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The Mars Volta

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The Mars Volta Frances the Mute album cover
4.07 | 1007 ratings | 178 reviews | 46% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2005

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus (13:02) :
- a. Sarcophagi
- b. Umbilical Syllables
- c. Facilis Descenus Averni
- d. Con Safo
2. The Widow (5:51)
3. L'Via L'Viaquez (12:22)
4. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore (13:10) :
- a. Vademecum
- b. Pour Another Icepick
- c. Piscacis (Phra-Men-Ma)
- d. Con Safo
5. Cassandra Gemini: Multiple Spouse Wounds (4:46)
6. Cassandra Gemini: Tarantism (6:40)
7. Cassandra Gemini: Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream (2:56)
8. Cassandra Gemini: Faminepulse (7:41)
9. Cassandra Gemini: Pisacis (5:00)
10. Cassandra Gemini: Con Safo / Tarantism Intro (3:48)
11. Cassandra Gemini: Multiple Spouse Wounds - Chorus (0:47)
12. Cassandra Gemini: Sarcophagi (0:54)

Total Time 76:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Cedric Bixler-Zavala / vocals
- Omar Rodriguez-Lopez / guitars, synths, field recordings, producer
- Isaiah "Ikey" Owens / keyboards
- Juan Alderete / bass
- Jon Theodore / drums
- Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez / percussion, keyboards

- John Frusciante / guitar solos (3)
- Roger Manning Jr. / piano
- Larry Harlow / piano & treated clavinet (3,8-12)
- Flea / trumpet (2,4)
- Adrian Terrazas / tenor saxophone & flute (8-12)
- David Campbell / strings & horns arranger & conductor
- Nicholas Lane / trombone
- Bill Reichenbach / bass trombone
- The Coqui Of Puerto Rico / bass trombone
- Salvador Hernandez / trumpet
- Wayne Bergeron / trumpet
- Randy Jones / tuba
- Larry Corbett / cello
- Suzie Katayama / cello
- Diego Casillas, Erick Hernandez, Ernesto Molina, Fernando Moreno, Joel Derouin, Josefina Vergara, Mario DeLeon, Peter Kent, Roberto Cani / violin
- Lenny Castro / percusssion

Releases information

Artwork: Dan Abbott with Storm Thorgerson (design & art direction)

CD Universal Records ‎- B0004129-02 (2005, US)
CD Universal Records ‎- 075021039773 (2005, Europe)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE MARS VOLTA Frances the Mute Music

THE MARS VOLTA Frances the Mute ratings distribution

(1007 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(46%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

THE MARS VOLTA Frances the Mute reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by billyshears'67
5 stars Whoa, what a surprise. I loved De-loused when it first came out, but I listened to this about 5 times the day it came out and I was shocked at how different it was. They really pushed the boundaries on this album and I just love this band's ferocity that just bounces out of the speakers. Although the band doesn't like categorizations (who really does), this album will go down as one of the best "prog" albums of this decade, standing in its very own corner.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" is one of their most consistently awesome songs yet, while "The Widow" isn't much new it's still a good song. "L'via L'viaquez" is full of energy and like most of this album makes you wanna freakout and dance, but chills out during a few salsa interludes. "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is pretty chilled out for this album and it has great melodies, in which it serves as a suitable prelude to the total headf**k that is "Cassandra Gemini." I'm not a fan of this song because it's about 32 minutes, I'm a fan of it because I love emotional freakout jams, that this song has. It really washes the flute, saxes, and trumpets really well with this song. This song has also one of the most bodacious hooks in it, that when it occurs you're like "killer." This song has so much to offer and hopefully they'll perform it live.

I was waiting at the door of the local music store the morning this album came out on March 1st, and I wasn't dissappointed. STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND GO BUY THIS, WHOOAAAAAH!!

Peace & take care

Review by frenchie
5 stars I waited for this album for so long. Ever since i heard the first little rumour i've been desperate to hear this album. I started to hear a lot of news which made me long for it even more, such as the fact that Omar and Cedric are rumoured to have given up their lifelong habit of drug abuse after they were stunned by the death of Jeremy Micheal Ward, their sound manipulater. This would definetly hint towards a change in concept and sound for the next album as deloused was undoubtedly a drug induced trip of brilliant progressive soundscapes, blending psychadelia, hard rock and general insaneness! To all of those forum regulars, you know how obsessed with this band i am, and i am so proud of myself because i managed to resist downloading the pre-release version of the album in January and waiting forl the proper release! My friend Giacas downloaded this album in January and to my surprise he thought it was incredible and kept telling me how good it was, which added to my temptation!

When i first heard that the album would be a 77 minute epic with only 5 tracks i leapt for joy. The Mars Volta are a band that have gained commercial respect after the success and influence of former band At the Drive In, so their music has been under the eye of the more commercial side of music, something that isn't too common in prog rock, at least not since the 70s. In the UK, Zane Lowe (one of my idols), MTV2's presenter and host of their brilliant show, Gonzo, has supported The Mars Volta, spreading the word about their music, which he often does for bands that dont tend to follow commercial music patterns or have trouble getting recognition. This really helped turn the music industry, especially music magazines to prog for the first time properly since the giants of prog were in their prime (eg Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson... you know the score!). Every review i have seen of this calls it a masterpiece. Thats exactly what it is.

Frances the Mute is a landmark in progressive music, one of the best albums since it all began.

Deloused in the Comatorium is one of my favourite albums of all time. A masterpiece. Frances the Mute is every bit as good as that album, maybe better, but it is definetly a masterpiece in a whole different way. I think this album will be a lot more appealing musically as it sounds like a pure prog album, taking a lot more influences from the giants of prog, yet it has a very very strong mars volta sound. This one is less of a rackett and more musically based, Omar sounds even better on the guitar! Has anyone noticed how peaches en regalia "L'via l'viaquez" sounds around the 9 minute mark?!

Juan Alderette takes over on the bass, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers contributes some excellent trumpet work! John Frusciante plays alongside Omar really well on L'via, producing a very latin feel. These guys are making much better music here than they ever ventured on in RHCP. This is one of the most original pieces of music i've ever heard, taking so much influence from hard rock, psychadelia, latin rock and post rock, with touches of symphonic orchestral, keyboard and brass work, classic guitar solos, and eerie ambient sounds.

The whole of this album was written and composed by Omar A Rodruiquez- Lopez, yet he allowed the rest of the band to have a great input and add their own magic into this amazing formula. Cedric pushes his voice to even further lyrics, whether its the upbeat frantic vocals of Cygnus, the breathtaking vocal harmonies of "The Widow", the haunting and emotional wailings on Miranda or the electronic masking on the closing epic, Cedric has left me stunned on this album (and i thought he was one of the best vocalists i've ever heard when i listen to Deloused). The whole band have outdone themselves here. The Mars Volta have shook off their hardcore punk, druggy roots and have progressed to making music this beautiful. Omar's guitar work sounds a lot more organised and more inviting. "Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus" shows off some similar guitar patterns to the previous album, played amazingly with lots of attention to detail. His best moments on this album lie in the solo to "The Widow", that incredible guitat intro to "L'via" and that erupting solo 3 minutes into the same track.

The band seem a lot more comfortable playing together and i cant wait to see them live on Wednesday. Ikey once again, excells in keyboard playing, one of the best guitarists ive seen since the likes of Rick Wakeman, Anglagard and Dream Theaters keyboard work. I think he gets a much better sound out of this album as the keyboards seem a lot more appropriately placed and organised than on the debut. Jon Theodore has less more frantic drumming and more paced and consistent drumming this time round. Juan alderette is much more suited bassist in terms of prog. His best work is on "Cygnus" and "Cassandra Gemmini". Marcel, Omar's brother replaces Jeremy and seems to fit right into the band.

"Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus" is an epic and a great way to kick off this masterpiece. The basic acoustic intro sounds earpleased and shows off that beautiful voice, then it errupts into loud madness, insantly showing a great change in sound since deloused, yet keeping a similar style going. The use of foreign lyrics works really well and that backing chorus just drives me wild! It just comes in so perfectly! When Omar lingers with the "my my my", it feels almost orgasmic. This piece is so upbeat that it is instantly enjoyable. I love that insane, bassy, electronic section that begins just before 3:20. It just blows my mind.This track weaves in and out of mellow and rocking moments, flowing superbly. There are no breaks inbetween this album which makes it even more of a treat (as well as a challenge, but thats easy for us proggers!) to listen to.

"The Widow" is definetly the weakest track. When i first heard this track on its own before the album was released i was worried. I thought the first 3 minutes were insanely amazing, The lyrics and vocals made my heart melt! I almost fell in love with this track, Omars guitar sound is so warm and inviting, he just gets better and better, the brass section here is pure musical magic. The last few minutes of the song sounded scary and very unradio friendly for a single release! but once i heard the album i realised how well it made the album flow, it gets L'via going nicely and feels comfortable, giving the album even more greatness!

"L'Via L'Viaquez" is incredible. I've never heard anything like it, the spanish vocals work really well and the latin guitar sounds and musicianship blow me away ever time. This one is very upbeat and is probably the most accessable track on the album for new listeners. After hearing this i knew that this was a strong contender for the best album i've ever heard! The solo that comes in around 3 minutes is like an orgasm, it is built up so well with the quieter section before it! There is a definite Frank Zappa influence around the 9 minute mark, this track flows immensely well and it was nice to see some more of the bands prog influences shining through. The track has a weird climax, with a voice that sounds like a slowed down vinyl record, deep and demonic. This is puzzling and maybe not a great climax for such a great track but very listenable. I liked the way they ended the track on such a weird, original and slow note.

"Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", The first 4 minutes are made up of ghostly sound effects and amazing waling sounds from Cedric, reflecting the theme and title of this section of the album. This is broken with an incredible brass intro that gets me weak at the knees whenever i hear it. I often find myself skipping to about 4 minutes because i just cant wait to hear that trumpet sound whenever i hear this track, though i very much recommend listening to the intro as it makes it flow better and builds up to the trumpets really well. Cedrics voice uses a similar slow and emotional sound to it like on "Televators", but he sounds twice as good hear, this is one of the best vocal performances i have ever heard! The lyrics are amazing and when the verses hit the chorus section it just feels like pure heaven! This will forever remain one of my favourite tracks ever! The vocal section is short but sweet, it nearly makes me cry when it is over, just so very emotional.

"Cassandra Gemmini" is a defining epic, i expected this album to have an overture or lengthy build up but it just kicks in straight away, it follows a very frantic structure throughout that grips the listener, certainly daring and original for a half an hour long suite, this will give "Supper's Ready" and "Echoes" a run for their money! I love the weird effect that Cedric uses on his voice at the begining, the lyrics to this song are about as big as an essay but it is definetly worth a read! There is an amazing "chorus"ish section that keeps popping up and amazing, mainly at the begining of the suite but is used as the climax. "Cassandra Gemmini" gently fades out with Sarcophagi, just like the way we entered this album.

REPEAT: Frances the Mute is a landmark in progressive music, one of the best albums since it all began.

Review by con safo
4 stars The much anticipated follow-up to the very well done deloused in the comatorium, Frances the Mute is mars voltas sophmore effort, and it does a good job of taking what was done musically on that album, and taking it into a new (but not completely unfimiliar) direction. The album, though filled with fantastic, tight and complex music does tend to drag, as the ambient parts are for the most parts fairly un-interesting. These annoyances aside, the fantastic music more than makes up for it.

I resisted the temptation to download this album and wait until it was released, and my efforts have payed off. Frances the mute is a concept album in the essence, and not easily interpreted. Its definitely an album that warrants your full attention. Clocking in at over 75 minutes, its definitely worth the 10 $ you'll pay for it.

