems, but the problems are part of its charm. There is definitely still a bit of filler and a few of the solos border too close on meaningless wankery, but I do quite enjoy this album now. And I'm glad for it.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1376677)
Posted Monday, March 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Those who want to enter into the unknown realms of The Mars Volta's music should either start with this album or with "De-loused in the Comatorium", mostly for safety reasons. If you start with "Amputecture" or "The Bedlam in Goliath", you will be entering the realm of what may seem like chaos and insanity, because both of those albums are some of the most challenging and dense albums I've ever heard. Many listeners actually found this album, "Francis the Mute" very challenging at first, but, believe me, this one is so much more structured than the previous two I just mentioned. The music here fits more of a structured and traditional form of writing, even though there isn't anything very traditional about this album. There are recognizable melodies on this album that are evident on the first listen, and this album probably better represents The Mars Volta than "Deloused..." does, but it is also an excellent album as is this one.

In "FtM", there is a lot more contrast in sound, the music is less dense, there is a lot more experimentation going on, and the music is better on the first listen. This is outstanding song writing and composition all the way through. The process was quite different here then it would be on "Amputecture" and "BiG". On the development of the music on this album, Cedric would write the songs basic structure including the lyrics. Then he would meet one-on-one with the individual band members who would take the basic sound and add their parts to it, taking it slowly at first, and then bringing it up to tempo. Each layer would be added until it became the sound that we have on the album. In later albums, the process was to create music more unstructured and on the fly, all together and at the moment, hence the feeling of chaos that prevails on those albums. This is why it is wise to start out with this album if you are considering exploring the music of TMV.

You get a lot of variety on this album, even within each separate track. "Cygnus..." will give you a good idea of the types of sounds you will hear throughout the album, great structure, complex meters and song structure, amazing instrumentation and even sections hinting on experimentation, especially at the end of the track. "The Widow" is the radio friendly track. It is the most accessible, as would be expected, with a pretty standard 6/8 rhythm and the surprising addition of brass. On the radio edit, the song is just over 3 minutes, but on the album version it is close to 6 minutes. Those extra minutes consists of some really cool experimentation (not really ambient as other reviewers have said, just experimental).

"L'Via l'Viaquez" is another great track that has some great guitar solos and Spanish sounding breakdowns resembling a samba rhythm. This is some great genre mixing sound that you don't get enough of in later albums that break up the wall of sound and denseness that is sometimes present here. Very excellent and creative. "Miranda..." is another great track that continues with the same style of excellent sound and music with all the same complexity. This one has a lighter feel to it at times, though it is still quite complex.

Following this is the 30 minute, multi movement epic masterpiece called "Cassandra Gemini". Again, this one has a lot of structure especially compared to later albums. However, this is probably closer to the chaos that would come, but is still an amazing piece of work. I'm not about to take it apart piece by piece, just expect a lot great guitar work, some dissonance and breakdowns with mood shifts and swings throughout.

The mixes of the later albums would also be more dense to reflect the music. This album is mixed to allow the individual parts to stand out a lot better. Even though I have grown to enjoy the later Mars Volta albums, to me they just don't arrive at the masterpiece status like this album does. It has complexity, experimentation, great musicianship and song craft, better balance and structure yet never commercial (except for the short radio track), great orchestration. This is definitely one of the best prog albums from the 2000's and should be considered essential. This is also an incredible band's best album. A must have for prog lovers.

Report this review (#1379805)
Posted Sunday, March 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The short version: I love this album but there's just so much random noise on it.

The Mars Volta has crafted a diverse, eclectic album with Frances the Mute. From the half-hour epic Cassandra to the catchy, almost radio-friendly The Widow; from Latin, jazz, and traces of funk and hardcore, FtM covers all aspects of a memorable prog album.

There is one major flaw with this album: the sheer amount of random noise present. Sometimes placed at the ends of songs, where it is easy to skip, but more often embedded at their beginnings or middles, it seems to have no musical function except making the entrance to the actual song structure better and more dramatic. For instance, if Cassandra did not have the ten minutes of noodling, the buildup back into the final chorus would not be nearly as powerful and satisfying. Contrarily, the noise ruins Miranda the Ghost That Just Isn't Holy Anymore. It would have made a great short track, similar to The Widow, but they managed to drag it out to almost fourteen minutes and the original song seems to get lost amid all the samples and whatnot. And then, of course, the noise is annoying to listen to on its own. It makes the songs perhaps not more atmospheric but definitely a little creepy, adding a mystique that shifts TMV even farther from the mainstream than they already were.

