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THE MARS VOLTA

Heavy Prog • United States


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The Mars Volta picture
The Mars Volta biography
Formed 2001 in Los Angeles, USA - Disbanded in 2012

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

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De-Loused In The ComatoriumDe-Loused In The Comatorium
Republic 2003
$7.50
$1.66 (used)
Scab Dates (Live Album)Scab Dates (Live Album)
Universal 2005
$22.15
$3.48 (used)
L'Via L'ViaquezL'Via L'Viaquez
Single
Universal Records 2005
$9.98 (used)
AmputechtureAmputechture
Universal 2006
$9.89
$1.99 (used)
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THE MARS VOLTA discography


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

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

4.19 | 1159 ratings
De-Loused In The Comatorium
2003
4.06 | 857 ratings
Frances The Mute
2005
3.86 | 546 ratings
Amputechture
2006
3.50 | 493 ratings
The Bedlam In Goliath
2008
3.65 | 393 ratings
Octahedron
2009
3.54 | 303 ratings
Noctourniquet
2012

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

3.35 | 42 ratings
Live
2003
2.79 | 104 ratings
Scab Dates
2005

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)

3.25 | 108 ratings
Tremulant EP
2002
3.57 | 18 ratings
Televators
2003
2.78 | 17 ratings
Inertiatic ESP
2003
3.81 | 41 ratings
The Widow
2005
3.31 | 22 ratings
L'Via L'Viaquez
2005
3.30 | 29 ratings
A Missing Chromosome
2005
4.39 | 35 ratings
Frances the Mute - Single
2005
3.21 | 10 ratings
Viscera Eyes
2006
2.65 | 18 ratings
Wax Simulacra
2007
2.76 | 16 ratings
Candy And A Currant Bun
2008
3.18 | 21 ratings
Cotopaxi
2009
3.43 | 29 ratings
The Malkin Jewel
2012

THE MARS VOLTA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.86 | 546 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

5 stars The Mars Volta's Amputechture takes all of the more bizarre, experimental elements from the previous two album, Deloused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute, and has them take centre stage as the main attraction while also ditching the concept album formula in favour of crafting a group of tightly written songs. Each song has different qualities to it that make it unique, and while the seemingly intentional overblown, chaotic and dissonant nature of the album will scare some people off, I personally find this to be the crowning achievement of the band. Despite essentially throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, this kitchen sink approach to songwriting has worked surprisingly well in the favour of the band, creating diverse music that ranges from atmospheric jams, jazz, and even occasionally some world music thrown in, along with many other interesting moments with very little filler.

Vicarious Atonement starts things off slowly, with incredible atmosphere and great guitar work, with Cedric's vocals further accentuating the somewhat creepy, yet also despondent tone. This is a slow burner for sure, with a lot of use of space and ambience within the track, perfectly setting the listener up for the aural bombardment that is Tetragrammaton. The moment this song kicks in, the familiarity to previous works is somewhat found, with the standard sort of chaotic instrumentation that is a staple of the band. This is my second Mars Volta song for sure, managing to create a 16 minute song without a single second of filler, with the semi spoken word section bridging into the next two verses to be one of my favourite musical moments, constantly escalating while creating an extremely fun groove, all exploding into a near cacophonous chorus. The next noteworthy track is Meccamputechture, which acts as the centrepiece to the album in more ways than just placement, as it perfectly incorporates elements from other songs on the album, predominantly the riff from Tetragrammaton and some bongos that will be later used in Day of the Baphomets. Along with this, the saxophone on this track is simply amazing, along with the intro and outro both being absolutely top notch as well, especially the borderline acapella in the intro. The final incredibly noteworthy song is Day of the Baphomets, which is not only my favourite Mars Volta song, but my favourite song of all time, with a perfect blend of technicality with tone and even being fun in the process. The intro comes in and instantly feels like some sort of twisted, tribal chant, before leading in to some harrowing vocal work, causing the song to have a tone not too unlike a panic attack of sorts. This pace continues throughout the the entirety of the song, all climaxing in one of the most off kilter percussion solos I've heard.