The opening track, 'Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus' introduces us to the protagonist 'Cygnus', loosely based on deceased band member jeremy ward. From here you enter a brilliant world, and your guides are some VERY talented people. A latin-influenced prog sound, you'll be hard pressed to fit this music into one genre. It's simply not possible. One of the great things about this band is the seamless blend of paranoia inducing time-signatures, odd ambient sounds, and the mind-blowing guitar work courtesy of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. After a seemingly pointless 3 minutes of ambient sounds we enter "The Widow", already released as a single, and the only song on the album short enough. What it makes up for in length it makes up for in impact, being one of the most important songs concept wise. After another tedious 3 minutes of ambient noise we begin "L'via L'Viaquez" which features two great guitar solo's by RHCP's John frusciante. Very nice salsa-influenced chorus in this track. "Miranda" begins with yet another pointless foray into ambient soundscapes, and don't get me wrong, ambience can add great atmosphere to an album, but in this case it seems to go nowhere. Once the song does kick in, it is a real treat. Reminiscent of "Televators", it is a slower song with a very latin feel, nice trumpet contribution from yet another RHCP member, flea.

The real treat is the 32 minute epic "Cassandra Gemini", which ties the story together into one thrilling climax. All the musicians of TMV shine in this track, mind-bending guitar solos, un-human drumming, and cedrics amazing vocal range. Cassandra herself is a bit of en enigma concept wise, cygnus's twin, or cygnus himself? Nobody knows for sure, but the eventual spiral into madeness will leave you gripped. Cedric whispers "ill peel back all of my skin/peel back and let it all run" and then the band lets you know how this feels, a true sensory overload. The movement "Faminepulse" is an intense instrumental segment with some awesome trumpet and ambient guitar noises, all degenerating into a reprise of the albums first movement "Sarcophagi"

A solid 50 minutes of absolutely fantastic music, and a dissapointing 20 minutes of aimless ambient noise. Though i do love this album, i don't find it in my CD player much anymore, as the amount of tedious ambience makes this quit a lengthy listen. I am hoping their next album cut's down on the ambience. Definitely worth your money. 4.5/5

Review by hdfisch
3 stars TMV's second full-length studio output actually would have all essential ingredients for an interesting prog album - multi-part lengthy tracks, a cyclic structure, mellotron, plenty of odd-timed rhythms, sudden breaks between quiet and driving sections and blending different music genres like salsa with hardrock/heavy metal . But unfortunately it contains as well in the first 3 to 4 tracks too many filling parts with redundant lengthy electronic noodlings or noise experiments which are disturbing severely the continuous flow and an enjoyable listen. IMHO these are exactly the features of Prog giving a reason to those fellows who blame it for being pretentious. And honestly I think they're completely right in doing this. I really can't get the point what it is good for if otherwise good tracks are being spoilt by something like that.

As said before first two tracks are quite fine if one cuts the final unnecessary parts off. Especially in the second one this part is much much too lengthy and actually absolutely unbearable (at least for me). Third one "Via Lviaquez" is an excellent sort of progressive salsa, only short part in the beginning and end could be cut without missing anything. Maybe I should mention that actually I find it a pity if it's necessary to edit the tracks of an album to make it enjoyable. Actually I prefer to see prog albums as an entity and not to strip it down to its individual parts.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isnt Holy Anymore" starts with an again too lengthy part with ambient noise and some spine-chilling electronic noodling, probably the right thing for a horror movie or to listen loudly in complete darkness. After four minutes finally some music is starting with guitar, sax and synths sounding quite nice actually after one has got used to the vocals.

"The Cassandra Geminni suite" suddenly is bringing back the band's well known high energy and is a very good track as well again using some sax. Second part is a very tough and quirky one as well with some dissonant avantgarde-type parts at times. In the third one the sound becomes very orchestral but as well incredibly loud. This eight parts suite is really a very interesting piece of music revealing quite different sides of the band.


With this album TMV is proving very well that they are a creative and innovative band with a high potential for big things to come from them in future. Although they might never become one of my favs especially due to the vocals they managed here a lot better than with "Deloused..." to convince me of their talents and quality.

(edited 7/19/2006)

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I came into this album with pretty high expectations. After all I was one of the legions of prog fans who was charmed by The Mars Volta's full length debut Deloused In The Comatorium, and many of these guys had also raved about Frances The Mute. However I confess to feeling slightly let-down and distinctly confused ...

Like De-Loused, Frances The Mute has its share of highs and lows, although the ratio here is marginally less impressive. This album is clearly more diverse than its predecessor, and if the whole album was of the quality of the half-hour long piece Cassandra Gemini then I'd recommend it whole-heartedledly. However there are too many ordinary moments here for me to be able to do so.

The frenzied funk of the opener Cygnus ... Vismund Cygnus isn't bad with some nice harmonies, trademark rapid-fire drumming and riffing and a decent chorus, but it was a little too similar to stuff on De-Loused for my liking. It also set a nasty trend on this album of too much low-decibel atmospherics ... although I'd have to say it was within acceptable limits for most of this piece, with a nice crescendo as the whole band came back in, but the last 3 minutes of the 13 minute track is just "noodling".

The second track The Widow is certainly listenable, but is actually "just" a standard blues song in disguise. It too fades into some wierd fairground organ noises that I wouldn't quite describe as music.

The third piece L'via L'viaquez sees a fiery funky opening descend into a laidback psychedelic Latin groove, and the trick is repeated twice. Frankly it's cool for just a little while before it gets tedious. In fact, the third time the Latin groove came back, I was downright annoyed (and that's despite a rather tasty piano solo making its way into the song!).

The fourth track Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is the ultimate example of what's wrong with this album. There are lots of sounds and hardly any music until about 4 minutes into the piece. Of course, it then turns out to be a brilliant psychedelic mellow tune, with some excellent spacey keyboards, and a rather Gothic mid-section that leads into a powerful driving, almost "battling" passage before some jazzy trumpet lines fade the piece out ... into two more minutes of low-decibel music, although this passage at least has some discernible melodies. Some basic editing would have made this piece a bona fide classic, but as things stand ... it isn't.

Amazingly the concluding epic, the 31 minute long Cassandra Gemini is actually pretty well paced! In fact it might just get my vote for the best epic (more than 15 minutes, let's say) song recorded over the last 25 years! It's got a funky opening with some nice fluttering flute fills and by the 4 minute mark, there are some great attacks going on (with ol' Cedric warbling away tunefully on the top of it). Then an awesome (early) Black Sabbath-like riff takes over, while great drumming holds the next part together, apart that eventually leads into a build-up that includes both organ and flute. At 9 minutes, the piece breaks down into an avant-garde piano section, while by 12 minutes everybody comes back in. There's a powerful string-led interlude before a section in which the guitarist goes arpeggio crazy (but in a pleasing way!). The song then dies down for a while, before returning with some searing (in terms of sound, not the playing ... which is not particularly impressive) organ leads. It then drops down again into an ominous bassy section, with some trippy understated guitar leads gradually making their presence felt. There is a lengthy fade out that sees some heavy-duty saxophone playing before Omar and Cedric return to take the piece home. It's not Supper's Ready or Close To The Edge, but Cassandra Gemini really is something every prog fan should listen to at least once.

In conclusion, I'd just have to repeat my own confused analysis ... I know this album is more progressive and diverse than its predessor and it has some truly awesome moments, yet I don't quite enjoy it as much. Maybe time will clear this one up for me. ... 66% on the MPV scale

Review by Yanns
5 stars Aaah, rewritten album number 4, and what a re-write this is. It's actually getting the big 5 from me. Now, I'm very conservative when it comes to this. I believe that a 4 star album is an incredible album. However, it needs that something extra to become a full-blown masterpiece. It's a tough word: masterpiece. Perfection. I give five stars to the all-time classics like Close to the Edge. Mind you, I don't do this because everyone else does. I do it because I believe they are masterpieces. OK, I've gotten my point across.

The Mars Volta is one of the most innovative, creative, and forward-thinking bands to ever exist. Yes, I said it. Get over it. All of you who hail this whole experimental/post-rock genre as not prog, bad, typical modern music, please don't do that. Most of you saying this have not even given the bands here a chance. And by "chance", I mean more than one listen. Try having an open mind. Geez, that's what prog is all about. And, of course, I am a firm believer that we are all entitled to our opinions. So, to each his/her own, I guess. But give them a chance before you shout your opinion of disapproval.

As for this album, it is one of the largest strokes of genius in my collection. You can go down the line from 1967 to 2005 and put the top albums up, and this would have to be there. I believe that it is the best album of 2005, and most likely, the new millenium. Originality knows no bounds here, and it is executed with brilliant playing and amazing song writing. Omar is a genius, and Cedric is a fantastic vocalist and lyricist. Combined with Ikey's tasteful keyboards, Theodore's potentially frantic but structured drumming, and Juan's solid bass work, you're all set.

Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus: The acoustic guitar opens up peacefully, and then Cedric's voice comes in, and you can tell that this is different than De-loused... Then, The Mars Volta kick into gear, and it starts, like an unstoppable onslaught, it doesn't stop, but you don't want it to. It grows and grows, until it reaches the 9/8 12/8 8/8 time signature section. The bass sets the foundation, while the drums hold it together. The guitar and keyboards work their way in, and it builds slowly until it gives way to Cedric closing out this section before it returns to the original. Followed by a few minutes of different sounds and noises. I'll leave you to decipher those. The song is mind-blowing. The only song style that could have opened this album.

The Widow: And it calms down. The tidal wave drops for the moment. And The Widow starts. It's the radio song of the bunch. Nonetheless, it is perfect/brilliant. I actually saw the music video in California. It made me happy (seeing it made me happy, the video itself is quite disturbing). The song, the shortest one here, in itself is mellow with great guitar work in the middle. Very interesting, followed by 2-3 minutes of sound effects (cut off for the radio) before:

L'Via L'Viaquez: Could be the most original song ever written. The band amazes with me with their ability to think to the future. Omar, as I have already said, is a genius. It starts off with some of the best guitar work on the album, followed by the Spanish lyrics of the song. Followed by, lo and behold, the Latin section. Forward-thinking? Understatement. So incredible. Frusciante gives some absolutely mind-blowing solos here. Towards, the end Cedric's voice becomes demonic, but still incredible.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: Absolutely positively stunning and mind-blowing. I didn't know a song as mellow as this one could be this fantasmagoric. The trumpet work is absolutely incredible, and when it builds to the climax and the drums start in.... one of the best point's in music. Period. I don't want to say anymore.

Cassandra Geminni: Oh my God, I almost can't write all this. An album as incredible and masterful as this, it's impossible to put into words, and to do so is tiring. This is an epic among epics in a way. I'm actually going to do something weird here. I'm not going to say any more about it. I'll let you figure it out.

TO ALL FANS OF PROGRESSIVE ROCK MUSIC, HEAR ME. I believe that you should own this album. At the very least, just give it a try, give it its due. It is a masterpiece of progressive music, completely. Do not simply shrug it off. Be open-minded, and hear what I hear, if you can. 5/5 stars. And you're hard-pressed to get that out of me.

Review by Zitro
2 stars This album is what I believe my least favourite type of music (Punk/Hardcore) trying to be intelligent, artistic and proggy at the same time. I could admit that it was a complete success for them, and I read very high reviews in amazon, allmusicguide, and even this progressive rock site.

I may differ from the majority, but I find this album not as enjoyable as people do (I still like it very much). I warn the reader that this CD has several minutes used for sound effects and noise. A also give the warning that it contains very loud music and some lyrics are in Spanish.

1. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus (5/10) is a very creative and loud track full of changes of tempos and time signatures. I can understand how many people can call this epic a masterpiece and I will not prove them wrong. It is just not my taste of music.

2. The Widow (4.5/10) This track is more accessible, yet for me, I think of it as an average alternative rock song with noise put in the last 3 minutes. The noise is tolerable here and doesn't hurt the song.

3. L'Via L'Viaquez (7/10) : This is the song that I enjoy the most, and my favourite song from the band for now. It combines hard rock, hardcore, and latin music in an impressive way. My only criticism are the spanish vocals/lyrics at the beginning which make me beg for mercy : I find them horrible and nonsensical (I am hispanic). The rest of the song switches a salsa- like groove and a hard rock section back and forth, until there's a good salsa jam, which is ended by distorted vocals.

4. Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anmore (4/10) My least favourite epic from the album. The main factor is the pointless noise in the beginning that doesn't seem to end. When the track gets going, it is atmospheric, it delivers good vocals, and a surprising, yet effective, trumpet solo.

