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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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Prog Reviewer
5 stars The pinnacle of this band's career, and one of the best prog albums of all time.

While "Amputechture" was the culmination of culture fusion within this group's signature style of Latin-style spastic punk prog rock, this album came together as one of the best albums of all time in my opinion, mostly because of the 32 minute jam epic "Cassandra Gemini", but the rest of the songs are good, although I will say this; if you couldn't get into "De-Loused In The Commatorium", do not, repeat, DO NOT listen to this album; it is by fart the most experimental of their records and can be a bit thick at times.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" starts off in typical TMV fashion with a slow intro bursting into a frantic breakbeat manned by technical god Jon Theodore. The whole record starts off like "De-Loused" did, only one difference though. After chorus #2 in "Cygnus" (very epic choruses at that), the band decrescendos into a soft jam. This is their first record that clearly exemplifies their jam elements that would also be present in "Amputhecture", their live shows (like "Scab Dates", albeit innacurate at best) and even a bit in "Bedlam In Goliath". Eventually the jam picks up in intensity and speed and finally charges full throttle into the final chorus, before the ensemble jams their way into oblivion and obscure 5 minute long soundscape filled with weird people talking and screaming, a slamming metal gate and sonic textures that feel like a huge, f***king spider is crawling all over your back.

Many people credit "The Widow" as their most accessible song to date. Yes and no. While it is a huge contrast to the spastic energy in "De-Loused" and previously in "Cygnus", this is a completely different band than the previous album, despite many elements present in both records. At this stage the band has completely divulged into the experimental aspect of their genre, most clearly identified by their 2 minute long outro (yet another element common in their music, as sonic outros were now becoming common place in virtually all of their songs)

"L'Via L'Viaquez" is the first example in which Omar Rodriguez-Lopez incorporates Latin influences and instruments, a technique he would use to this day in his solo albums. It begins as a typical TMV song, however. Slow intro gives way into frantic rock and then slows into a Latin jam, back to frenzy then into Latin jam, for which the process would be repeated one more time, with an extended Latin jam that ends in Cedric Bixler-Zavala's tantalizing pipes spreading fear in every nerve of your body through a voice modulator that's as creepy as Freddie Kruger driving up to your house in a Mazda Miata.

"Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore". Quite a mouthful for one of the thickest songs in The Mars Volta's repetoir. It begins with the subtle but furiously irritating murmur of croaking tree frogs (those things live outside my house, I don't need to hear them again in a song). It's by far one of the longest intros to what would, to most listeners, be an extremely dull song, as the instrumentation is nearly vacant, besides Flea's trumpet piercing through the eerie silence. It's more of a textural droning atmosphere than an instrumental jam, but the way it's done is a sheer masterpiece, and an excellent example of song structure from one of the most technical bands in all of prog (capped off with a reprise of "Cygnus", which segues into "Cassandra Gemini"

I'll just say this right here and now; the only problem I have with this song is that my version of the album has "Cassandra Gemini" cut up into 9 different tracks, and it ticks me off. Nevertheless, it is the highlight of the entire album. Unfortunately, for you, the reader (if there are any out there), the song is actually just way too long and complex to describe every single detail, but just know this: This is an instrument's favorite song. It has virtually every element you love in a progressive epic of this magnitude. There are numerous jams scattered throughout the track and is sort of built like a Shakespearean epic (Pour Another Icepick starts off loud, Con Safo (middle of the track) is sort of the peak of the track, Plant a Nail In The Naval Stream is the slow transition, while Multiple Spouse Wounds and Sarcophogai send the song [and album] out with a bang)

All in all, it's a progressive masterpiece that is duplicated by no other, and never will. Only the truest of progressive music critics will be able to understand how much ass this album kicks. To quote Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, once it ends, I recommend you to "go home and take a bath". You'll need it after this baby.

Wicket | 5/5 |


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