The song VIscera Eyes, Vermicide and Asilos Magdalena are all incredibly good songs and act as breaks between the 3 massive epics, with Vermicide being a fairly straightforward song with a good chorus and good use of distortion and Asilos Magdalena being sung entirely in Spanish and being the most pleasant moment on the album, to the point of being downright relaxing, even if in typical TMV fashion, it slowly descends further and further into madness, until it essentially becomes noise. Viscera Eyes, while being a long song, is also a surprisingly straightforward one, having an extremely defined, groovy riff backed up with an extremely tasteful brass section, making for a song that is't all that difficult to listen to while still being adequately interesting, especially once the change of pace occurs.

The single weaker moment on this album comes from the final song, El Ciervo Vulerado, which while quite psychedelic and atmospheric in nature, is also somewhat drawn out and ends in an unsatisfying manner. Despite this, I still feel as if it is an all around decent song that simply doesn't live up to the soaring heights of anything else from TMV's first three albums.

While this album took quite a while to grow on me due to the extremely abrasive nature that it could have at times along with the general insanity presented, once it did grow, it became my favourite thing this band has ever done, with 3 epics that all represent the Mars Volta at their peak of songwriting, along with many other songs that can also stand very strongly. Cedric's vocals here are even more high pitched and absurd than before, with a falsetto that can be described in no other way than ridiculous. The instrumentation, particularly Jon Theodore's drumming is incredible here as well, with very little time spent doing pointless stuff for the sake of complexity, as each section of a song feels like it is an integral part of it. What really sets this album apart for me however, is the sense of fun that it has while still maintaining a mostly serious, occasionally terrifying tone, creating a difficult, yet highly enjoyable listen.

Best Tracks - Tetragrammaton, Day of the Baphomets, Meccamputechture

Weakest Tracks - El Ciervo Vulnerado

 Frances The Mute by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.06 | 857 ratings

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Frances The Mute
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

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.

 De-Loused In The Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.19 | 1159 ratings

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De-Loused In The Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid

5 stars When The Mars Volta burst into the music scene with their debut album in 2003, massive ripples were caused, and it isn't difficult to see why. This album's application of modern alternative and post-hardcore influence in their sound, along with the dramatic, energetic nature of them made them an incredibly unique band. The Mars Volta happens to be one of my favourite bands, with their first 3 albums all being utter masterpieces in my opinion, with this album being the one that I can consider to be near perfect.

The album starts off incredibly, with Son et Lumiere setting the melancholy tone of the album perfectly, before transitioning into the wonderful Inertiatic Esp, which is undoubtedly one of the peaks of the album in terms of pure energy. Cedric's vocals, while not necessarily amazing, are extremely dramatic and emotive, with his wails of "Now I'm lost" sounding incredible due to this. The next few songs, from Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of) to Eriatarka, all sound fairly similar, yet each maintain enough identity to properly define themselves. While Roulette Dares has a strong focus on the chorus, along with the verses sounding quite chaotic, Drunkship of Lanterns has a great deal of focus on a constant, driving pace and energy, never slowing down until the very end, seguing perfectly into the much softer Eriatarka. Out of these, I'm personally not too much of a fan of Roulette Dares, due to it feeling somewhat uninteresting and slightly overlong without any particularly strong moment to back it up, while Eriatarka is one of the highlights of the album for me, due to the exceptional chorus and the softer nature of it, providing some respite after the insanity of the previous songs. The way that the chorus transforms in the third appearance of it, containing different rhythm and instrumentation is nothing short of amazing, and was the moment that solidified my high opinion of the band.

After Eriatarka, the second half of the album kicks in with another definite highlight, Cicatriz Esp. This song is nothing short of a masterpiece, with a bassline that no matter how many times I listen to it, still blows me away every time, being backed up by some of Cedric's best vocal work on the album. This 12 minute piece utilises some extended jams and ambience in the middle section, providing some nice atmosphere and making the final chorus even more impactful, being further elevated by the overdubbing of Cedric's vocals. The next track, This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed, is the other song that I consider to be slightly weaker than the rest of the songs, simply having nothing in particular that defines it from others. Televators manages to be another incredible song on the other hand, being more minimalistic in certain areas, mainly having a lack of insanely technical instrumentation. This song also features the best of Cedric in his entire career, with him hitting high notes extremely cleanly while putting so much emotion behind everything sung. The final song on the album, Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt is definitely my personal choice for best song on the album, providing even more experimentation and fully displaying the skills of each member of the band. The song switches up its style constantly, jumping from vocals that sound more spoken (well, yelled) than sung, to pouring his heart out in a chorus, transitioning into an instrumental section that incorporates some jazz elements, as well as containing a solo which I can only describe as obscene. The song ends quite abruptly in a burst of energy that hadn't been felt since the opening moments of Inertiatic Esp, ending the album in a similar fashion to the way it began.