5. Cassandra Geminni I (2/10) This is a very long epic that feels a little overlong. Nevertheless, it is THE Epic of the band. This is when the band is at its most experimental and virtuosic. I would not spoil the song for people interested in hearing this album, you should hear it for yourselves. Unfortunately, I find it completely unlistenable.

This is not an album for everyone. IT is very challenging and different from the normal (like Gentle Giant). My recommendation goes for anyone who likes challenging, heavy, and highly creative music (like King Crimson) and also for people who feels neo-prog is mainstream dull music.

My Grade : D

Review by loserboy
5 stars The MARS VOLTA have done it again and have released a hugely theatrical and powerful concept album to totally blow your mind. Back in 2003 The MARS VOLTA released their debut album "De-loused In The Comatorium" which took me back and became my favourite album of 2003. "Frances The Mute" again musically blends multiple genres. prog, rock, jazz and funk themes into a harder edged sound. "Frances the Mute" sees the band again pushing the boundaries of music and have released a jarring but undoubtedly creative progressive album. Apparently the concept of this album was inspired by a real diary that band member Jeremy Ward (RIP) found. The album and the music covey feelings that emerged from the diary readings... abandonment and addiction. All the music was written by band lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez who adds lots of crunchy solos and powerful chording throughout the album. Volta would also not be the same without the powerful rock voice of Cedric Bixler Zavala who brings this album to life. Once again I would frame with album by comparing it to a machination of KING CRIMSON's power with space sensitivities of PORCUPINE TREE and the urban frailty of RADIOHEAD. These guys are an acquired taste for sure and regardless of market pressure they have released a whopper of an album in "Frances The Mute". Pretty much an essential album.
Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A wild rollercoaster ride of an album - that's the best way to describe The Mars Volta's second effort, "Frances the Mute". It has all the ingredients of a classic prog record: lengthy tracks (the closing "Cassandra Geminni" clocking in at 32'), a 'concept' behind it that can be only termed as weird, suitably obscure lyrics (a good half of them in Spanish), an elegant Storm Thorgerson cover, music that crosses all possible boundaries, blending metal, punk, prog, Latin influences, free jazz and psychedelia to create a unique whole.

However, as others have observed before me, the album misses being a 5-star masterpiece mainly because of an excess of noise that makes some parts rather harrowing to listen. This use of electronic noises reminds me sometimes of Pink Floyd (besides the obvious Thorgerson connection), though the English band have always been a touch more restrained in this respect. When The Mars Volta actually play, they do it very well, and the contribution of such special guests as Flea and John Frusciante is nothing short of excellent (listen to the latter's two blistering solos in "L'Via L'Viaquez") - so, why include so much filler? The noises are what turn most people off the album, which is a real pity.

The highlights of the album are the opening "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus", introduced by a slow acoustic passage (which also closes the album) which leads the way to a fully-fledged electric barrage punctuated by Cedric Bixler-Zavala wailing, though amazingly expressive vocals, and the Latin-flavoured "L'Via L'Viaquez", which blends furious riffing with slower, salsa-tinged sections. "The Widow", by far the most listener-friendly track on the album (though not my favourite), is a modern take on a bluesy torch song complete with mournful trumpet. That leaves "Miranda" and "Cassandra Geminni", which feature the most noise and are as such harder to take as a whole. However, I quite like the latter's closing section,with its reprise of the initial "Sarcophagi".

I think "Frances the Mute" should be recommended as a brilliant, though flawed, example of modern progressive rock. It's not something you can put in the background: you really have to listen to it, and all too often this is definitely 'uneasy' listening - but the good parts are outstanding. I, for one, must admit I'm looking forward to the band's development in years to come.

Review by Moatilliatta
5 stars A little under two years after their astonishing full-length debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium, The Mars Volta are back with Frances the Mute. After being mesmerized (and I still am) by De-Loused, I was anxiously awaiting the follow up. While it was difficult enough to render such an album as its predecessor, this one is even more ambitious than the 2003 masterpiece!

The cover art is very peculiar, and also contains an alternate cover, which is basically the same picture, with very minute differences. There is fascinating artwork throughout the booklet. The packaging also contains the lyrics for "Frances the Mute," which is not found on the album. You must get it elsewhere, and you must get it in order to have heard the entire album.

The album contains five songs, four of which break 12 minutes, and one of them, "Cassandra Geminni," even tops 30. From what I was told, the label made the band break up the song for more tracks; otherwise they would only get paid for an EP. So there are 12 tracks instead of just 5. Three of these songs are comprised of movements, which is also new for the band. Two of these movements are used as recurring themes, which help keep the album musically together and cogent.

Acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals mark the opening of the album in a passage titled "Sarcophagi," the first movement in the opening song: "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus." After capturing your attention with that, they take you off on a thrilling musical journey through the story of Frances; it is a story derived from a journal they found, and the lyrics depicting the story are bizarre as ever, complete with multiple languages. Cedric showcases his supernatural vocal abilities alongside the manic rhythm section and uncanny guitar and key work. You are taken through a tour de force comprised of high-speeds, odd shifts in time and various tempos. The opener itself is one of the finest songs progressive music has to offer.

You may think that after suffering the loss of Jeremy Ward (the man behind their sound effects), and not yet replacing him, they wouldn't use as much noise on this album, but no! It's actually the contrary; there is a bunch of noise here. The noise is used to tie all of the songs together. However, one might argue that it is way overdone. If you find excessive noise to be a hindrance, you will most likely have a problem listening to this straight through. While you won't be getting the full effect of the album, the songs are nevertheless incredible when taken in as individuals. If you don't have a problem with noise, enjoy.

"The Widow" is the only short song on the album. It is no slouch though. Quite entrancing actually. Many compare its general sound to Led Zeppelin, though it is more complex and dense than any comparable Zeppelin piece. It makes for a great single, and it is.

"L'Via L'Viaquez" demonstrates their Latin prowess. It shifts from a hard rocking verse, to a down-tempo salsa refrain, with an extensive jam that builds off the salsa portion of the song. We hear some solo work by Omar and even keyboardist Ikey, who is rarely the forefront. From there, you are brought into a soothing soundscape that starts "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore." After the long prelude, horns break out - majestic, yet very eerie. This ballad is captivating, beautiful and eerie all at the same time. The vocals have this sincere frailty on this track, which are executed perfectly by Cedric. The first recurring theme appears here as "Con Safo," heard in the first song, fades in at the end.

When you least expect it, BAM!

"Cassandra Geminni" takes over and from the get go is a powerhouse. The high- power does not let up for quite some time. Even the softer passages are full of power. I can not even begin to explain what goes on here, and I should not even try. It is risky business attempting such a song as this, but they nailed it! After this magnum opus, they conclude the song and let you off with a reprise of "Sarcophagi."

A tough listen for some, but what a gratifying listen it is! The Mars Volta further proves that they are today's dominant musical force, and that they are among the finest groups of all time.

Review by The Rain Man
5 stars At first listen, it just sounds like a complete mess and is all over the place, though bit by bit it begins to make more sense....

1st listen - Widow single (edit) clicks. 2-5 listens - Cygnus apart from the last 2 mins clicks. 6-10 listens - Miranda - (now I realise the true genius of it). 11-15 listens - L'Via L'viaquez -(brilliant). 15-20 listens - getting there with Cassandra Gemini but its still pretty tough

The bits such as the last 3 minutes of the widow and 2 mins of Cygnus along with various other parts of the album can only really be described as 'awkward' listening. When the later minutes of Widow were playing my Mum actually thought the CD was jamming! To be fair it does sound that way. I do wonder what Omar and Cedric think of these parts, as they must have a reason why they are included. Obviously no one could understand their music more than them so they must see something in these parts which make them special enough to have included them on the album. In saying that, what I thought were 4 awkward minutes in the beginning of Miranda, I now realise that it really does act as a superb build up till the trumpets slowly come in. The uses of the trumpets are what makes Miranda such a cold and chilling track and adds to the atmosphere of the album as a whole.

Like any good album you really can't judge it until you've listened to it a lot. I really didn't like this album for starter especially as it is meant to be listened to in one sitting. At 76 minutes long, I think the sheer length of it played mind tricks on me and instead of properly listening to the music, I was thinking of how long it was. As you keep listening to it, time gradually becomes insignificant and when that stage is reached you can truly appreciate the album because it will start to make sense, so you're focusing less on the time and more on the music.

This album is to deloused as deloused is to relationship of command (At the Drive-in) because from relationship to de-loused, they really did take their music to another level and now they've managed one step further. Whether they make the next step with their next album remains to be seen, where that step is I don't think they even know! But one thing is for sure they have the talent to be timeless.

One thing I really like about this album is the concept that it is never ending, it can just loop forever because the end of the last track Cassandra, turns into the intro for Cygnus. This album also shows how singer Cedric really has moved away from ATDI even further because there are virtually no 'shouty' bits at all. In fact Frances shows what an amazing singer he really is. He hits notes which most people could only dream of reaching, for example the "oh yeah" s during Cygnus or the "bring me to my knees towards the beginning of Cassandra. Overall his pure and unique vocals add a great deal to the album.

However the key to this album which holds it together is not Cedric's unique vocals, Omar's exquisite guitar playing or John's mental drumming - but it's the infectious baselines which set the tone for the whole album. While Omar, Cedric, John along with the other contributors go off into their own little worlds in the album, the base line is the constant throughout each song and brings it all together. In particular Omar's guitar playing seems to dance round the baselines not knowing which way he's going to go next.

To explain what their album is like compared to other prog albums I'll put it in to context by using the analogy of running. First of all I'll explain how much music in general can be related to running. Anyone can run a mile, maybe at different times, but they can still run it. Just like pop music, its east to understand. However longer runs require more training and you have to build up to it. This is like progressive music because you need to listen to it lots in order to understand it or to appreciate it to its full potential. To put this into context of this Mars Volta album is like a 3 hour long run. A 3 hour long run can take many shapes and forms. The MV album is like a mix of urban and rural landscapes. The urban bits are the straight forward road running bits, or the parts of the albums which are the easiest to understand. However they are still hilly sections in this part to keep it challenging. Then there is the rural parts which are the parts are the rough trails which take longer because it is more technical. This represent those 'awkward' moments of the album.

To sum up Frances the mute is a never ending journey through a musical landscape. A tough 3 hour long run may sound completely unthinkable to some people, but if you do the training its nothing short of brilliance........just like Frances the Mute!

Review by richardh
4 stars A band that is so scary its untrue! They are scarily talented playing with a degree of virtuosity that is scary and with an enthusiasm that is scary.None of the smooth prog a la Floyd for this lot.Its at your throat from the first few minutes and refuses to bow to conventional structures.This is exactly where prog needs to go.Forward and onward with no fear!
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It deserves excellent album if .

I have refrained from writing review about this album for two reasons: First, by the time I listened to it the first time last year it did not attract me at all especially the first track which to me sounded like music with disharmony of sounds and too many sound effects and distortion. The vocal and the music sounded separate and disjointed. Second: I was bias with so many reviews here in this site and other prog sites that critically acclaimed the album. I was questioning myself: "What's wrong with me? Why other people can enjoy this album while I kind like cannot accept it?". End of last year I started pplaying again the CD at player many times and amazingly it grew on me firmly. I started enjoying the album.

The first track started to attract me because even the different time signatures between vocal music has even made the composition is unique even though a bit of weird. One should expect to hear many abrupt changes throughout the music. Second track is even better in terms of accessibility to many ears. It has sound melody, and it's catchy, I would say. Track three is for me a humorous music with a combination of Led Zeppelin beats and Latin music like Santana. It's really cool and it has become my favorite. Track four is also a good composition.