Cygnus? Vismund Cygnus manages to escape the curse of the noise to a degree, though the very end is full of the stuff. Still, I would cite this as Frances's standout track. After a quiet intro, Cygnus launches headfirst into a chaotic, urgent beginning, screeching to a halt and then building back up from a quiet middle to an energetic close. The buildup is done well, without the aid of random noise and instead based on a musical idea. FtM would be getting a certain five if the rest of the songs followed this idea? Another thing about Cygnus is that it starts with the same acoustic segment that ends the album? something that is simple but genius.

There's a great album hidden amid all the bursts of the random noise, and it's worth hearing. FtM blends various genres and influences into a chaotic but effective, enjoyable sophomore album, certainly living up to Deloused, with more long songs, more innovation, and more prog.

Report this review (#1448777)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars After the controlled chaos of their debut album, The Mars Volta began to further experiment with their music, especially with the concept of dissonance and ambience, creating an album that is more demanding of the listener, but one that I personally find to be far more rewarding as well. While I found Deloused in the Comatorium to be very energetic, Frances the Mute takes it further and becomes downright hyperactive and unhinged.

Despite this further experimentation and the more abrasive nature of the music, there is a considerable amount of unity and cohesion between the tracks, having them all share at least some basic elements of latin music, whether it be the spanish lyrics in Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus and L'via L'viaquez, or the horns used in most of the tracks, giving the music a latin flavour to it. This sort of sound gives a very distinct identity to the album as a whole, while having each song able to then explore their own particular concepts to the fullest, as each song definitely has its own unique idea that the song is based around

. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is an extremely chaotic song that is by far the most consistent track on the album, maintaining insane instrumentation and using the quieter sections to their full effect in order to provide moments of reprieve within, all coming together to form an incredible song. The Widow is next, and is by far the most standard song on the album, having nothing in particular to consider very experimental or unique, instead focusing on the intense emotion brought forth by Cedric's vocals, which really make this song great. L'via L'viaquez brings its latin influence to the forefront, complete with almost entirely spanish vocals and a very danceable melody. This is definitely the most fun song on the album, with further enjoyment to be found in the blatantly over the top guitar solos that permeate the song, yet doing it in such a way that it works amazingly in its favour, as they continue to escalate throughout, but never overstay their welcome. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore utilises one of the most noticeable elements of the album to great effect, ambience. The main portion of the song is surrounded on either side by long stretches of complete ambience, which provides an incredible atmosphere to the track, along with a melancholy tone, with such effective ambience that it honestly doesn't feel like pointless filler, but adds greatly to the song. The final, and by far the best song on the album is Cassandra Gemini, which combines so many different ideas into one 32 minute masterpiece, constantly changing tone, melody, structure, everything. This is definitely one of the high points in the entire catalogue of Mars Volta songs, managing to make a song go on so long without a single moment that feels forced or out of place, starting off with a bang, and continuing it for all the song. I find it genuinely hard to describe this song, since so much goes on in it that I couldn't pick out an individual part to analyse, and have it represent this piece as a whole. This is an incredible song in every respect, and the absolute perfect way to close the album.

One aspect that I've only briefly mentioned is the ambience used throughout this album, which is a highly divisive element of it. I personally really enjoy these sections, as they create some really interesting soundscapes and really tie the album together for me. I personally find this to be the Mars Volta's best album, as while it is somewhat messier at points compared to the almost perfect Deloused in the Comatorium, the heights this album reaches far outweigh any minor gripes I have with it (mostly the Widow's final few minutes being overlong). Definitely check out Deloused first, as it is more accessible in general, but this is their true masterpiece.