The energy found throughout this album is amazing, with incredible amounts of technicality displayed by everyone, creating a powerful overall sound that occasionally can become a wall of noise. Despite the seemingly chaotic nature of the album, the production allows for each instrument to be heard completely, allowing the skilful musicianship of each member to be heard in their full glory. As stated at the start of the review, while I do prefer the two albums after this more than this one, I do think that this is the band at their most cohesive and perfect, as other than a couple of small gripes with it (particularly with Roulette Dares, which a lot of people seem to love, so I'll leave that one as purely up to preference) I honestly cannot fault this album. This is one of those albums which I'll heavily recommend to almost anyone, but keep in mind that if you aren't a fan of the somewhat noisier side of music, you likely won't fully enjoy this album. at least the first couple of times through, but if you're looking for some prog with a more modern spin on things, l highly recommend you check this out.

 The Bedlam In Goliath by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.50 | 493 ratings

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The Bedlam In Goliath
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The fourth album from The Mars Volta, 'Bedlam in Goliath' has the reputation of being their loudest and most inaccessible album for a good reason . . .it is the loudest and most inaccessible. It is mostly a wall of noise without hardly a hint of a melody or anything repetitive. And it hardly ever lets up. So, if that's what you are in the mood for, then it's perfect. But that is the key, you have to be in the right mood. The music is progressive rock in the extreme. But like the best progressive rock, you have to listen to it several times before it penetrates and grows on you, then you can pick out the themes and melodies much better.

The story behind the album is a bit eerie. It was inspired by a Ouija board which was a gift from vocalist Cedric received as a gift from guitarist and songwriter Omar. The band got into the habit of playing with the board after concerts, and got to speaking with 3 different entities in the guise of one entity the band named Goliath. The band named the board 'The Soothsayer'. Strange things started to happen to members of the band and 3 of the regular members actually quit the band. This started a streak of bad luck that was prevalent through the recording of the album. Tapes disappeared, personal lives were shattered and the engineer that the band hired quit saying that what the band was trying to do was going to make him and other people crazy. Omar eventually broke The Soothsayer in half and buried it in an undisclosed location. However, Cedric incorporated names and themes from the messages from the Ouija board into the lyrics. The band incorporated Santeria, which is an African religious tradition, to the music to reverse the bad luck experienced by the band. It also used stories from the board to help water down the bad luck by spreading it around to listeners. If that doesn't raise your hackles during this Halloween season, then you have nerves of steel. Whether this has anything to do with the overall wild sound of the album, I'm not sure, but it definitely sounds much more chaotic and loud than previous albums.

'Aberinkula' is the first track. It means unbeliever, or it is also the name of a Nigerian drum. It immediately establishes the level of complexity and sound that you will be inundated with throughout the album. The instrumental break is a crazy explosion of drums, guitars and keyboards that follow no real pattern. The song itself does follow a verse/chorus pattern. 'Have you seen the living/Tired of their shells' are the lyrics of the chorus and are the words from Goliath the demon. It ends with an extended instrumental break, that is wild and complex, and very impressive.

'Metatron' continues with this as it flows straight from one track to another. Harmony is in a high pitched key, which contributes to the unsettling nature of the music. The first theme is changed further in to what seems like a more laid back feel, but that feeling is messed up quickly as the music becomes more chaotic. Any semblance of standard songwriting is lost at this point and it becomes hard to discern returning themes, but they are there.

