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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
$4.70
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AmputechtureAmputechture
Universal 2006
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Scab Dates (Live Album)Scab Dates (Live Album)
Universal 2005
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TelevatorsTelevators
Single
Universal Import 2004
$149.98
$1.69 (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 | 1177 ratings
De-Loused In The Comatorium
2003
4.06 | 873 ratings
Frances The Mute
2005
3.87 | 553 ratings
Amputechture
2006
3.52 | 496 ratings
The Bedlam In Goliath
2008
3.64 | 398 ratings
Octahedron
2009
3.52 | 307 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)

3.27 | 111 ratings
Tremulant EP
2002
3.58 | 19 ratings
Televators
2003
2.81 | 18 ratings
Inertiatic ESP
2003
3.80 | 42 ratings
The Widow
2005
3.30 | 23 ratings
L'Via L'Viaquez
2005
3.31 | 31 ratings
A Missing Chromosome
2005
4.33 | 37 ratings
Frances the Mute - Single
2005
3.20 | 11 ratings
Viscera Eyes
2006
2.66 | 19 ratings
Wax Simulacra
2007
2.73 | 17 ratings
Candy And A Currant Bun
2008
3.15 | 23 ratings
Cotopaxi
2009
3.40 | 31 ratings
The Malkin Jewel
2012

THE MARS VOLTA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tremulant EP by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2002
3.27 | 111 ratings

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Tremulant EP
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars It's fairly well known that THE MARS VOLTA emerged from the ashes of the post-hardcore band At The Drive-In that imploded because of the relentless nature of lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez' collective boredom with the status quo of the simplicity of the music they were playing. The two had more ambitious visions and wanted to engage in more experimental approaches. The rift caused the band to fall apart right as they were about to break. Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez- Lopez continued with another side project called De Facto which would evolve into what would become known as THE MARS VOLTA. The other members of At The Drive-In went on to form Sparta. This is also the only VOLTA release to feature founding member Eva Gardiner on bass.

Before the full-length debut "De-Loused In The Comatorium" in 2003, this El Paso, TX based band which has seen numerous lineup changes released a single EP in 2002 titled THE TREMULANT, which has the dictionary definition as a device on an organ by which the wind stream is made to fluctuate in intensity producing a tremolo effect but in reality, the title actually refers to a concept story of "De-Loused In The Comatorium" referring to TREMULANTS which are creatures that dwell inside the mind of the main character Cerpin Taxt. Likewise this reference also portends the title of the first official album that would emerge with a different cast of musicians, a better production job and was the album to put THE MARS VOLTA on the map as a wild and energetic new talent. But the word TREMULANT does seem to suggest the band's musical approach as well even literally.

THE TREMULANT EP effectively serves as the bridge between the post-hardcore sounds of At The Drive-In and the newly created more experimental progressive rock THE MARS VOLTA sound that would be perfected on the following two albums. This short just shy of 20 minute EP contains only three tracks but like the best punk infused albums that display ample quantities of energetic passionate angst as well as pent up frustration, manages to pack in an album's worth of ideas in a condensed version. Many of the traits that would become THE MARS VOLTA classic sound have debuted here as well, those being the punk inspired guitar riffs mixed with abstract and surreal bouts of psychedelia along with progressive complexities and experimental weirdness.

"Cut That City" begins with a rather head scratching minute and a half of gurgling noise and an irregular heart beat type percussive drive before finally bursting into the more familiar guitar driven riffage and frenetic oddly timed drumming patterns the band has become known for although at this point the band was still detoxing from its post-hardcore days and delivers faster tempos than the full-length albums. Likewise Bixler-Zavala's vocals, while always sounding a little goofy, really come off as left field on this one as his all over the map style is even more unhinged than on future releases.