I don't wanna elaborate further as this album has been one of Top Five and there has been many reviews (147 reviews!) by the time I'm writing it now. So, no need to explore further. You can read much better reviews from other reviewers above. What I can say is that I have gone through a period when I hated the album until now when I really like it. The band has brought in unique style of the music. The only lacking that bothers me is the excessive sound effects and distortions throughout the album. For example, track four starts with sound effects that last for close to 5 (five) minutes. It's so boring. Even though what comes after that is a nice woodwind / brass section that reminds me to Uriah Heep's "Salisbury". If there is no boring sound effects, definitely this album deserves a four-star rating. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by belz
3 stars 3.4/5.0

A good album, but in now way a masterpiece. Intense, active, urgent, is how I would describe this work. Great vocals, agressive percussions/guitars, inspiring moods and atmospheres. That said, it is also messy, with too much electronic noise/ distortion/filling and there is not a good flow; every time a good ambiance or tempo is created it seems some experimentation will destroy it later. A good example is " Famine pulse" which starts as a really great active song with active guitar and ends in electronic distortion, completely wasting the climax it created. One could say it was wanted, but I just can't listen to this album from beginning to the end because such inconsistence bores me.

That said, still a good, but not essential album. 3.4/5.0

Review by OpethGuitarist
2 stars Hopefully the outcome of this band and this album will be looked at as a sophomore slump. While I find De-Loused to be a masterpiece of creative thinking, this album shows that the band still has a lot to learn. I'm hoping this is just a bump in the road.

De-Loused was a stroke of genius, this album seems like endless noddling at times. The vocals aren't near as moving, the guitar doesn't drive the music as it did before, and the drumming doesn't help carry any of the pieces.

Certainly fans of the band will find this album enjoyable. It still has many of the elements that characterize this band. However, it just doesn't have the "magic" that de-loused had. Many of the parts are completely unnecessary and should be omitted. That, and some of the songs are tritefully boring.

Not recommended for the general prog community.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Well, at first listen of this album (had not heard to their debut album before this one), I was strongly taken aback and almost repelled to the point that it took me almost one year to actually gather up the courage to rent this album and give it a second listen. But by the time of this second listen, I had discovered their debut album and their third one Amputechture was announced in the coming weeks. The least I can say, though, is that I will not wait for their fourth album to be released to find out about Amputechture.

Back to this album: far from being flawless, this album seems to sacrifice like its predecessor to the modern trend/fad: obscure and impenetrable artwork, most lyrics publishing absent (or unpunctuated) and a doubtful unexplained concept. With an overlong album (this is almost jam-packed), this is exactly the type of flaws that costs them a full star. Nothing that cannot be corrected rather easily for future endeavours though, because for the rest there are many, many, many, many excellent features on FTM, and their 32-min finale is THE major asset of this album.

But let's start with the start, so we can end with the end (sounds un-Freudian, doesn't it?), and it one disenchanting fact is that the start of the "concept" is not present on this album. The 14+min title track was released on the previewing single and not available here. Sounds like a beginner's mistake doesn't it? And the last track announced as a five-part but really cut out in 8 is rather infuriating and downright sloppy and amateur

Well the album's concept here is of another form of alienation, but fuelled by the shock of one of their collab's drug-related death and a story that he was writing. So I gather, because again not much background and explanation are given as is usual in recent years in terms of concept: an easy way out to try to give depth to it, avoid possible fans to pinpoint unlikely twists and give the fan a reason to interpret the music as they feel. But as this was supposed to be a different concept, and they supposedly got their act together dope-wise, I can only see quite a bit of similarities in the construction of the musical trip at least in the first ten minutes: noisy electronic intro, then all out violence etc.

While their music seems to have refined somewhat, they still rely on extensive passage of RHCP-like violence and systematic use of electronic passages (unlike most I find them actually quite good, but can at times be too lengthy), and most of their typical twists of the debut album are ever-present in the opening Cygnus track. We are given a good clean breath of fresh with a rather straightforward The Widow, which happens to be emotionally (but not musically) the second highlight of the album after the finale. One track however that sticks out like a sore thumb, is the endless Via Viaquez, which starts out interestingly enough but steers off track by the Latino chorus and repeats itself an infuriatingly six or seven times, although the verses and frequent solos ease the pain somewhat. The reverse English/Spanish lyrics to the music is interesting as is the piano finale, which is clearly inspired of Los Jaivas' Parra brothers playing.

Around the halfway mark of the album (and a rather overlong interlude/introduction), comes a rather different Miranda (I think the writer was watching a certain Sex And The City TV-series) coming close to a post rock not far away from Sigur Ros. The main flaw of this track is as post rock goes, it takes forever to develop and even longer to die. This tracks overstays its welcome just as much as Via Viaquez. Then comes the 32- min finale Cassandra where Omar shines like the sun with his brilliant playing where him and Cedric pull a Zep's Planter's Page duo. Although a bit long, the middle section sizzles along quite frantically , almost as mesmerizing as Dazed and Confused could be. Overall this album is not better than its predecessor, strengthening in some departments (especially Omar's guitars), but duplicating some flaws, being over- ambitious (and awkward) in their storytelling, Isaiah being a little less present and incisive than on Comatorium, and Cedric's vocals are less manic.

So this album is one of confirmation, but no real progress or consolidation over its predecessor, so the real test is pushed back to their third album Amputechture, which will become a make or break. Either they move to the superior stage, correct their flaws and pull a real masterpiece or they will eventually stagnate a bit, unable to reach the stratosphere where their illustrious ancestors are desperately awaiting the new guard.

Review by Thulëatan
1 stars Like many, I found The Mars Volta's first album 'De-Loused In The Comatorium' to be quite a surprise for the somewhat stagnant modern world of prog. Though unable to reach the heights of 70s giants, there were several factors on that record which came together successfully - the endlessly inventive guitar playing, the wailing slingshot vocals, and the lyrical soups brewed by what sounds like medical students who listened to prog and watched sci-fi when they should have been researching for exams. There was a feeling here of a band with great potential, and it is too difficult not to compare their second album directly with the first... not that a clone would be expected or at all welcome, but rather I would hope the spirit of the first recording would return to flourish on 'Frances The Mute'.

Unfortunately, I don't feel their follow-up strikes anywhere near the mark. Most of the things a listener would initially think was wrong with De-Loused, but were overcome by really studying the album, actually ARE wrong with 'Frances The Mute'. Small ideas seem totally over-stretched throughout the album, gone are the complex changes and the feeling of constant restructuring within single pieces. Cedric's previously extraterrestrial singing stays within a relatively safe (for him) range, no longer seeking out obscure and embedded melodies within and around the song, making him pretty much indistinguishable from most other whiny heavy rock/punk vocalists. The lyrics are, however, again quite interesting in the same abstractly poetic fashion as De-Loused, but there is a definite sense this time that more thought went into the words for their own merits alone, rather than how they might marry with or be elevated by the music. In this way, almost all vocal delivery on the album sounds incidental. The clichéd flash guitar soloing of guest John Frusciante also features quite heavily, especially on 'L'Via L'Viaquez', and is quite frankly pedestrian in comparison to the unique Rodriguez-Lopez and adds nothing positive here.

A widespread criticism of this record is the presence of extended atmospheric/instrumental sections, but for me these are among the most successful elements and capture some strong moods, occasionally also forming well-paced preludes to larger pieces such as 'Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' (probably the best piece on the album). By far the greatest let down of all, though, is the production quality. Even though Rodriguez-Lopez is no doubt playing as many layers of guitars as on their first album, here all of that detail is lost through bad balancing and EQ... and every prolonged 'heavy' passage sounds like the same wash of distorted guitar riffing. Even the wider range of instruments used makes little impression, since each of them seem to occupy the same dull frequency range. The intricate effects and melodies only stand a chance of getting through on the few quieter parts. This is a crime, and perhaps the crippling blow to an album that could have been much better if the distinctiveness of these interesting musicians had a chance to shine through.

Not good enough for the discerning progger, and unlikely to enter a regular playlist.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars I like this one a little better than "Deloused...", it's the "Cassandra Gemni" suite where we get some pretty freaky stuff happening that puts it over the top for me. Besides, they use more mellotron on this one. Love the scorching guitar throughout this record as well.

"Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" opens with strummed guitar as vocals join in. It kicks in before a minute. Absolutely ripping guitar follows.This is intense. Mellotron after 3 1/2 minutes then it turns spacey and calms down. Nice guitar here, this sounds so good. Vocals are back 7 minutes then it gets wild again. It's getting spacy 10 minutes in as it settles.Electronics and samples follow. Very cool. "The Widow" opens with vocals and a laid back sound. It kicks in then relaxes again as these contrasts continue. Omar is lighting it up 2 minutes in, organ follows. It turns psychedelic before 3 1/2 minutes to the end. "L'Via L'Viaquez" kicks in before a minute with some great guitar. Vocals and mellotron come in. It settles after 2 1/2 minutes with spoken vocals. Ripping guitar a minute later as it kicks back in. Contrasts continue. Angular guitar 6 minutes in. Nice. I like the drumming too a minute later. A calm to end it with these weird vocals that sound like they're in slow motion. Birds are chirping as it blends into "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" then it turns haunting after a minute. Blasting sax after 4 minutes as that haunting mood changes somewhat. Vocals 5 minutes in, lots of atmosphere here. Sax is back 8 minutes in and then it turns heavy with vocals. A calm with strings 9 minutes in then the sax and other sounds come in.The wind is blowing. It building 12 minutes in with mellotron, drums and bass.

The "Cassandra Suite" is about 32 minutes long broken down into 8 parts that all blend into one another. Part I opens with vocals and angular guitar that lights it up. What an intro ! Processed vocals as it settles, flute too. Sax after 2 minutes with a great vocal section that follows. Part II opens with some amazing guitar and mellotron, in fact this part might be my favourite on the whole album as Omar really shows what he can do with his guitar. Check out the light show before 5 1/2 minutes. Drums are killer as well. Part III is where Cedric shows off his vocals and I like the guitar late. Part IV sounds incredible as they jam. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in before it settles a minute later with whispered vocals.They're jamming again. Love the guitar and bass. Organ before 4 1/2 minutes. Part V has a psychedelic vibe, this is trippy stuff. Eerie sounds 4 minutes in. Part VI is where the sax comes in.This is dissonant and spaced out, perhaps Krautrock inspired. Part VII is more normal (haha) and Part VIII is too with the acoustic guitar and vocals.

Just a monster of an album in many ways.You can't go wrong with their first two records.

Review by TRoTZ
5 stars Mars Volta took their sound to new boundaries, abandoning almost all of their punk approach, and focusing more on their latin/salsa, experimental and progressive vein. While building very complex movements, as the 31 minute last track, they also made possible the interaction with the great masses.

The soaring refrain, allied with the simple and energetic structure of "The Widow", were the perfect balance to catapult Mars Volta to mainstream and, curiously, the one that most resembles to the work of their debut. "L'vi L'viaquez" is another convincing mainstream track, despite its 12 minutes, if blends band's energetic guitar/vocal approach with a danceable catchy Latin salsa. "Miranda..." is the softer of the collection, after a psychedelic noisy introduction it flows into a grandiose symphonic-driven Mars Volta ballad. But the album's gem is definitely the last track "Cassandra Geminni". The use of classic instruments like flute, trumpet and saxophone help to extend to new levels the band's prolific and unique approach, while incorporating Jethro Tull's symphonic flutes, Pink Floyd's psychedelic space rock influences, early King Crimson's magnificence and Mahavishnu Orchestra's virtuous playing and rhythms. The result is an impressive and dynamic epic of the band's peak musicality while, in opposite to some of their longer compositions, in its 31 minutes it does not figures to be extended to exhaustion. A true modern ode to progressive rock.

Nevertheless the band's exaggerations at times, they prove, once again to be an original band and one of the best progressive rock bands of their time. Though not reaching everybody's tastes, it pleases both mainstream crowds and the intellectual elite.

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars For someone (like me) who grew up in the 1970s listening to Genesis and ELP, The Mars Volta represents something close to the outer limits of modern Prog. Which by itself ought to be reason enough to recommend them to adventurous listeners not afraid to shed a few of their cultural inhibitions. In truth I can't recall being so totally confounded by a body of new music since my first exposure, while still an impressionable teen, to the sound of YES.

(The album, by the way, was "Relayer": a trial by fire to the uninitiated, and in many ways not all that dissimilar to this one. Listen again to a song like "Sound Chaser", and you'll hear a primitive echo of the same manic energy and unabashed weirdness embraced by The Mars Volta 30 years later.)