Report this review (#2053412)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'm so glad for the existence of THE MARS VOLTA! Between they and any Toby Drive project, progressive rock is safe moving forward along its rougher edges. In his review of the same album, Neu!man made reference to two albums that I think of every time when I listen to TMV: YES "Relayer" and IL BALLETTO Di BRONZO's "Ys"--two if the most amazing boundary punching albums ever to grace the "classic prog" scene. The raw and sonically mind-twisting TMV debut, "De-Loused in the Comatorium," coupled with this more-"controlled" chaos and frenzy here in "Frances the Mute" put TMV in that rarified company of innovators and, thus, true members of the moniker "progressive" rockers. I must add that I'm quite often hearing the spirit and genius of early LED ZEPPELIN in these compositions as well--which is such a refreshing sound to hear and feeling to have once more. (There was only ONE Led Zeppelin!) Though I will not be posting song-by-song, moment by moment commentary in this review (I hope to add that later) I will say that my first attempt to sit through all 77 minutes of this music met with a resounding success; I was glued to my seat, reveling in each and every moment, fully engaged and feeling every nuance and layer of the onslaught I was bathing myself in. Wondrous from start to finish (and around again we go!) (And so I did!) Maturity? Sanity? Clarity? Sobriety? Freedom? Unbound Joy? transformation? Transcendence? Reinventing oneself? I don't know the secret to The Mars Volta's evolution from De-Loused to this one but it is, to my mind, radical as well as a step in the right direction. I have no qualms proclaiming Frances The Mute as a true masterpiece of progressive rock and a sign that the wild and adventurous spirit of contained nuclear fission is alive and well in 21st Century prog. Praise the Lord!
Report this review (#2283197)
Posted Thursday, November 21, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars Classic Mars Volta, including the associations of not only FLEA and John FRUSCIANTE, but also of then-veteran Art-Rock extraordinaire Roger Joseph MANNING Jr. (JELLYFISH, BECK, LICKERISH QUARTET, IMPERIAL DRAG) on piano. Nothing is made in a vacuum, but I am once again curious of their specifically progressive influences. Love the (current?) modern designation of Heavy Prog for them, as this is a genre very much rooted in the past, in the days when Heavy Metal was simply an Acid Rock offshoot.

Of course replete with perverted and near-classic (see "L'Via L'Viaquez") Latin passages and influence, this album is an unrelenting barrage, through loud and quiet moments alike. And of course, this very unique mix of all of the above is what makes The Mars Volta them. Give 'em hell, lay it back down, ramp it up to 11. That's Mars Volta, for sure. In addition to the obvious Latin flavors, we get electronic and dub passages. All nicely fitted into this package, Frances the Mute.

And also, fans of the modern Prog genre should recognize the second track, "The Widow". It's got the hook, for sure. Great song, really. A modern classic, easily. A sort of LED ZEPPELIN Blues Rock thing, with all its modernist complexities (rolling bass, flailing organ, horns, etc.). A similar effect occurs on "L'Via L'Viaquez" (this track is far more masterful than you may realize upon first glance); it's intense and yet very tactful. What can I say? They were a great band.

I would just like to mention that "Miranda... [long title]" is the clear standout... lowlight on the album. It's low and slow. It's not not Mars Volta, or anything like that haha. It's just not that good. A breather on a heavy, dense album such as this one is probably necessary, but certainly not at 13 minutes' length...

The opening monologue on the first part of "Cassandra Gemini" struck me as a cross between Frank ZAPPA and Tom WAITS. Great effect. The big question with this song was "How necessary was it for them to digitally break this up into 8 parts?" Given its clear weaknesses, in my opinion ("Tarantism", "Plant A Nail...", "Pisacis"), really, quite necessary. Does it make for a weak epic? To me: yep. Again, surprised to see it, but "Plant a Nail..." is a Zeppelin interpolation, no? I wouldn't be able to place it specifically though...

True Rate: 3.5/5.0

Report this review (#2652169)
Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2021 | Review Permalink
1 stars Worst prog album of all time

I actually quite dig At The Drive In, so when I heard that two of the founding members of that band had a prog rock band and that they had made a concept album, I was quite intrigued! I mean, what could go wrong? Well, curiosity killed the cat here folks. Let's begin with what I actually somewhat liked

"The Widow" is the only song here that isn't downright awful until the secound half of the song. It's still not good, because Cedric throws on this horribly awful "seductive" voice style which is really not my thing.

A very minor and a completly subjective issue, but this album dosen't really have any symphonic/classical elements to it at all which kind of bugged me because prog without that important factor can go horribly wrong. And oh dear... it truly truly did here folks! Well it's time to go into why I consider this to be the worst prog album I've ever listened to.

This band plays without any cohesion or strucutre to their music, except for "L'Via L'Viaquez", which has some order to it, the rest of this album is just a manic and insanely chaotic cluster[%*!#]. "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and "Cassandra Geminni" are the worst offenders here. The last track is quite frankly, the musical equivalent to a torture session. It's long and brutally painful to listen to, where nothing flows togehter well. Metaphorically speaking, this song feels like an alarm bell going off every 30 secounds. I mean it's just extremly stressful to listen to and actually gives me anxeity, and not in a metal way where the song hits me with adrenaline and it fills me with excitment and a feeling of triumph.

Sonically, this album is latin rock mixed in with jazz fushion. If this was more of a instrumental project, it would be way more tolerable. And now that leads me to the worst part of this album and that is the vocals...