"Concertina" is more of a classic VOLTA track of the future with a nice mix of Rodriguez-Lopez' jittery guitar arpeggios dancing along in clean echoey fashion with Bixler-Zavala delivering his goofy yelp to keep the melodic flow going while the bass and drums provide a slightly off-kilter rhythm section. While only rumored, this track is supposedly a stab at former At The Drive-In member Ben Rodriguez who is claimed to have not been very nice to be polite and is perhaps a release of tension regarding the conflicts that led to the band's untimely demise. This track also displays some of those killer idiosyncratic guitar licks that sound unlike any other. Rodriguez-Lopez at this point had developed a very unique stylistic approach that mixes Latin music with heavy rock and some jazzy touches to boot.

"Eunuch Provocateur" is the meatiest track on board and also the longest just shy of the nine minute mark and also prognosticates the classic VOLTA sound on "De-Loused" with an incessant post-hardcore drive mixed up with progressive time signatures and psychedelic sound effects whizzing by. The track also is the most experimental and creative with not only unexpected twists and turns and deviations but also some stellar backwards vocals that are really saying nothing more than lyrics from children's songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" as well as "did mommy or daddy ever have to spank you?"

For a short little sucker this one really packs a punch and although not as well produced or well composed as "De-Loused" or "Frances The Mute," this one is a nice little slice of rawness that reminds the fans just where the band emerged from and the perfect little transition statement that the band was free to unshackle the chains and take the music to new levels that were unthinkable in At The Drive-In. Except for the annoying one and a half minutes of nonsensical gurgly noise that unfortunately begins this EP, this is actually a really good collection of three tracks that shows THE MARS VOLTA already having their full powers in tact. While the production is a little rough around the edges by the later standards, this one was remastered and released digitally with two bonus tracks, but personally i prefer this straight forward, no nonsense unique little slice of renegade post-hardcore that just wanted to get a little weird.

 Noctourniquet by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.52 | 307 ratings

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Noctourniquet
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars I feel as if this is essentially Octahedron fully realised, with a whole lot of electronic sound and dissonance added on top of that. What I mean by this is that it feels similar to Octahedron in some ways, mainly the large amount of ballads and softer moments, but the songwriting is much tighter and more interesting, while also, in classic Mars Volta fashion, utilises their abrasive edge. I believe that in certain regards, this is the most difficult Mars Volta album to listen to, as the heavy use of dissonant synths and the songs' tendencies to go off the rails make this an uncomfortable listen, but an overall highly rewarding one.

From the opening track 'The Whip Hand', one is immediately thrown into the deep end, with a near apocalyptic sound to it, capturing the feeling that everything is falling apart, further pushing this discomfort with the chorus synths which are borderline unlistenable, somehow working despite this, likely due to the already uneasy tone set. Aegis is a much simpler, more palatable song that uses a simple, yet good rhythm and uses a consistent, driving beat throughout the majority of the song. These two songs really highlight the duality of The Mars Volta, being able to create beautiful melodies while also being able to create nightmarish tracks that give off a real sense of discomfort. From the next four tracks, the two highlights are easily Dyslexicon and The Malkin Jewel. The former of these is one of the most engaging songs on the album for sure, applying various vocal styles and effects, while the backing instrumentals are kept fairly minimalistic other than the occasional burst of electronic noise or the energetic drumming present. The Malkin Jewel, while not as bizarre as Dyslexicon, is one of the high points on the album, being more conventional in its structure, but containing an incredible chorus and an awesome bass groove. 'In Absentia' marks the halfway point on the album, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest compositions by the band. The way it transforms blows me away no matter how many times I listen to it. It starts off highly experimental, filled with all kinds of effects, containing very little semblance of a constant rhythm or even melody, before completely changing into something so beautiful that it feels as if you're being swept away as you're listening.

The second side is much more conventional, with much more focus on the more traditional structure and songwriting. Songs like 'Imago' and 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' are simply divine, being easy to listen to, but containing plenty to enjoy despite this. The track that falls between these two, 'Molochwalker', is a more straightforward rocker, with plenty of energy, reminiscent of their first four albums. The one other highlight from this side is the closing track, 'Zed and Two Naughts' being among the most simplistic songs the band has ever written, but also one with incredible emotional impact, especially during the chorus.