Anyone else in their growing tribe of fans could tell you more about the band than me. As a newcomer, I can only say I was initially drawn to them by one of those pandemic end-of-the-year ten-best CD lists (in, of all places, the otherwise strictly provincial Buffalo News), describing their music as "whacked-out Progressive Rock". And let's face it: who among us could resist a plug like that?

Whacked-out or not, this 2005 release is an acquired taste, to be sure: a free-for-all blend of metal, techno, ambient, symphonic, and psychedelic madness, dressed up in curious Anglo-Latino colors and played at lightning speed, with pinpoint accuracy and no shortage of power. The opaque surrealism of the cover photography, instantly recognizable to veteran Progheads as the work of Hipgnosis, suggests a concept album of sorts. As does the steady stream-of-consciousness lyrics (actually more tsunami than stream), sung in combined English and Spanish by a vocalist (Cedric Bixler Zavala) whose sometimes strident high-tenor exhibits enough emotion to send the heart of the late Freddie Mercury fluttering in its sarcophagus.

The album begins with a lush 12-string guitar melody, but otherwise all bets are off. What follows is an exhausting, relentless 77-minute roller coaster of creative energy, arranged into a near-seamless, uninterrupted flow of music, sometimes beautiful, sometimes abrasive, and more than occasionally both at the same time. It may sound totally off the wall at times, but in the end the album manages to resolve all its conflicting impulses by returning suddenly and with unexpected symmetry to the same 12-string guitar theme it began with.

My own initial verdict: this is astonishing stuff, and although it demands to be heard from start to finish, the entire album can be hard to digest in a single sitting. In its own way, it's probably no less disorientating than much of classic Prog must have been to untrained ears back in the early '70s. You might have felt a similar dislocation when introduced (for example) to a band like IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO, uncompromising Italian rockers from Prog's golden age (remember their 1972 album "YS"?). Imagine an urban NY update of the same music, and you might find The Mars Volta already beginning to sound halfway normal.

Review by Prog-jester
3 stars That was the most ambitious CD from MARS VOLTA - before "Amputechture" has arrived. Supplied with 30-min long epic, it should have been a Masterpiece from the era. Sorry, I'm not from your crowd.

I liked TMV's debut when I got it - concise, short but energetic and proggy songs with that Psychedelic feel. Now they just made these concise songs longer - without any further development, only wondering around playing the same riff over and over again. Don't get me wrong, I like Modern Prog and impatiently look forward to another TMV stuff, but that was too much. A mind revolution for the children of MTV, but for those who at least familiar with THE DOORS and LED got the point I guess. Nice but overrated as hell. A funny thing, but the name-sake outtake "Frances the Mute" I heard on single is far better than the whole album taken together!

Recommended but don't tell me then that I didn't warn you. BTW, back to letters - TMV is almost MTV...;)

Review by The Pessimist
5 stars Wow, I love this album. Like all extremely good prog albums (Yes' Topographic Oceans may be an exception), it consists of a few massively long songs, divided up into separate sections for operatic effect. The album has a very consistent 'hard rock' feel and gives the song a really good kick for the ear. Most self respecting prog fans will appreciate this album in its glory and although it takes a few listens, it is well worth it.

1. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: A great opening track with typical Mars Volta heaviness, sophistication and technicality. Also has a very nice 19/16 riff in the middle which gives it a Rush-esque feel about it. Good in most prog songs. (9/10)

2. The Widow: Clearly the main theme of the album, can easily get away with being an everyday power ballad. Some bluesy type arrangements and instrumentation played very well indeed, while Bixler Zavala's vocals and melody are also very good a moving. (8/10)

3. L'vi L'viaquez: Absolutely fantastic piece of Latin Rock here, vocals and guitar work at top notch. Despite the foreign lyrics, the song has a very catchy tune, making it yet another great Mars Volta number. The samba like breaks dotted around the song make effective progression and in my opinion makes the album worthwhile. Best out of the 5. (10/10)

4. Miranda the Ghost: A nice calming, atmospheric song to prepare you for the finale, Cassandra Gemini. The vocals and keyboards especially stick out on this one, and although there are some massive gapped of effects, they shouldn't really matter at all as the anticipation for a great middle is there. Despite being my least favourite on the album, it is still a very good song and deserves credit. (7/10)

5. For a final song, this really does bring the album to a whole new level. One of the very few bands to have reached the 30 minute target, one could anticipate boredom throughout the last 15 minutes. This is not the case. The music keeps you on your toes for the whole 30 minute period and has shifts in time signature, mood, key, volume, progression, you name it, it has it. I could describe it as a summary of all that a prog fan needs, however adapted to Mars Volta's style. Overall it is an extremely epic song that afterwards feels like you've been taken of the adventure of a lifetime. Truly a remarkable piece of work. (10/10)

A great piece of work from a truly underrated band, one of my favourite albums of all time, and probably one of the best from the past twenty or so years. An incredible masterpiece that's well worth getting.

Review by russellk
5 stars Absolutely no compromise from the best thing to hit progressive music this millennium.

This album is almost impossible to bear. It roars at you with the sound of LED ZEPPELIN at their ball-breaking best, it claws at your emotions with the impassioned plea of a latin JUSTIN HAYWARD, it plays with your mind like some sort of satanic PAUL SIMON, it pounds at you like KING CRIMSON in their most contrary mood, it lulls you with the spaced-out atmospherics of PINK FLOYD, it pulses with a metronomic TANGERINE DREAM beat.

And that's only the first track.

Grandiose, overindulgent, impenetrable - yes, it's all of these things. Mind you, I thought 'Close To The Edge' was all these things in 1973, too. Nowadays there's hardly anyone willing to really express themselves the way musicians did back then. On the evidence of this album, no one can accuse THE MARS VOLTA of holding anything back!

The major talking point among listeners to this album are the ambient sections, slabs of sounds that seem to go nowhere. At first listen they seem like weirdness for its own sake. Why does the bluesy 'The Widow' tail off into three minutes of electronic noodling? I don't have all the answers. All I know is I need the respite when listening to this album. How could anyone stand the megamonster JOHN FRUSCIANTE riff of 'L'Via L'Viaquez' (and the accompanying mellotron!) straight after the energy of 'The Widow', with drumming by JOHN BONHAM reincarnated? Hey, THE MARS VOLTA did it the way they wanted, and I'm so incredibly glad there's a band out there who do it their way - even if it doesn't all make sense to me. Why does 'L'Via fade into distorted vocals and a mechanical squeak? I dunno. Why does the beautiful 'Miranda' begin with four minutes of noise? Pass; next question. Is the track worth persevering with? Oh yes. From the moment FLEA'S trumpet starts up we have the sort of majesty (akin to 'Televators' from their first album) that makes one's hair stand on end. The seven notes of the main theme are spine tingling. That last chorus, with BIXLER-ZAVALA adding emphasis and extending the last line, is a moment to die for. Then it fades away. In the last minute a theme comes in at half volume, seemingly a throwaway moment, of pure GENESIS. Madness. Why?

If there remains any doubt you have a masterpiece in your hands, it is removed by 'Cassandra Gemini', a 32-minute progressive suite. Part One sees the band indulging in power rhythms while throwing a series of vocal and guitar hooks at us, and by Part Three they have already reached a moment of glory most bands could only imagine ... cello-like sounds ascending and descending, gradually turning into an orchestra backing a screaming guitar as BIXLER- ZAVALA sings 'twenty five snakes pour out your eyes' ... oh yes, I can't stand it; anything you say CEDRIC. Then they settle down for a couple of jam sessions, before - in the tradition of all good symphonic suites - they restate the main theme from Part One and finish it (and us) off.

Let me remind those who cavill that this suite alone would have practically filled a 1970s album. Even if the ambient parts aren't to your taste, you still have an hour of power to listen to. The music here is so condensed, with more ideas per square inch of acetate than you'll find anywhere else. The nearest comparison I can find is it's like listening to a GENTLE GIANT album on 45rpm rather than 33.

A fair proportion of those who read glowing reviews like this won't like THE MARS VOLTA'S music. I didn't use the words 'pleasant' or 'calm' in my review. If you're looking for something to ease your mind after a hard day at the office, go grab a RENAISSANCE or a CAMEL CD. This hurts to listen to. Honestly, my chest aches as I listen to it. I have to find something to make me relax afterwards.

Oh yes, they left off the title track, the Rosetta Stone that allows you to interpret the storyline. You can get it on the single 'The Widow'. It should be listened to before the album proper.

THE MARS VOLTA paint on a larger canvas than virtually anyone else in music today. Naturally not all of this album will appeal to you the first few times you hear it. It's not perfect; that wasn't the point. But it is astonishing, and is guaranteed to spice up the most jaded musical palette. You might end up hating it, but you must give it a try.

Review by Prog Leviathan
5 stars A fantastic progression of the band's sound while retaining their distinct aggressive creativity, "Frances the Mute" features more cohesive song writing (being less manic), stronger narrative and an increased sense of direction, giving this album a more mature feel. The songs themselves are a splendid mix of rock melodies and spacey interludes, with fantastic instrumental work throughout by all members. They have a unique pacing and style to them which grabs the listener with big builds and hooks. Moreover, I am consistently amazed at the level of musicianship that is packed into these songs, and discover new effects and sounds each time I listen.

While the opener is more or less a straight-ahead rocker, we're also given extended moments of atmosphere and nuance, such as in the 13:00 minute introduction to the central epic-- speaking of which, features some of the most powerfully dynamic melodies and instrumental moments I can think of (your head might explode), not to mention fantastic lyrics from Bixler-Zavala-- the end result being a nicely varied palette of creative sounds which never fails to impress.

Highly, highly recommended.

Songwriting: 5 Instrumental Performances: 5 Lyrics/Vocals: 5 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by FruMp
2 stars 20 Minutes of good music buried under 76 minutes of nonsense.

The Mars Volta along with Mr Bungle were one of the bands that got me into prog back in 2003, by most accounts de-loused in the comatorium was a stellar release, unfortunately the follow up is an exercise in tedium.

Thing start off well enough with in my opinion the best song on the album 'Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus' with that frenetic syncopated feel we were introduced to on de-loused but it' let down at the end by a 3 minute outro of semi-electro and random samples. Next up the widow is the token single it's easily the worst song on the album and really isn't prog in the slightest (and yet it's followed up with yet another 3 minute nonsensical outro). 'l'via l'viaquez' is a decent song with some hard rock wailing by John Frusciante and a furious latin motif with an interesting ethnic percussion breakdown, this song features an outro that's over 5 minutes long, thankfully it's not as boring as the first two. 'Miranda that Ghost isn't Holy Anymore' is pretty much a summary of what I don't like about this album, the whole thing is pretty much an intro (or is that an outro?, it's hard to tell).

The 30 minute Cassandra Gemini is a decent epic it has quite a bit of music in it comparatively but it still has about 10 minutes in the middle of pointlessness and it doesn't really hold my attention, the sax jamming is good at the end of the middle section though, the main chorus of the song is a bit of a sticking for me, it's a bit too whiny and poppy.

Frances the Mute was a grand disappointment for me, I was expecting something as good or even better than de-loused but I found myself drowned in a swamp of intros, outros and pointless noise with the occasional chunk of good music floating by. Recommended if you are prepared to press fast forward a lot on your CD player.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars How about the variability of views regarding this album! As usual, I find myself smack in the middle.

First of all, based on some of the reviews, I was expecting to find an album half full of ambient noise. That is not the case, although the 10-15 minutes is certainly too much for my taste. On the other hand, many reviewers see Frances the Mute as a modern-day Red, or something equally mindblowing for its historical period. I'm not ready to go that far, because Frances is too inconsistent, but when it's good, it is absolutely mindblowing!

Cygnus. How cool is this intro? A nice strumming crescendo leads to an absolutely furious cacaphony, full of itchy guitar by Omar, maniacal wails by Cedric, and absolutely bombastic drumming by Theodore. It just doesn't get much more chaotic than this. Then we have a spacey mellotron-washed half tempo shift, followed by a nice build-up to do it all over again. Great stuff (except of course the ambient ending), and incredibly not the highlight of the album.