'Ilyena' is easier to discern when it starts as it gets quiet suddenly. This song is named after the real name of Helen Mirren. The vocals are hard to understand as the voice is processed heavily, but when the band kicks in, the voice becomes normal. The song is a little easier to grasp at first, but its complexity changes that soon enough. The melodies are anything but typical also. The music is still chaotic, but I still love it because it is so original. It's always changing too, but as I listen to it, it becomes more understandable.

'Wax Simulacra' is a short track just over 2 minutes, but still full of all of the same complexities as the other tracks thus far. Just because it's shorter doesn't make it any more accessible.

'Goliath' is next and has a catchier riff in the vocals and guitar, but, as usual, everytime you start feeling that you are accessing the music, it goes to a new extreme. At least it is easier on this one to catch the verse section of the track. There is a wild yet amazing guitar solo after 2 minutes in and the bass is quite good too. That unsettling chaotic feeling still reigns. In the next section, there is a fast bass line trying to establish a more jazzier feel. This one reminds me of a 'Bond' style feel, but with the over the top craziness still overruling everything. This track is definitely one of the highlights.

You finally get a slight reprieve on 'Tourniquet Man', but it is only a short track, again just over 2 minutes. This is the only real mellow part of the album with the most accessible track, but that unsettled feeling still continues, even so. And that voice at the ending is enough to scare the peacefulness you might feel away quite quickly.

I could go on trying to describe these tracks, but after this, the crazy and chaotic, the unsettling and noisy continues to permeate the album. There is just so much going on in this music, it is impossible to keep up with. As I said earlier, this is progressive rock to the extreme, it never rests, and at the end of it all, as great as it all is, you feel like you have been pummeled. Because there is so much to digest in these tracks, it can seem like each track is just like the last one, especially when you listen through it the first several times. But if you give it time, things start to break through the wall of chaos, and you begin to hear structure and thematic elements. But it takes a lot of time. And even when you get to that point, you still feel like you have been pummeled.

Even when you do start to get a handle on the music, you can only really listen to it when you are in the mood. It is an excellent album to have around, but it isn't their best, mostly because, strangely enough, it is so inaccessible. But even the inaccessibility isn't the biggest problem here, the hardest thing about it is how unsettling it all is. It's excellent, it's amazing, but it is also tiring. It's just too much to take in all at once, and because of that, it is hard to fully appreciate. This is why there are so many different opinions and rating of this album. But it is hard to not consider it at least a 4 star album.

 The Bedlam In Goliath by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.50 | 493 ratings

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The Bedlam In Goliath
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by ScarletViper

4 stars Ah yes, the Bedlam in Goliath - when I found this page on these forums, i was suprised to find that this album is so... divisive. Since this is my first review, I probably won't make this too long-winded. That being said, I think this album is exceptionally good - one of my favorites for sure (right behind Frances the Mute and Amputechture for me).

The good things about this album:

1. Stunning musicianship is found on this album, as is the norm with the Mars Volta. Dare I say, some of their best work with songs like "Goliath," "Metatron," and "Was Simulacra." 2. Energetic. Holy crap, the momentum this album has is ridiculous. While some people listen to this album and hear a disjointed mess, I hear some of the Mars Volta's most climactic and fast-paced songwriting to date. Is it a little bit entropic? Sure. But is it forward-driving and consistent? Definitely. 3. Experimental. As per usual, the Mars Volta does something different with this album. While sometimes this can be iffy (I'm not a huge fan of the robot voice in "Askepios" and "Tourniquet Man"), the sophistication in songwriting doesn't disappear amidst the shouting, heavy percussion, and guitar solos. 4. Great songwriting. Many of the songs (at least to me) are memorable. The endings to songs like "Ouroborous" and "Goliath" are some of their most climactic, exciting works yet. Songs like "Cavelettas" and "Soothsayer" continue the Mars Volta tradition of messing around with time signatures and dissonances to create an odd, but haunting feel.

The (potentially) bad things about this album: 1. It lacks the slower, eerier moments of albums like "Amputechture" and "Frances the Mute." Almost the entire album is a wall of sound. This can make it a bit jarring for a new/ inexperienced prog fan and/or Mars Volta fan. 2. It isn't as punkish as Deloused, but does go a little bit more towards the energetic punkish vein. It is at a bit of an odd place between Deloused and Frances/ Amputechture. I could definitely see where the complaint that this album is inconsistent or doesn't know what it wants to be might come from. 3. As aforementioned, the experimentation sometimes feels unnecessary and egregious. This is a nothing complaint for me, but its worth mentioning - this isn't a great album for somebody new to this band.