Despite all of the positives this album has, there are also some things about it which drag it down. The muddy production and mix on this album are both a positive and negative to me, while it works well at times, creating further atmosphere and really allowing the electronics plastered all over the place to stand out, I also find it to take away from the song at times, most notably in terms of the drums sounding extremely washed out and muffled. Along with this, I must say that the drumming in general is nowhere near up to the regular standard for me in many songs, as I feel like the drums are much more messily played than both Jon Theodore and Thomas Pridgen. There also happens to be the issue of overplaying in certain songs, especially 'The Malkin Jewel' and the title track, which are both brought down to some extent due to their slower nature poorly fitting with the energetic drumming. I also take issue with a few of the songs, with 'Vedamalady' and the title track both sounding quite unimpressive and dull, and 'Lapochka' genuinely being one of the worst things the band has ever put out, with no decent melody, point of interest, not anything. These issues all come together, and while I absolutely love the majority of the material here, these issues are definitely enough to make me only rate it 3.5 stars (rounded down in this case). I definitely find this to be a massive step up from 'Octahedron', but still can't deny that there are a couple of significant flaws to be found here. I'd recommend to listen to this album regardless, as it is quite varied, both in terms of style and tone, and has some absolutely incredible songs that should not me missed by anyone who enjoys The Mars Volta, while also providing a unique twist to keep things interesting.

Best Tracks: In Absentia, Zed and Two Naughts, The Malkin Jewel, Dyslexicon

Worst Tracks: Vedamalady, Noctourniquet, Lapochka

Verdict: An album with incredible potential that was brought down by poor drumming and some inconsistency. Despite this, there are still a number of incredible songs that more than justify me recommending people to listen to it at least once.

 Octahedron by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.64 | 398 ratings

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Octahedron
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars I'm personally a massive fan of The Mars Volta, considering their first 4 albums to all be masterpieces in their own right, changing up their sound to some extent while maintaining an extremely high level of quality and consistency. I can safely say that Octahedron does the former, while occasionally including the latter as well. In terms of overall sound, the difference between this and their previous album, Bedlam in Goliath, is the complete opposite, stripping back all of the abrasive hyperactivity, instead focusing on creating pleasant ballads with an overall lack of excess. Despite this displaying further variety in their music, I also must say that this is not entirely successful and is honestly somewhat disappointing. Despite all of the elements being here, the exceptional musicality that is toned down in order to fit the tone, the great interplay between instruments, a mostly excellent sense of melody, and excellent production, the compositions themselves are a mixed bag.

Unlike what would generally be expected, I find this album works best during some of the slower songs on the album, with the more standard songs of the band honestly feeling highly lacklustre. Songs like 'Since We've Been Wrong' and 'With Twilight as My Guide' demonstrate what works about this album very well, having vocal melodies which are beautiful, using each instrument effectively to add impact to particular moments, most notably when the drums kick in near the end of 'Since We've Been Wrong'. My personal favourite song on the album is 'Desperate Graves' and is a song I truly believe can stand up to some of the more popularly favourite Mars Volta songs. I find this song to be so excellent for how everything works so perfectly, with my personal choice for best vocal melody on the album, and definitely one of the better ones by the band in general. This combined with the drumming gives the song a great groove as well, before the chorus further heightens the quality of the song, providing some power without causing it to feel out of place.

However, despite the good things that have just been said, I find the heavier, faster parts of the album to feel quite poor in comparison, the biggest offender of this being Teflon, which while it has a cool chorus and is somewhat fun, it is also incredibly repetitive and never escalates the way I feel it should. Cotopaxi provides a different issue, as it genuinely feels out of place as the only song which is so energetic, along with the fact that it simply feels very unimpressive anyway, containing nothing of interest and more or less meandering along, poorly disguising its compositional mediocrity with the sheer energy the band puts into it. However, out of the heavier cuts from the album, Luciforms stands up extremely well, fully embracing the slightly unsettling tone this album has, and using it to create something downright harrowing. This track manages to be completely different sounding from the rest of the album without feeling out of place, still using the slower pace and atmosphere of the album in order to give it some grounding, while simultaneously heavily laying on vocal effects and being excessive in classic Mars Volta fashion, with the ending jam being textbook for the band.