The Widow, L'Via L'Viaquez, Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. These songs are a major drop in quality, from the fairly formulaic dirge (Widow), the catchy-at-first--but ultimately way too repetitive--L'Via, and the ambient, eerie and tone-exploring Miranda... I don't fault TMV for trying any of these songs, but they simply aren't as interesting as Cygnus.

Cassandra Gemini. I had said not a couple days before getting this album that 30 minutes seemed to be the cutoff for a great, coherent, and consistently interesting epic. At 32 minutes, Cassandra will force me to alter my opinion--this is just a roller-coaster of intensity and absolutely killer music. Unlike Cygnus, where the opening sequence is by far the best, Cassandra just keep hitting you over the head with great stuff. It's really an assault, and just when you think they are going to slow it down and lose momentum, they pull out another great melody and beat your head open once again. It's also not a simple case of structuring a great epic (like Neal Morse)--they manage to have an improvisational, gritty, chaotic element that really puts things over the top.

It really is difficult to describe Cassandra's greatness, because at its heart, it's just 30+ minutes of rumbling triplets, but the growling bass, spacey guitar, and double helping of keys and synths really make this a special experience. I haven't even gotten to the grand finale yet! After a spacey freakout, rippling saxes signal the build of a phenomenal, Area-style jam (but with mellotron!), and then a memorable refrain from the beginning. I even hear some snippets that remind me of prog greats, such as Area, Rush, Crimson, Zappa, and even just a bit of Dream Theater (but in a good way--I promise!)

In sum, Frances the Mute contains one phenomenal song, one excellent song, and three average tracks. Not a masterpiece in my book, but required listening just for Cassandra Gemini.

Review by sleeper
3 stars 2 years on from The Mars Volta's incredible debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, comes the follow up, Frances the Mute, which proves to be one of the most frustrating albums I have ever heard. The problem here is that experimentation, by its very nature, doesn't always work and this is one of those times. The band made extensive use of tape loops, electronic samples and noises on most of the songs and for me, they drag on ad nauseam. And this is what makes the alum so frustrating, the music is, quite simply, stunning, showcasing the abilities of the band to a tremendous degree but its tempered by usually flowing out into these electronic soundscapes that go nowhere and last for several minutes. The endings of Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus, The Widow and L'Via L'Viaquez are all ruined like this but that's nothing compared to the travesty that is Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore which is blighted by the constant electronics, save for a 2-4 minute section a third of the way through. If the album ended there I would be giving it two stars as there wouldn't have been a single song that I could have enjoyed all the way through, but it doesn't. The album ends with the 32 minute Cassandra Gemini, a song that isn't marred by an overindulgence with electronics and as a result is the strongest track ever recorded by The Mars Volta. It is simply amazing, everything is perfect, nothing is over or underdone and not once in its half hour of play do I lose interest, this song is worthy of the albums price tag alone.
Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars So who is Mars Volta's biggest influence???

".everyone's always throwing Led Zeppelin at us. But if we're going to own up to anything, it's Syd Barrett's influence. I can't even think of how much he's influenced what we do. I always dug his guitar playing and I loved his lyrics. His music, especially his solo albums, those really did it for me. They made me want to make songs like that. Syd Barrett's all over what we do in The Mars Volta. I tend to think that Omar's guitar playing is a weird combination of Greg Ginn, Sonny Sharock, and Syd Barrett. For me, Syd is one of the main influences of The Mars Volta." [Cedric Bixler-Zavala]

I can't personally say I notice much solo-Syd influence in their sound though I'm happy that yet another artist is giving the man his due. But like many people I notice that the Volta sounds on occasion like Zeppelin, the Chili Peppers, Santana, Floyd, and I dare say even Queen. I have a hunch that these guys are just huge music fans in general. After hearing this album I believe The Mars Volta may be the Quentin Tarantino of rock music. You all know the story about Quentin working in a video store watching all these movies over and over until he exploded with his glorious homage Pulp Fiction. Frances the Mute sounds like the work of guys that hung out listening to their favorite albums for years before blossoming with their own sound, if not exactly influenced directly by, perhaps just an unconscious by-product of.if that makes any sense. Just a theory of course.

Once again I find myself disagreeing with most reviewers on this title, both with those who love it and those who hate it. I would contend that Frances is neither the progressive masterpiece that many trumpet, nor is it the pile of bunk that some others believe. It's just an interesting and rather unique rock album. Aside from the fashionable art work, instrumental histrionics, and bizarre lyrics lies a base of retro hard rock with Spanish, funk, and psych-prog influence updated for another generation of teenagers (and old guys like me still longing to be a teenager.) As willing as I am to give points for being sprawling and unpredictable, pretentious and weird, there is the other part of the bargain the artist has to fulfill in quest of the masterpiece. TMV falls a bit short in that category of having enough overall focus and self-editing wisdom: this album would be a better one were there 20 less minutes of it. Criticism aside I enjoyed this album quite a bit and look forward to hearing their others. The menageries of madness, the wicked guitars and funk, the spirited vocals and the frenzied all adds up to a lot of fun. And it must be heard to be believed.don't expect to understand what this sounds like by reading reviews, you really need to hear them. Not for the musically faint-of-heart. 3 ― stars.

Review by LiquidEternity
2 stars Attracted by the progressive track lengths, the frequent praise I heard for the band, and the single of the track The Widow, I felt compelled to give this album a shot. However, the result was pretty ugly. Let me tell you right away here: I absolutely love weird music. If it's good music, I'll like it. But if it's good music and really strange, I'll spin it constantly for a long time. And the real pain of The Mars Volta, at least for this album (I may yet give some others of theirs a chance or two, seeing as how many fans of the band aren't huge fans of this one either), there actually are some good parts. The first half of The Widow, most of L'Via, spots and shimmers of brilliance here and there, you know. Of course, most of the time when they pull through with some quality melody or something, the sound is very, very reminiscent of Rush. I'm not a big fan of comparing bands and sounds, but this one was too painfully profound to me for me to let it slide.

But the real problem with this album is the fact that the majority of it is just noise. And don't get me wrong, I've got a special place in my heart for simple noise and painful ambiance. Heck, I regularly spin Devin Townsend's Devlab for fun. But this stuff just doesn't work. The production is inconsistent, the sound choice obnoxious, making the doodling and wheedling merely come across as a band that wants to be able to play something serious technical but can't. And I KNOW this band is talented. They've got some chops sprinkled throughout. The vocalist has a fantastic voice. But the songwriting throughout this CD is simply weak at best. This is most likely the only source of long songs that I actually prefer cut into singles. Weed out the noise, and you could have a pretty good fifteen minute mini-album.

And that's where I stand. Two stars for some good bits. And I think that's pretty generous, at least from my standpoint. I respect what these guys are trying to do. But I don't think it works, at least not in this case.

Review by el böthy
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 thatīs only natural, not even nuclear explosions last forever. But what have they to offer now then? Well, compositions, thatīs 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 doesnīt feel like a rock band, but more like a small orchestra playing their version of what rock music can be. Now, itīs 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 doesnīt 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 Voltaīs 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, itīs 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. Itīs 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, itīs not perfect. First of all, itīs 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. Itīs a flawes masterpiece, just like King Crimsonīs lark tongueīs in Aspic (an album that must have surely served of inspiration, but thatīs for a latter topic). When itīs on itīs 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 canīt say, speaking as objective as I can, that itīs good all the time... it can get down right annoying... but then again, the music is so damn good forgiving is way too easy.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This music could level a building

The Mars Volta have been one of this decades biggest names in prog (and ironically, also in the punk scene) thanks to their combination of sheer sonic-noise-music and progressive leanings mixed very heavily with the kind of bombastic moments that we prog fans both love and hate oh so much. Often when it comes to new bands the biggest thing that most proggers look at is how unique the band is. Well, while there's claims that the band has been influenced by all the classics from King Crimson right down to Genesis there is really nothing from this that shows.

I suppose this is what happens when a hardcore-punk band such as At The Drive In decides to regroup into a prog outfit and change their name. But, while never claiming to be a fan of either incarnation of this band, I can say that this music is really something else. This is the kind of music that everyone needs to hear just because of how new it is... because of how fresh it is. You can listen to their music a hundred times and you will never be able to claim that you've heard it all before.

So what they sound like? Well, for those unfamiliar with the band - you've been warned. Just read the header of this review again. Producing harsh, dissonant noise that is so incoherent that it gains a kind of sick and twisted melody, this music also has something else going for it - it's heavy. Anyone who likes a little bit of aggression behind their music will get a kick and a half out of this. Also a strength is the use of multiple languages. For those of us who are not Spanish the music has a very unique feel to it when the band decides to whip out the dialog.

In terms of songs, each is quite strong and there's really nothing to complain about. Most of the tracks are long suites which have enough drive and power to keep them very interesting to the ears of the listener. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus starts out the bombastic powerhouse with a bang, getting the tone of the album with it's non-stop attack of sound that will leave you either clutching your ears to make them stop bleeding or making you wake up in another room after having realized that you got carried away with the music. Heck, maybe even both.

There's a couple of moments on the album here the music turns into strange ambient noise reminiscent of something like Hawkwind on speed. The Widow is the first song that really makes large use of this about halfway through, and though it's kind of strange the first couple times you hear it (especially at the points where it sounds like a skipping record), but it catches on eventually.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is easily the most chilled out song on the album, but the others are really where it's at. L'Via L'Viaquez continues on with the bombastic approach, while the final suite on the album really takes the cake. The 32+ minute suite Cassandra Geminni is the track that most prog heads will likely be looking forward to on the album. Combining all the bombastic, spacey, powerful and destructive elements of the album the band has produced a magnum opus of (I hate using this word) epic proportions. The album could have been this one song and it still would have worth the money.

This band is certainly one to watch (if you didn't already know that for some reason), and though I certainly can't recommend it to everyone in the world I would definitely recommend it to most. Heavy Prog is an appropriate label for the band... and like it or not they're on the rampage with their music. 4 stars for a solid offering! The only people who should avoid this album are those who like their music calm and those who are prone to seizure.

Ah, as an aside - The track listing on iTunes is incorrect for those who put their CDs on their computer. Cassandra Geminni goes from track 5 to the end, not from track 8 to the end.

Review by ZowieZiggy

The debut album form Mars Volta was an extremely good surprise for the rock community (including myself). The ocean of wildness combined to a fantastic guitar play was an absolute topper.

IMO, this one is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long and holds too many useless "experimentation" passages to be a masterpiece or even a great album. The major problem of this record sits in those endless improv which don't make any sense.

The opening number holds a bunch of rock influences but its own structure (especially the closing part) just makes it somewhat useless. I was amazed to read that the band doesn't SEEM to acknowledge a DEEP similarity or even Led Zep filiation.

My favorite song from this endless album is "The Widow". For about three minutes, I could cope with a great sub- Since I've Been Loving You". But the second half is just a filler. And this is again the negatives of this album.

Each of the tracks are filled with either a useless intro or outro. My second fave (if "The Widow" would have been cut after three minutes) is the bloody good "lviaquez". Fantastic and incredible guitar play. Only this comment: Spanish lyrics during the wild beat and English lyrics during the Latin rhythmic part. Quite in opposition with one could have expected. But the long and closing section (three minutes) is just a filler. Did I miss something?

The band acknowledged some deep influences form Syd (and hence the VERY early Floyd). The only moment during one can feel this relation is during the psyche intro of "Miranda". But as usual, after a decent song, the band is going to experiment some useless directions which will culminate in the closing part.

"Cassandra" is IMO, an overlong and self-indulgent piece of rock music. Nothing original in here. The first part of this song has the indefinite flavour of "Achilles Last Stand" in its early phase and again during the "improvisation" the glued structured of "Dazed " is so much a remembering.

I am hilarious when I read that this album is incredibly innovative, modern, original... This is a good album but should have been at least twenty minutes shorter. It borrows lots of the great music from the late sixties. Not too much originality in here.

Three stars.

Review by ProgBagel
4 stars The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute 4 stars

An excellent album: hindered by noise and sound manipulation to be something of musical nirvana.

