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The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1006 ratings

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el böthy
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Set the controls to the heart of the sun

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

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

el böthy | 5/5 |


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