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The Mars Volta biography
Formed in 2001 after the demise of hard-rock outfit AT THE DRIVE-IN, THE MARS VOLTA was put together by ex-AT THE DRIVE-IN members Cedric Bixler (vocals) and Omar Rodriguez (guitar). Those two then recruited Juan Alderete on bass, Ikey Owens on keyboard, and Jon Theodore on drums, as well as Jeremy Ward, who contributed sound effects. While other ex-AT THE DRIVE-IN members continued on the path of their predecessor with punk/emo band SPARTA, THE MARS VOLTA expanded the sound that they had previously forged, venturing often into extended explosions of free jazz and psychedelic jamming throughout their songs. That said, they still stayed true to their roots as a hard rock band, and while they are listed as art-rock, they could fit under several different genres. Their debut was 2002's "Tremulant" EP, but their reputation was built over their staggering live shows. The group received recognition opening for the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, as bassist Flea proclaimed them to be the best opener he'd ever had. However, not all was well. Ward died from a drug overdose on May 25th, 2003. The band continued on without him though, and their first full-length album "De-Loused in the Comatorium" was released two months later. This brooding record is a concept album about the band's friend Julio Venegas, who went into a coma and experienced amazing things. However, he then snapped out and couldn't take the return to reality, proceeding to take his own life.

If you aren't a fan of louder music, steer clear of them. They may have evolved beyond AT THE DRIVE-IN, but they still show hints of that hardcore/punk style that they had previously mastered, and this may bother some people. The vocals are also a bit over the top, and could easily scare some people off. They make some very good music though, and it should appeal to most prog fans.

- Bryan Adair

The Mars Volta official website

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De-Loused In The ComatoriumDe-Loused In The Comatorium
Universal 2003
Audio CD$4.77
$0.33 (used)
Universal 2006
Audio CD$3.98
$1.22 (used)
Scab Dates (Live Album)Scab Dates (Live Album)
Universal 2005
Audio CD$6.99
$1.90 (used)
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THE MARS VOLTA discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

THE MARS VOLTA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.20 | 1099 ratings
De-Loused In The Comatorium
4.06 | 814 ratings
Frances The Mute
3.85 | 510 ratings
3.48 | 464 ratings
The Bedlam In Goliath
3.64 | 371 ratings
3.56 | 286 ratings

THE MARS VOLTA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.36 | 38 ratings
2.79 | 98 ratings
Scab Dates

THE MARS VOLTA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE MARS VOLTA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE MARS VOLTA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.24 | 102 ratings
Tremulant EP
3.57 | 18 ratings
2.83 | 16 ratings
Inertiatic ESP
3.81 | 41 ratings
The Widow
3.31 | 22 ratings
L'Via L'Viaquez
3.30 | 27 ratings
A Missing Chromosome
4.36 | 30 ratings
Frances the Mute - Single
3.21 | 10 ratings
Viscera Eyes
2.68 | 16 ratings
Wax Simulacra
2.83 | 14 ratings
Candy And A Currant Bun
3.18 | 21 ratings
3.43 | 29 ratings
The Malkin Jewel


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.56 | 286 ratings

The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Noctourniquet is the sixth and (probably) final album by the Mars Volta, a band of volcanic energy, instrumental virtuosity, electric creativity... and a steady downward slide in quality that ends with this messy, electronic, unapproachable, conflicted, abstract, and ultimately awful album. I was excited about this album at the time of it's release, because I love the band's early works and was hoping for a comeback... a wanted to love this album.

I hate this album.

It's one of the few records in my collection that, when I begin listening, I genuinely want it to stop almost immediately. Maybe this is nostalgia or sentimentality for the amazing De-Loused, Frances, or Amputechture, or maybe it's the weird staggered rhythms, non-existent melodies, flat and bland dynamics, highly electronic - almost computerized sound, meandering drumming and guitar work, and joylessness that practically assaults the senses with each song.