The songs that haven't been mentioned yet haven't simply because they are so uninteresting and generic to me that I have nothing to say about them, both feeling somewhat unnecessary and dull. Overall, I find this album to be a mixed bag, containing some absolutely incredible songs, while also having some which I consider poor. Everything sounds very restrained and stripped back here, which works well for the most part, especially with Thomas Pridgen's drumming, which still has a slightly frenetic edge to it, noticeable during drum fills, while also being much more calculated. Another issue with the album is simply that only three songs really stand up to the previous 4 albums to me, with the rest either being straight up bad to me, or simply overlong and somewhat boring. I wouldn't classify this as a failed experiment as much as simply an album that could have been worked on more in order to achieve true greatness, but even so, there is still enough great material here for me to recommend giving it a listen at least once.

Best Songs: Since We've Been Wrong, Desperate Graves, Luciforms

Weakest Songs: Halo of Nembutals, Teflon, Cotopaxi

Verdict: An album with half great songs, and half that are below average, definitely worth a listen at least once for the great songs, but otherwise nothing particularly special.

 The Bedlam In Goliath by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.52 | 496 ratings

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The Bedlam In Goliath
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars This album can be summed up in very few words, energetic, chaotic, and abrasive. Every element of the band has been kicked up another few notches in terms of pace and the extreme nature of it, with Cedric maintaining his falsetto for much longer portions of songs, Thomas Pridgen playing the drums like and absolute madman, and even the production and mix accentuating the loud nature of the album even further. Despite the extreme nature of the album as a whole, I do appreciate that after Amputechture, an album filled to the brim with excess in songwriting (which to be fair, I loved), the songwriting and structure for the most part has been cleaned up, with less sections dedicated to atmosphere and jamming, and more time bombarding the listener with noise, along with keeping the songs shorter, with only 3 of the 12 going above 8 minutes, creating an album that feels more concise, despite it being approximately the same length as Amputechture and Frances the Mute.

There is a great variety of songs on this album, ranging from somewhat accessible songs, to complex compositions that feel incredibly difficult to wrap your head around. The album starts off with a bang, with the intro to Aberinkula genuinely scaring me the first time hearing it, simply due to how suddenly it began. This song is essentially showing what's to come, being one of the more abrasive songs on the album, thanks to Cedric's vocals in the chorus being absurdly high, before the second half breaks into a dissonant saxophone jam that is reminiscent of Van Der Graaf Generator's White Hammer (albeit nowhere near as harrowing). Metatron continues directly from where Aberinkula left off, but further ups the energy, along with including the first of many choruses on the album that are insanely catchy. This song's structure is really interesting, going off on tangents constantly, making the song very unpredictable, but always going back to the chorus, which is fairly simple and fun, creating a wonderful contrast. After this, there are what are probably the 3 most accessible tracks on the album, Ilyena, Wax Simulacra, and Goliath. Ilyena is undoubtedly the grooviest, most purely enjoyable Mars Volta song ever created, with such a perfect beat to complement the melody, making it almost impossible for me to not grin any time I hear it. Wax Simulacra is another great song, particularly when the vocal layering and harmonisations come in, which creates a really great effect. Goliath is one of my personal favourites on the album, perfectly displaying both aspects of this album perfectly, that of relentless intensity that almost reaches the point of aural exhaustion, and that of some of the most incredibly catchy hooks I've heard. I love how after an extremely groovy first half, with a standard structure, the second half (which somewhat reminds me of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man in terms of the bassline) goes completely nuts, with Cedric screaming gibberish and wailing while the sounds in the background produce a wall of noise that adds to the overall chaos, climaxing in the last 30 seconds in a way that never fails to blow me away.