The Mars Volta comes back after their groundbreaking debut in superb form. They cut back on the number of songs and increased the length of the CD on this release. This is certainly a mark of progression and maturity from an outside scope, but when you listen to this CD, you cannot deny the gross amount of 'noise' thrown on this work. I tend to no exaggeration, and my version of just 'noise' is high frequency pitches being blasted, CD skipping and effects that are manipulated for minutes. As fellow reviewer ZowieZiggy stated, there can be 10 minutes taken off this CD, I would have to disagree. I would say at least 15 minutes could have been hacked off this masterwork. Now, enough with the negatives.

I like this CD a lot. At first, I would have given this a very high 3, but it has warmed up to me when I got past the noise and focused on when I was hearing the 'real' music. Omar wrote all the music and the horn and string arrangements which were aided by David Cambell. Cedric once again does the entirety of the vocal and lyrical work, a great job again. Since there are only 5 songs.I will just go song-by-song.

'Cygnus..Vismund Cygnus' is about as great as a song can get. The intro consists of an acoustic guitar interlude which is very melancholic and sappy. Cedric accompanies with some voice after one go around. When the intro closes, a pompous guitar riff is brought out of nowhere and the song is fired up without warning. By this time all the instruments are wailing away, chaotic, but in sync. The chorus is also a sweet one to, which again, just comes right out of left field. An atmospheric middle section is tagged in the middle and then past ideas are brought into play again. In my opinion, this is a very representative song of Volta. It has the chaos and subtleties that define their new brand of music. By the way, there is about 2 minutes of just 'noise' in the end. This is the least of troubles.

'The Widow' is a decent rock track. Somewhat like 'Televators' on the first album but with a catchy chorus. This track takes a heavy hit in my point of view because of the three minutes of noise that just ruins the whole song. Was this an attempt to make a mainstream track, but avoid suspicions by added terrible 'noise' at the end? Part of my reason this album cannot be essential.

'L' Via l'Viaquez' is another great song. It features some of Omar's best guitar work to date. He really takes a great role in providing some great rhythms and some rippage on the fretboard when necessary. Kind of like the title, there is a Spanish vibe to the song.

'Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' suffers from about 5 minutes of noise in the beginning. I honestly cannot understand the point in it, because the track is great. I find this to really be a song for Cedric. Omar mostly sits in the background of this one, playing in a Barrett style, which is a big influence on The Mars Volta. The main feast of this song is the horn work that is very nicely arranged. Great verse and chorus mixed with the horns makes it an awesome track in my eyes. Once again, there is a good 4 minutes of noise to end this song.

'Cassandra Geminni' is roughly a 32 minute epic and one of the best in the decade. It is not perfect but a really good one; making it shorter could have helped. There are really only one or two places where things started to get a little seamy. With all the different verses and choruses brought about in this piece made it consistent and brilliant. The outro also closes out the album bring the chorus from the first section and then the intro from 'Cygnus..Vismund Cygnus'. All of the apparent influences can be heard in this song. I agree with most of the accusations being Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin.

This album had potential to be something really beautiful but was a little ruined for me. But my faith in the band was still strong as ever, since I knew they were capable. This album bought me over into supporting them until the end. I highly recommend this to someone looking for something new and energetic.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Mute-ilated

There's no denying that there are prog references throughout this The Mars Volta (TMV)'s second album. Credit is due to The Mars Volta for venturing beyond the boundaries of most of today's rock based bands, and exploring new avenues. Where I have to admit to significant reservations however is when it comes to the question, is "Frances the Mute" actually any good?

In some ways, this album flatters to deceive. Yes the tracks are long and in multiple parts, yes there are melodic parts, fusion orientated parts and experimental parts, and yes there are distinct Pink Floyd "Atom heart mother" references. Put them all together though, and the sum of the parts is actually more than the whole.

Why this should be is down to several reasons. Firstly, the singing is generally a significant weakness; much of it is to my ears out of tune. Secondly, when the constituent parts are looked at more closely, many of them are actually just rock tracks which have been bound together, or extended through repetition.

The opening 13 minute, four part "Cygnus... Vismund cygnus" is a perfect case in point. Here we dive straight into a mishmash of improvisation and basic indie rock. Perhaps it is my natural aversion for improvisation which is without form together with a perception that indie rock tends to lack originality which taints my view of this album. There is no question that TMV have gone to significant lengths to create a work which challenges the listener, and which seeks to explore the blending of styles which may appear at odds with each other. To that extent, this is a milestone album. Where, in my opinion, it falls flat though, is that it simply does not entertain me.

Review by jammun
4 stars Here we have The Mars Volta's second album. The question is, does this measure up to the their debut, or was generally excellent Deloused in the Comatorium a one-shot deal?

Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus begins with Sarcophgi and it's gently-strummed, melodic acoustic guitar before exploding into a vicious metal funk hybrid. The song then transitions to a gentler pace for a guitar solo which builds dramatically to the end of the song, which reprises the metal-funk, this time backed with strings. The album then offers up a bit of noise, a pulsating synth, over which ride waves of ambient sound.

The Widow is a haunting prog ballad, with acoustic guitars building to an electric peak, guitar shards interplaying with trumpet, before devolving into yet another dose of less compelling noise than heard previously. Minus the noise, this is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Too long for its own good, L'Via L'Viaquez is for me the weakest track on the album. It offers up another dose of metal-funk, though taken at a somewhat slower tempo, before it transitions to some sort of pre-Castro Havana rhythm, after which it alternates between the two.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore starts with a few minutes of noise, including ghostly wails, at which point the song proper tries to begin, but...

Trumpets, genuine Sketches of Spain-quality trumpets, sounding out a melody reminiscent of The Widow, over leslie-processed guitars suddenly appear. This is an absolutely chilling and majestic moment, follow again by a bit more noise which leads into a mellotron-backed revisitation of the previous themes.

Cassandra Geminni is epic, shot through with saxes, brutal guitars, frantic vocals, chirping synths, and incredibly varied, melodic riffs which rise and fall from the song's rhythmic depths. What is amazing is how the band has absorbed their sources: I hear a little King Crimson, Led Zep, Doors, Hendirx, Floyd, et. al., in this song, but it's never just imitation or emulation. It is a synthesis of all that has come before, and the song is a remarkable achievement in that it always transcends its sources. When Sarcphogi repeats at the end, the album has come full circle, a la Escher's Reptiles.

So how to judge this album? The excessive noise, while providing the listener with some sonic relaxation, is a bit too represented here. As mentioned, I find one track to be overly long -- nothing against long, but if I'm going to take that journey with the band I'd prefer we go somewhere rather than run in place. As for the rest, I have not heard music this good for years.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Spanish-flavored heavy progressive rock band The Mars Volta made their second album equally as conceptual as their first; this time, they rip out five songs that all flow into one another. If the last album didn't do it, this one certainly establishes Cedric Bixler-Zavala as a dark and menacing poet, melting words and phrases and languages together, producing some gruesomely contorted lyrical fiends. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez again shows himself to be one of the most creative guitarists of the twenty-first century, using outlandish effects and frantic fretwork.

"Cygnus.Vismund Cygnus" What an excellent way to begin an album of such hyperactive and distorted proportions. For forty-five seconds, things are quiet, with an acoustic guitar and Bixler-Zavala's hushed singing. Then the music explodes like a blast from an overextended pressure cooker. One of the major riffs to this song always reminds me of "Sound Chaser" by Yes. The longest segment of the song retains an odd time signature in which the accents count two, three, then one, keeping a 29/16 time signature throughout and giving Rodriguez-Lopez ample time for soloing, although he keeps an economy to his sound as the music builds. Over that same rhythm, the vocalist returns as the band assumes a fuller sound. After some cacophony (still keeping the rhythm in the background), the original loud part comes back with just as much force, if not more, especially from Bixler-Zavala. Everything fades out to static. The voices that break through are a tad unsettling, sounding like a woman having sex, being raped, or being abused in some other manner. Some sound effects carry on to take the listener directly into the next track.

"The Widow" The softest song on the album, "The Widow" flows right in from the sound effects at the end of the first track. The lyrics have several evocative verbs and haunting language overall. After the song proper, all manner of sound effects enter, with an otherworldly organ-like instrument. The whole section sounds cut and spliced back together in a sloppy manner, which no doubt was the intention.

"L' Via L' Viaquez" Again, bizarre sound effects bridge the tracks, and in this case, strange percussion does the trick. The music is slightly more conventional than anything else here (although less so than "The Widow"); it is like heavy metal meets mariachi music. Much of the lyrics are in Spanish. In between the heavier sections, there are quiet, sinister sounding bits, and during the last time around, Bixler-Zavala's voice is laden with shadowy effects. The song closes with Latin percussion, almost unrestrained piano, Rodriguez-Lopez's unrepressed guitar, and Bixler-Zavala's dark and gradually slowed vocals.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" Coquí frogs take up the first four minutes of this piece, as Bixler-Zavala's voice and synthesizers build to the song proper. As with the previous songs, the vocal melodies are incredibly strong and memorable. The lengthy instrumental section in the middle features brass instruments and spacey noises, and the band reenters very casually, repeating a wonderful riff. Even if the music drags somewhat (and the song is almost half over by the time the singing begins), this is an excellently crafted track.

"Cassandra Geminni" The most complex piece on the album (although divided up for business purposes) has an abrupt beginning and is certainly the hardest on the album to digest. The vocals in some parts are burdened with effects (although only briefly). Even though they do not stand out quite as much as they did on other tracks, the drums play an integral role on this lengthy song, and Rodriguez-Lopez's creative guitar riffs, runs, and general insanity make for lots of interesting listening. A long instrumental section lets the music breathe, giving Rodriquez-Lopez a chance to dabble in more atmospheric and experimental guitar playing. A riveting saxophone solo takes over on top of the spacey sound. Most of all, I love how the final fifty-four seconds is a reprise of the very beginning of the album. At times, "Cassandra Geminni" is something of a mess. It's hard to get into, but has several exciting moments that make it worth hearing. I do feel that since they broke the song up intro different tracks anyway, they would have done better making different songs from the parts. Despite its length and complexity, this is the worst track here.

Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Frances The Mute' - The Mars Volta (9/10)

In the footsteps of 'De-Loused In The Comatorium,' The Mars Volta had some very big shoes to fill for their next album, and expectations were very high. What resulted was an album that is very different from the first one, and yet another masterpiece. There's a really spaced out feeling for most of the album, but the actual music itself far overshadows any of the atmospheric stuff. Some of the atmospheric 'trips' I find sort of annoying, but the music is far too good to give the album less then a masterpiece rating. There is not a single weak track on here, and the albums longest song, the half hour 'Cassandra Geminni' is probably the band's most powerful song.

The lyrics are half in spanish, and half in english. This combination gives a good latin vibe that runs throughout the album. Songs like 'L'Via Viaquez' feel like this is a prog band from deep within South America, instead of El Paso, Texas. The best vocal performances of Cedric Bixler-Zavala can be found on here, in songs like 'Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore' and 'The Widow.' On another note, the song titles are very cool, and tell stories of their own... (Just a thought.)

The only problem on this album is that the flow is interfered with because of the constant space trips that seem to decommercialize every aspect of this album (in a bad way.) Besides that, it is a really amazing album, and every fan of The Mars Volta should own and love this. The best Mars Volta album.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars OK the Mars Volta is one of the best bands in the world! Just after resurrecting prog to mainstream stuff again with Deloused In the Comatorium they made even more improvements when they released Frances the Mute! Too me it sounds even more prog than the Deloused because they lost whatever remnants of punk they still had from being in At the Drive-In. Now it's just total heavy prog! Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is a good way to start the album a nice little almost freak-out jam that still contains elements of a good prog song. It just goes uphill after the Widow which is undoubtedly the best prog song released this century! Then in L'Via L'Viaquiz things get crazy with a whole bunch of Spanish vocals and roaring guitars. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore is downright creepy but in the end it starts sounding like the Mars Volta again. Cassandra Gemini may seem hard to listen to at first (Probably cause it's 32 minutes) but once you get through the whole thing it's rewarding. It is a must listen! 4.4 stars!
Review by horsewithteeth11
4 stars This is The Mars Volta's full second outing. Most of those who don't think De-loused is their masterpiece will often cite this one as being the ultimate TMV album, or many of the rest will say it's at least really close in quality to the debut. I happen to agree with the second group however. Instead of this being a collection of multiple songs, the band instead put together a collection of 4 extended epics and one song in The Widow. This album has been reviewed so many times like their debut, so I'll try to keep it short.

