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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1007 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Johnny_Tsunami | 4/5 |


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