After this, the second, much more strange, experimental side of the album begins with Tourniquet Man, a pleasant song that devolves into somewhat obnoxious noise, and while it only lasts for a minute, I do feel like this second half of the song is the first misstep on the album, although I do really appreciate the first half, especially since it serves as a short break from all the hyperactivity, and the second half definitely fits in nicely with the album as a whole, so I don't mind it all that much. Cavalettas is the longest song on the album, and definitely one that took a lot of time to grow on me , due to the way it is written being incredibly odd. While I really love the first couple of minutes of this song, along with many of the riffs throughout, I do find the way it constantly fades out to be a strange choice, that I sometimes love, and other times find it to hinder my enjoyment, depending on my mood, although once again, I really do feel like that's part of the charm of the album, having those moments that are almost frustrating to listen to, but it resolving itself nicely, which this song excels at, as it feels almost disjointed from itself at points, yet constantly returns to particular motifs in order to maintain its identity. Agadez is by far my favourite song on the album, with 3 distinct sections that get progressively better throughout. The first section is a fairly slow paced song with a fairly powerful chorus, displaying quite a lot of restraint compared to the rest of the album, before exploding into a beat that reminds me of Drunkship of Lanterns, which when combined with the amazing bassline, creates an absolute powerhouse of a song. The final section manages to further improve upon this by becoming much heavier and introducing a killer riff. Askepios is the only time on the album in which I feel like there is a true misstep, as I find this song to be genuinely bad, with fade outs that last too long, no direction to it, and nothing to make it all that interesting. Ouroborous returns to the purely fast paced nature of earlier songs from the album, while also including some of the best drum and vocal work on the album, another definite highlight. Soothsayer is an interesting song, as it is very atmospheric and eerie, with a much slower pace, very little variation, and some exquisite use of vocal distortion, an oddity, but a great song nonetheless. While Conjugal Burns is one of the less memorable tracks on the album, I definitely find the outro to be the absolute perfect way to end the album, with a loud, unpleasant mess of screaming, distortion and white noise all coming together and then just completely cutting out for one last refrain.

While reviewing this, I was originally going to rate it three stars, as I felt as if many moments just didn't quite reach the heights of previous albums, and the abrasive nature got in the way of me fully enjoying it, as well as it always being listened to much less than the previous three albums.. Despite this, once I listened through, I felt as if I was missing something, and felt compelled to give it a re-listen, in which case I could pick apart more of the subtle elements to it, such as the bassline in Ouroborous adding a much needed bit of melody to such a chaotic song. I put reviewing this album off for a week or two due to how conflicted my thoughts on it were, but in the end, this has genuinely become my favourite Mars Volta album. It doesn't feel right to give out a 4th 5 star rating to a band, but I genuinely believe that this album is also deserving of it, despite Askepios bringing it down slightly. This is an acquired taste for sure, and a definite grower, for those who hate loud music, don't listen to this, as there will be nothing you will enjoy from it at all, apart from possibly Soothsayer. Despite my seemingly generous scoring, I do understand the significance of a 5 star rating, and simply find this album another Mars Volta album deserving of it, unlike their next 2 albums, which I guarantee will not be even close to 5 stars.

Best songs: Goliath, Agadez, Ouroborous

Worst songs: Askepios

Verdict: Recommended to anyone who has enjoyed previous Mars Volta work and can deal with almost unbearable levels of noise at times. Incredible album that takes much of what I love about TMV, and then accentuates them by an obscene amount.

 Amputechture by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.87 | 553 ratings

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Amputechture
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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 | 873 ratings

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Frances The Mute
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator 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.

 De-Loused In The Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.19 | 1177 ratings

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De-Loused In The Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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
3.52 | 496 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
3.52 | 496 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
3.87 | 553 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.

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

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