These downsides are more objective, however, then personal problems I have. This is a great album in my book. Overall, I give it an 8.5/10

 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.86 | 546 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The third full album by Mars Volta is a very dense album, hard to penetrate because of the extreme amount of music going on throughout most of the release. The lyrics are very cryptic, the vocals are somewhat extreme and the music is complicated, dissonant at times with melodies playing against each other and a lot of experimental and improvised solos, sometimes played at the same time. But with some time and patience, your brain will start to make sense out of all of it.

The closest comparison I can think of that many will be familiar with would be 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' by 'Yes' which is also their hardest album to access. A lot of this is for the same reason. On both this album and Yes's album, you won't really understand everything, because there is so much going on. Dividing the songs up into subparts, like Yes did on 'Close to the Edge' makes it easier, but on ''Oceans' they don't do this, so you just have to sort it out yourself. The same is true with 'Amputechture'. One advantage here though, is that there are a few shorter tracks which are a little more straightforward, even though they can also be quite involved. I found the best way to approach this album by Mars Volta is to find a lyrics site and try to follow them. This gives some insight to the music and will help you in dividing the longer songs into subsections.

After the first few listens, I thought I would never understand this album, but soon I noticing returning themes in the vocals and the music. Also, reading the lyrics will help you locate the returning themes thus helping you analyze what you are listening to. This album's main theme is how religions can affect society, mostly in negative ways. Knowing that is a good start.

The first track 'Vicarious Atonement' is a good start to the album in that you get a good sense of how the rest of the album will be sounding, but it doesn't have the multilayerd wall of noise that you will get later. The song is more mid tempo which also helps. You will notice that the lyrics are hard to understand, but knowing the theme of the album will help shed some light. Next up is the 16 minute epic track 'Tetragrammation'. The music in this track is quite dense and without any help, can make you think that you will never understand it. The song is full of rhythm changes, hard to follow melodies, impossible to understand lyrics, and counterpoint solos going on among the instruments during the many instrumental breaks. The subject of the song is the torture and exorcism of a Romanian woman who was thought by a small congregation to be possessed by a demon, when in reality she was mentally ill. The congregation tied her to a cross and left her overnight with the parish leader thinking this would exorcise the demon. In the morning, she was found dead. The lyrics in this one were made up on the spot and not read from a pre-written lyric sheet. The band wanted the feeling of the vocals being similar to 'speaking in tongues' as this mentally ill woman was doing during her torture, which explain the tone of the lyrics and the way they don't make a lot of sense toward the middle of the song. There is also sections of the vocals that are treated to give the singing a 'possessed feeling'. Of course you get a lot of excellent performances from the other members of the band, plus a lot of rapid fire drumming. There are quieter breaks throughout the song, many of them sudden and unexpected. This song is an absolute masterpiece of progressive music.

After this often chaotic track comes a more accessible one called 'Vermicide'. This one to me is the weakest on the album, but it gives a short reprieve to the heaviness of the two long tracks that come before and after it. 'Meccamputechture' comes next and runs for over 11 minutes. This one deals with the use of saints or holy figures as pieces of jewelry or on clothing items, or in other words what is known as Iconography, using 'humans as ornaments'. Again this one is quite dense, but is built similar to the 2nd track with many passages with a lot of things going on all at once and other quieter passages. But I find this one is a little easier to follow as far as where the subsections are. There are once again sudden changes in mood and style with hardly even a breath or a pause between them.

'Asilos Magdalena' is completely sung in Spanish and accompanied mostly by a Spanish sounding guitar, but with non- traditional melodies. It's not until 4 ' minutes in before this changes and things seem to get more chaotic towards the end. The translation to English reveals that the lyrics are still quite hard to understand. The subject of this song is about the Roman Catholic asylums that were created to rehabilitate fallen women. 'Viscera Eyes' contains both Spanish and English lyrics, both equally confusing, but well sung regardless. This one is actually based off of a repeating riff in the percussion and bass section, so it seems more structured, but the other instrumentation over the top of this repetition is still complex as well as the vocal parts. This repeating base changes after more than halfway through to another riff which then repeats to the end with all the complexity going on around it.