That's really it, joylessness, I think. This album simply isn't any fun for anyone involved, musicians included. There clearly isn't excitement from a songwriting or performance standpoint, because each of these songs drifts by as unmemorably and unexcitingly as the one that preceded it. Noctourniquet is more than an hour of sounds that aren't quite songs, aren't quite ambiance, aren't quite experimental. It's like a collection of Trent Reznor demos over which Bixler-Zavala recites abstract poetry to. Discussions and interviews talk about the more concise, song-oriented nature of this album, which I totally disagree with. The entire album feels like one agonizingly long song that doesn't know what to do with itself, and the musicians phone this one in and let the album's producer pick up the pieces. There is nothing to grab hold of or remember here.

It's different than they're other releases I'll give it that, but Noctourniquet fails on all fronts. It's a tragic close to an amazing legacy that is definitely for completionists only. People who don't like Mars Volta will probably hate this album, maybe even more than people who love the band. I'm glad that, now having reviewed this album, I'll never have to listen to it again. No, I'm not exaggerating. I love this band... but I hate this album.

Songwriting: 1 - Instrumental Performances: 2 - Lyrics/Vocals: 1 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

 Frances The Mute by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.06 | 814 ratings

Frances The Mute
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Insin

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.

 De-Loused In The Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.20 | 1099 ratings

De-Loused In The Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by marcobrusa

1 stars Always when i write a bad review i feel like it's wrong or offensive. In this case, i feel like the music is wrong and offensive. It's not hate, it's not that i didn't give it a chance. I simply cannot listen to this. It's impossible for me. Every highly rated album will recieve a bad review at some point so that takes my guilt away. If you like this album or band, do not continue reading because i will be raw. This is probably the most unbearable album/band i've ever heard. The aesthetic is so immature! The hysterical mood just grinds my gears. The singer specially makes me want to punch him. So hysterical... so pretentious... and everything is so fast and loud it makes me feel like they dont have any taste for music; like they composed this just for sport. Like they were faking, pretending they were gonna write a revolutionary modern album: but it's horrible. An insult to beauty and ugliness too because ugliness can be an aesthetic but this is not the case. So many people rated this 5 stars. WTF?! The most overrated album in progarchives is this one. I have no doubt. 1 bothering star.
 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.85 | 510 ratings

The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kevman28

2 stars The Mars Volta. What a strange and unique band! How I wish they would reform, and share more delights with us after a string of fantastic albums, culminating in the magnificent Noctourniquet. Today however, I tried for the hundredth time to sit through Amputechture. This album starts well, but is their only release that I just cannot get too fond of. It's a mess. Songs that sound unnecessarily and awkwardly stretched so far that they no longer make any coherent resemblance to a tune. Widdly guitar that sounds like Robert Fripp during the Discipline era, but off his head on something illegal. Singing that does not work with the guitar. Noise. I think the plan for this album was to see how far they could push their sound, but they went too far.
 Frances The Mute by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.06 | 814 ratings

Frances The Mute
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Frances The Mute by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.06 | 814 ratings

Frances The Mute
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Gallifrey

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:

 De-Loused In The Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.20 | 1099 ratings

De-Loused In The Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is probably the best place to enter the realm of The Mars Volta. Yes, it's frantic crazy music, but this album is probably the most accessible to the crazy walls of sound that would come later in the albums "Armputecture" and "Bedlam in Goliath". In The Mars Volta music, there is always so much going on and for some people, it just gets so overwhelming. The music takes some time to get used to because there is so much to hear. Some critics said that this album was "a sprawling mess", and if they were saying that about this album, they probably had no hope of ever getting their minds around the other two I mentioned.

This album is a masterpiece and the sound is nailed on it. I don't know how in the world it got so popular because it goes against everything that people were listening to at the time, but I'm so glad that finally a band got the credit and audience that it was deserving of, and the real fans have stuck with them. If only we could get the other great prog bands that are currently out there into public awareness the way TMV did.

But TMV's sound is dense in this album, but not as dense as it would become. This album has all the genius of the later albums, but it is so much easier to digest then what would come later, especially on the first listen. It is full of sound, but the sound is much more organized than it would be later, so if this album doesn't quite penetrate and you don't love this album after three or four listens, then you had probably stop your TMV research at this album. Because it only gets denser.