And then we have the vocals, I don't know what in the actual [%*!#] happened to Cedric. But he dosen't sing like how he did in At The Drive In. Instead, here Cedric sounds like a slowly dying cat who is getting impaled by a icicle, he is doing this whispering I don't know if he is trying to sound seductive or what, but it sounds awful and makes me feel quite nauesous.

But overall this album is It's way too chaotic and lacks any semblence of a musical structure to it, it just comes out as a complete and utter chaotic and uncohesive mess.

A truly ablysmal display of poorly constructed, head-ache inducing and truly horrendous prog-rock. I truly think this is the worst prog-rock album I've ever had the utmost displeasure of listening to.

Favourite Tracks: The Widow.

Least Favourite Tracks: Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore, Cassandra Geminni.


Report this review (#2696865)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2022 | Review Permalink
5 stars ¡Feliz Cinco De Mayo! You know, a lot of people relate this day to Mexico's independence day, but that is on the 16th of September. This day is celebrated, though, as it marks Mexico beating France in the battle of Puebla in 1862. I thought, with such a celebratory day, I'd give a little something to celebrate, and what better way than listening to one of my all time favorite bands of The Mars Volta, specifically my personal all-time favorite from them, Frances The Mute.

In terms of alt prog, I think Deloused was the genre's Fragile, but Frances The Mute is the genre's Close To The Edge. I consider this, namely in the fact this is a big album for me, as it really made me wish to push myself to look further into this strange and wild world of prog rock. I listened to this album in late 2021, and at the time I never really liked The Mars Volta all too much, but when I listened to Frances for the first time, I really knew this was an album that is worthy of being called a masterpiece, but it wouldn't be a little later into 2022 that I knew WHY this album is a masterclass of prog rock.

For one, compared to the bombastic but very controlled Deloused, Frances marks when The Mars Volta went from boys to men, as they matured dramatically, not only in music, but in creativity, and just straight up bizarreness. The music here is this chaotic butchery of what Deloused put down, and not only rips it to shreds, but rebuilds it into this weird mix of psychedelic infused latino rock, jazz, hardcore, avant garde rock, drone, and just so much more. They also cranked the latino and hispanic scores to 11, with scores written in a more latino-focused sound and energy, utilizing rhythms that ferment through salsa sounds, and moments of samba, with lyrics often times written and sung in Spanish, such as L'via L'viaquez and Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus.

At first, this strange mix of various styles, genres, and sounds may seem like it'd be the worst time ever, and to those who do think this, I can totally get it, but I just absolutely love it. The band pulls this giant, chaotic bull by the horns, and rides it until the very end. This disorganized but energetic and lively music is what I drive for with The Mars Volta, and is a big reason why this album always struck me as amazing since it does it the best.

This album isn't all chaos though, there are a lot of downtimes in the songs too, namely The Widow and Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. While I love the fast and hardcore rhythms and energy found here, the times of slow, reflective, but equally bizarre music just washes over me, and I love every second of them. This also goes for the ambient and drone pieces from song to song. While it is very divided among fans, and I do see why, I think they are a neat and actually needed element, to let each song settle and transition smoothly into the next. I feel like removing that part of the album just wouldn't work as well, and in fact, would actually ruin the album for me personally.

I think another factor I really love about this album is just the bizarreness of it all, with lyrics containing nonsensical phrases and descriptions, but it is stuff that Cedric sings with such energy and power, that, while I may not understand fully what he is trying to portray, I can definitely feel the energy, so I don't even care, I am here along the ride, no matter what you have to say.

Speaking of Cedric, the musicianship here is just immaculate. Omar, Cedric, and the rest of the band put forth this cathartic instrumental palette that I will eat up anytime, anywhere, and in their giant substream of sounds do I just feel their energy flow through me. Sure, the energy may be extreme and even a little dark and scary, but I live for the fear here, and I think people who may not like this album should take this album into, not one that is the same prog fanfare of Renaissance, or King Crimson, but one that isn't fanfare at all, and more of this dark and underground punk palette, and simply just experience. That is the best way to listen to this album in my opinion, just alone, with nothing around you, and just experiencing the music at hand. I say, from my experience, it works like a charm.

I don't have much more to say other than to just listen to this album. Even if you may not like it, I still say it is an essential listen in both prog, and music in general. This album is one I doubt I will ever stop liking. It is just THAT good.

Report this review (#2921897)
Posted Friday, May 5, 2023 | Review Permalink

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