After this, we return to form with 'Day of the Baphomets' which is about a group of cult members invading the homes of Christians with the hope of getting them to realize their way of life is wrong. The methods they use are strange which includes stealing their items and kidnapping their children. I told you this was the dark side of religion. The same style is used on this as on the other tracks over 10 minutes on this album, excellent progressive styles with what seems to be everyone soloing at once. You also get a sax added in to the mix. Very nice sounds and textures are used throughout this track. Last of all is a very slow and more ambient style track called 'El Ciervo Vulnerado' which means 'The Wounded Shepherd'. Even though the title is in Spanish, the lyrics are all in English. This is a very dark sounding, brooding track. It deals with how religion can get into your mind and how hard it is to completely lose it later. It also deals with the second coming and how the narrator is not going to be saved.

All through this album you get sudden solos, sometimes played at the same time and other times on their own, this also includes some percussive solos. There are some interesting sounds played on the instruments along with more traditional styles and some of the vocals are treated and some are not. I can pretty much guarantee most people will not get this album on the first sitting and probably not even on the tenth listening, but if you give it time and patience, you will get it. This is also how I felt with 'Tales from .Topographic Oceans' (and, by the way, with 'Relayer' also by 'Yes',which is why I make the comparison at the beginning of this review. Eventually, I understood that album and I grew to really love it. This also applies to this album. I also understand that many people might not want to take the time to understand this music, and maybe won't even like it once they do start to understand it. That's okay. But I can tell you, that I love this album and consider it a masterpiece, even through it's chaos and thickness, but it took some time to get to that point. I have to give this 5 stars, because it is quite a groundbreaking album, and for this to be as inaccessible as it is, it's quite amazing that The Mars Volta has got such a large fan base. That is a huge feat in and of itself.

 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.86 | 546 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by thesameoldfears

5 stars Ok, so I've been going back and forth between 4 or 5 stars, but I'll settle on 5 to balance out some of the negative reviews on this triumph of album. I thought this was a really compelling release. Vicarious Atonement is a slow burn that sets the table perfectly, with its ominous soundscape, searing guitar, and troubling lyrics. Then bang we get Tetragrammaton which is almost 17 minutes of a true musical odyssey; lots of twists and turns and musical contrast, never gets boring. The vocals on Viscera Eyes are just awesome when paired with the catchy guitar riff underneath. Day of the Baphomets is a really wild track which seems to be pulling from tons of different influences, but it does a very good job of conveying a sense of impending doom. I found this to be a really challenging but ultimately engaging listening experience.

Just one note on the mastering, I think this album has been mastered too loud. There seems to be some degradation in sound quality, and it really gives me ear fatigue sometimes. The music is already very heavy at times and the mastering engineer shouldn't have felt the need to crank the volume on top of that and damage the sound quality.

 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.54 | 303 ratings

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Noctourniquet
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by russellk
Prog Reviewer

3 stars With this, their last album before a timely disbanding, THE MARS VOLTA complete the transition from a psyched-out retro-prog band to a standard rock band with a few tricks. Gone are the epic tracks, the demented guitars, the crazy concepts. All that is left are the songs and, despite their undoubted quality, they're not quite enough.

Part of the problem is that by this point the band is itself a slimmed-down version of the eight-man goliath from their glory days. No Ikey on keyboards is a severe loss, for example (as was his untimely passing in 2014). But at the heart of it is the disintegration of the relationship between Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala. Hard to make great music when the trust and respect isn't there. So, with a few exceptions, the songs here are one dimensional, pallid imitations of their previous work.

All that said, there are plenty of bands who would be proud to have Empty Vessels, Aegis, The Malkin Jewel and the last two minutes of In Absentia on their resume. On the other hand, there are more than a few clunkers on this album, particularly near the end.

A great band. Whether they appealed to you or not, you should be grateful for the way they pushed the boundaries of hard, psychedelic prog rock. Just not on this album.

 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.54 | 303 ratings

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Noctourniquet
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 | 857 ratings

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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.

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

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