This is rock orchestration, classical music in rock form. This is the kind of rock that I believe the classical composers could appreciate. This is not easy music, it is well composed and performed flawlessly. It is very manic, but at least the mania is orderly on this album. Buried in the sound is a lot of ethnic-inspired music and layers of beauty. There is a lot of dissonance especially in the guitar and there is a lot of King Crimson (Fripp) influence throughout. This is especially apparent in "Cicatriz ESP" which is the longest track on the album. I love the way they expand on that sound. Vocals and instrumentals are frantic most of the way through the album. But, in future albums, it does tend to get tiring by the time you get to the end of the album, that is not the case with this album because this album is more concerned with dynamics and they are a lot more obvious, which textures the music here a lot better, making it easier to listen to.

I highly recommend this album for any prog lover who wants to explore new prog. This music would go on to further inspire other bands, so it is very influential and in my opinion, essential for your progressive rock collection. It is mostly beyond description and must be experienced, but all prog lovers should at least give it several listens and consider it an important album for all progressive music. Very influential and essential.....5 strong stars. One of the best new progressive albums and bands in existence. It's amazing how they have become such a popular band and I'm so happy that they just proves that people are craving challenging and amazing music.

 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.56 | 286 ratings

The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Billy Pilgrim

5 stars What an excellent offering from The Mars Volta. While their work was arguably getting repetitious and dull in Bedlam, they changed their style quite drastically and released a more acoustic, quite and accessible release with Octahedron, that album suffered from having some filler, and some unfinished ideas, it felt uneven and unmotivated at times, but Noctourniquet perfects the ideas in Octahedron, and expands on them. This time on top of the acoustic less heavy style, the music has evolved, and it has an industrial feel to it, akin to NIN, so different from anything they've released but still totally Volta. Hardly any filler, beautiful melodies, great release, highly recommended.
 De-Loused In The Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.20 | 1099 ratings

De-Loused In The Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

1 stars 0 Stars. Prog at its worst.

I have quite a bit of history with TMV which I have to go though before my viewpoint of this band and album becomes clear. I came to discover Prog music about 11 years ago (2004, I was about 14 at the time) though classic Prog bands such as Genesis and Yes. I spent a long time embracing that genre and loving almost all of it. Eventually I decided to look at modern Prog to see how the genre had progressed. So I randomly started with Tool and The Mars Volta given the praise they were getting at the time.

When I heard both bands back then I was horrified by what I was listening. I found TMV to be stupidly over the top, physically painful to listen to and with some of the most annoying singing I had ever heard in my life! I quickly developed a extreme hatred for both bands. I was so put off that I refused to listen to any form of modern Heavy Prog/Prog Metal for 5 years, assuming they would all sound just as horrible. This I now regret significantly as I ignored what would be some of my favorite bands (PT, Anathema, Opeth etc) at that time.

10 years on my musical tastes have changed and I am now much more at home with heavy music including Death and Black metal, but until last week I still refused to Give Tool or TMV a second chance. I figured now is a good time to give both bands a listen again using all the musical insight I have gained since my teenage years. <3>

I found that I had softened my opinion with Tool somewhat, but with TMV nothing has changed. In fact I find them even worse then I did then due to the songwriting being sub-par. For those that have not heard the band they combine King Crimson like frenzy-ness with Latin-inspired Santana along with more Post-Hardcore and Nu-metal features. This translates into lots of fast paced screechy electric guitar solos, manic drumming and ultra-high pitched singing/screaming which sounds like Geddy Lee after breathing in from a helium balloon. This fast paced and very high pitch music is almost relentless (with the exception of Televators, the only song I can listen to without having to fight the urge to press skip). There are quiet moments which tend to be very brief before things get crazy again. Where they do settle down they show that have some abilities in psychedelic rock as well.

The problem with De-Loused and TMV in general is that the band try to act as super-intelligent and complex, but in reality it is all a illusion. Lets start with the lyrics as apparently this is a concept album of a man in a coma for one week due to taking morphine and rat poison (hardly a inspiring concept). But when you look at the lyrics (and song titles) you will find the band have been taken obscure words from the dictionary and used them everywhere. Unlike someone such as Jon Anderson from Yes (who can be understood with a bit of effort) its pretty much impossible to work out what the band are talking about and combined with the fast paced singing/screaming you will never know what they are babbling on about.

As for the complex musicianship, its just noodling at a huge scale. Now Prog Metal and modern Symphonic Prog are well known for noodling and I myself don't have a big problem with it. However usually the Prog band know how to make the track reasonably coherent and to put a usually overblown (but entertaining) story-line in to tie things together. TMV does none of that, its just endless blasts of random odd-time signatures with no care of song development beyond the "ooh cool playing" gimmick which quickly loses interest. It means the band has nothing to say that is artistically interesting.

Finally being somewhat subjective the music played here is very painful to listen to. And when I say painful I am being literal. The high pitch vocals and music is very painful for my ears to tolerate even at low volume. I don't think I have ever gotten though a listen without having a real headache at the end of it. Of course the singer can't help the way he sings, but its something else that needs to be taken into account before you explore this band. You may be like me and just find the music on offer here unbearable regardless of quality. 10 years of listening to a very wide range of progressive music (including Death and Black metal) has done nothing to make this album any more enjoyable for me

The most annoying thing about this band is that they are technically very talented and have been able to create a sound that is unique to themselves. Even though they do not suit my tastes at all I would have given the band 3 stars had the songwriting been strong. The problem is that they wasted all that talent in making emotionless, super self-indulgent music along with immature and ridiculous lyrics. There is nothing in this album that sounds genuine or well crafted. In fact they are showcasing prog Rock at its very worst, where the band puffs itself into some super-complex, intelligent and deep bunch of artists when in fact they are only making fools out of the listener by pretending to have a master plan when in fact there is none.

I find nothing positive to say about this album or TMV in general, they are easily the worst Prog-Rock band I have ever heard. TMV fans will be glad to know that I am only reviewing this album with 1 star as I cannot bear the torture of going though any more of their albums (I have heard snippets of other albums and see they don't get any better). If any TMV fans want to contact me and counter what I have said then I welcome it with a open mind, but you better come prepared as I really cannot stand this band whatsoever.

 Octahedron by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.64 | 371 ratings

The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by bloodnarfer

4 stars More melody, less dense, less cocaine.

Octahedron is a unique release. This is a reletively sparse, mellow, and mature TMV and their most impressive album since De-Loused. Gone is the "Everything in the kitchen sink" approach of previous releases, and what we have is something akin to Televators and it is a great step. Octahedron is much more vocal focused than before, but that's fine because Cedric is in good form. The playing is just as great as we would expect from TMV, only more focused.

From the opening track Since We've Been Wrong, I knew greatness was coming. How can a fevered high-energy band such as TMV begin a song with a 1 1/2 minute long note? A gorgeous and careful guitar picks across each vocal phrase as the song begins. Have you ever heard Cedric sound so delicate and longing as when he says "Since you've been wrong"? The song swells and calms with keys dabbling between verses. And the payoff begins as soon as the drums pound into existance. Solid start to the album.

The stand out tracks for me here are Halo of Nembutals and With Twilight as My Guide for reasons TMV usually does not impress with. Halo has a great rhythmic and ambient intro as Cedric sings a few sparsely accompanied phrases. He sounds great even without the music behind him. It is an obvious tension as you wait for the sound to slam in. The vocals and drums seem to be the lead players as they carry this song from beginning to end. Guitars and keys provide chords and twisted tones in the background. This song is vocal focused which is unusal for TMV and superb.

Next we have With Twilight as My Guide which is an 8 minute song with no drums . And its wonderful and evocative. Cedric contributes his most beautiful vocals to date. (Who knew this guy could sing beautifully?) Its is sad and soft and interesting all at the same time. Omars strums lightly under the vocals as synths provide background chords and oscillations. They did a fantastic work of engineering this song, particulary in the vocal choruses where they hit that "sweet spot".

Luciforms begins with a 1 1/2 tensioned organ-like intro as the bass comes in to bounce between octaves. Enjoyable guitar work by Omar throughout. The songs manages to catch some of the franticness of past releases while still maintaining the "sparse" feel of this album. Its a dark song and a lot of fun.

What we have is a return to grace for The Mars Volta. They have matured and grown on this album. A different, fresh, and inciteful work and their best since De-Loused. An excellent addition to any prog rock music collection, 4/5 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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