Again, this is music that focuses on rocking out really hard with extended jams and weird noises throughout. Although this album makes me think that it's TMV's jam album. In some ways this is good, but in others it's not. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus and L'via L'viaquez are two of my favorite TMV songs and if the whole album was like both of those songs, then this would easily be a 5 star album. However, two songs prevent this from happening for me: the last two. Miranda could really have had the last quarter or so of the song trimmed and Cassandra could very well have had the second of the song chopped off completely. This extended jamming works well live from what I've heard, but I'd prefer to hear it there instead of on a studio album. Come to think of it, the major flaw of this album is the extended jamming. It was only in small quantities on the debut, but here it comes in large chunks on nearly every song except the short The Widow. However, there's enough present here that makes this album more than worthwhile. But while TMV's debut is something like 4.5 stars for me, this is more like an even 4. The band would really begin to pick up some steam on their next two releases however.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars How good it is! It unbelievable that in year 2005 in our world full of faceless and boring neo- prog clones, symphonic rock skeletons and total decrease of REALY progresive music, album like that was born!

My long career as serious rock music fan told me that it's extremely difficult to find something REALLY new or interesting in progresive rock starting from 80-th ( ok, early Marillion is OK, but who else?) and almost till now. So I just feeling my soul with prog archives from 70-th.

And now - this album! Absolutely crazy ( and modern!) mix of Led Zeppelin heavyness and great voice, Pink Floydian heavy psychodelica, perfect metal guitars, some dark ambient from modern Scandinavian metal wave, jazzy arrangements from Zorn and Latino salsa (Santana?).

All melted in one explosive mix, destroying your sleepy conformist sympho planet! Great!

We have new King Crimson and new Led Zeppelin and new Pink Floyd right here!

I believe, that this album isn't for everyone taste. If you like real energy, real new ideas and sounds ,real crazyness of rock - just take it! For those who prefers boring faceless classic sympho repetative sleepy sounds from closet this music could be too shocking, too real, too ROCK!

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Did I mention in my previous TMV review for De-Loused how overwhelming, excessive, nerve-shattering, unique, emotive, innovative, original, boundary-breaking and progressive this band is? Well, on their second full length, TMV sound even more mature, for a number of reasons.

The music has opened up a bit more, having longer stretched out jams and more quiet parts. Occasions aplenty where Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez and the other band members get ample room to freak-out. Also, the more relaxed sections and songs allow the listener to catch his breath. Another advantage is that they let some of their more experimental side come to the fore. Early Floyd has a strong influence here and I like their psychedelic noise parts ( for example the end of The Widow). Kraut is back!

On L'vi l'viaquez their Latin side prevails, it's a great funky vibe that expands their prog with the sexier and wilder side of rock, an element usually absent in progressive rock, which normally talks more to the head then to the hips (so if you still wonder why women usually don't like prog, look no further, that's the reason, prog has no balls :). TMV have that edgier element in their sound and it's what makes them remind me of Led Zeppelin, the sexiest band ever to grace the planet. With a voice that sits somewhere between Tom York and Robert Plant, TMV have the best possible singer they could dream of.

This band has let in some more then welcome fresh air into the prog-scene. Of course there are great melodic progressive bands aplenty these days (Opeth, Anekdoten, PT, Riverside?), but TMV bring the whole Crimson/Kraut/early Floyd experimentation and innovation back into today's scene. Combine that with their Zeppelin'esque groove & guts and you hit gold! My favourite TMV album. Classic album art as well by the way.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Frances the Mute" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive rock act The Mars Volta. After releasing what is widely regarded as one of the most innovative debut albums in modern progressive rock history, The Mars Volta returned in 2005 with "Frances the Mute".

"Frances the Mute" shows lots of progress from the debut especially in the way that the band gives the compositions time to develop and sometimes also a focus on jamming instead of tight structures. As on the debut there are tons of different influences in the music and itīs hard to say that The Mars Volta sound like anyone but themselves. Thereīs the latin and fusion influence in the music that gives some obvious hints toward Santana and the more noisy avant garde elements that smells a bit like King Crimson, but again those influences never overshadow the unmistakable sound of The Mars Volta. Cedric Bixler Zavalaīs high pitched vocal style is as always a defining element for the sound and the same can be said about the experimental and innovative guitar work by Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez.

There are only 5 tracks on the album but the playing time is impressive 76:55 minutes long. The closing track "Cassandra Gemini" alone is 32:27 minutes long and 3 out of the remaining 4 tracks exceed the 10 minute mark. "The Widow" which is by far the most accessible track on the album is also the shortest track with itīs 5:50 minutes long playing time. As a new thing the lyrics are a mix of English and Spanish which actually works really well for the band. I really enjoy the added latin elements on the album and a song like "L'vi l'viaquez" is greatly enjoyable to me, even though it took some time getting used to. Opener "Cygnus... Vismund cygnus" is also a favorite of mine while I have a hard time understanding why the first minutes of "Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore" were included. My only complaint about the album is probably the experimental ambient parts that occur a couple of times on the album. But then again I never did enjoy the experimental part in "Moonchild" either (from "In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)" by King Crimson) if you know what I mean? The actual music, which there are plenty of on the album, is excellent though.

The production by Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez is powerful and professional sounding. A great sound which suits the music perfectly.

"Frances the Mute" is a great second album by The Mars Volta. No sophomore jinx here. Itīs a more loose album than its predecessor and some people might miss the more structured sound of the debut, but I actually enjoy "Frances the Mute" more than "De-loused in the Comatorium (2003)" myself. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars My first though after hearing the album in its entirety was: Wow... this sounds nothing like the debut!

This was remark had a neutral tone to it but after reading a couple of extremely positive reviews and listening a couple of more times I started to feel positive about Frances The Mute. In retrospect I guess it's safe for me to say that it was an over-hyped experiment gone wrong. The album features almost 80 minutes of material where about 30 of those minutes are just intros/interplays/outros which I got tired of after just a few spins.

Take for example Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore which is a 13 minute track that starts off with a whooping 4,5 minute intro and puts Pink Floyd to shame! The same track ends with a long outro which in result doesn't make this much of a composition.

Don't get me wrong this album isn't terrible and does feature some great material but as an album experience it's definitely not as enjoyable as The Mars Volta's debut album so I cannot recommend it to anyone but the fans.

**** star songs: Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus (13:02) The Widow (5:50) L'Via L'Viaquez (12:21)

*** Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore (13:09) Cassandra Gemini (32:27)

Review by JLocke
3 stars Before The Mars Volta lost their minds and started recording music that sounded like traffic accidents, they actually released a couple of really good-quality albums. Their debut LP, De-Loused in the Comatorium, was a brilliant modern-day Prog Rock record that breathed new life into the genre in many ways that didn't feel re-hashed or mimicked. Afterwards, they began to get a little more ambitious. Frances The Mute was the second release from the band, and it in many ways expanded upon the ideas that were first laid out in the first album.

So many things have already been said about this album, that I'm honestly not sure what else I could say that makes any more difference to the majority opinion. Let me just say that this album is a very good one, albeit a little more focused on the pointless distortion of the tail ends of the recordings and sound effects. However, despite there being some moments of filler on this record, I still think the music that is present more than makes for it. Things are much more intense this time around, and it leads to the album experience being an arduous one, but you feel like you've been through a great journey by the album's end, which subsequently features the same orchestration as the beginning, which gives the record a singular, self-contained kind of conceptual feel. Possibly taking influence from The Wall in that regard, but who can say for sure.

A very good album, but it would only go downhill from here. Not as good as its predecessor, and certainly not as good as what would follow, at least in my opinion. If you enjoyed De-Loused and haven't heard this yet, I do recommend picking it up. It's like the most aggressive moments on that record turned up considerably, surrounded by some haze. It's fine for what it is, but doesn't quite reach the same heights as what came before it. Fans of the first record will still like this one, though.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars The Mars Volta release once again a masterpiece, after the brilliant landmark album De Loused In The Comatorium. "Frances The mute" is probably the most progressive album of TMV, not only because all the songs are very long, but especially because of the content.

The style of the album is incredible, something that TMV were never able to repeat in their following albums. Shattering, confusing and incredibly wild moments played with guitar, keyboards and vocals are alternated with bizarre electronic soundscapes or calm moments that are heavily influenced by Spanish and central American music.

The unbelievable opener is "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus", a 13 minute masterpiece. After the one minute intro, the song explodes, and the band has one of their wild moments, moments that really blow your mind. After a few minutes it get's calm and spacey, and when 8 minutes tick it returns wild again, even though not as much as before, but there is an unbelievable moment when the singer does some high pitched vocals, so beautiful that it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. When only three minutes are left, the song fades away and some bizarre electronic samples that I mentioned earlier reign supreme. Definitely the best song of the album, and maybe the best Mars Volta song.

"The Widow" was the only song that got a bit of success (it was released as a single), probably because it;s the shortest of these songs, almost 6 minutes. The song for the first three minutes is a great ballad, very touching but interesting at the same time. The second part of the song is completely dedicated to electronic weirdness, a great intro to the following song.

"L'Via L'Vaquez" is a very interesting song. It starts almost immediately, and it's probably the most Spanish influenced song of the album, thanks especially to the lyrics, which are in Spanish, but also thanks to the music, which isn't as wild as "Cygnus....". After a while, we hear for most of the song some piano accompanied by the singer, who now whispers, making the atmosphere tense and creepy.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is the most experimental song of "Frances The Mute". It takes a couple of minutes before some music shows up (the intro is just the sound of birds). When the music kicks in, the song isn't wild at all, and before you know it you are once again immersed in experimentation until the end of the song. Nobody really likes this song, I personally think it's extremely interesting, a song that is quite different from the rest, a 100% progressive song in my opinion.

"Cassandra Gemini" is the most epic Mars Volta song: more than 30 minutes of wildness, crazy time changes, amazing experimentation, weird calm parts, and of course a great melodic chorus that echoes that comes up in some parts of the song. The first ten- fifteen minutes are the most wild, with many changes of themes, making the song a 100% suite. After a while, the music gets mellower, and the massive use of electronics returns once again, even thoug the guitar has an important role too. Only when thirty minutes pass the bands starts to get more enlivened, and the last couple of minutes are a reprise to all the previous madness.

What more can you say about an album like "Frances The Mute"? An album that in my opinion must go down in prog history, since it did bring back some elements that were trapped in the seventies and never exposed again. An essential masterpiece.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The Mars Volta improved on their sound for this, their second album. They still are masters of the high speed, hard rocking prog sound, but they have added a lot more experimentation to their repertoire. With spacy sound effects and odd noised for extended segments, they are now more akin to Pink Floyd (in a good way). And some of the jazzy jams (in Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream and continuing to Faminepulse) conjure up a harder rocking Soft Machine. Adrian Terrazas plays a mean be-bop sax solo that was quite unexpected.

While I enjoyed De-Loused In The Comatorium, it was this album that really made me a fan of the band.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a very self-indulgent and pretentious release for 2005. Francis The Mute shows everything that is both good and bad about The Mars Volta. It's a very long album as well. So long in fact that they had to take the title track off the album. Even though that song is not included, the lyrics to it are under the CD. One of the reasons it's so long is because of the long, drawn out spacey sections full of effects. I admire them for putting out such a un- mainstream album at the time, but this really could have used some editing.

The album begins and ends with the same section of vocals and guitar. After the beginning, "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" goes into funky Latin rock territory. Later changes to a spacey part. Then a part with snare rim and nice laid back guitar playing. After a guitar solo. Cedric's vocals come back. Then goes back to the main part of the song before a new riff on wah bass. This part is called "Con Sofo" and gets reprised later. Street noises and sequencers at the end.

"The Widow" was the first single/video for the album. Sounds like a 'classic rock' song. Some trumpet here from Chili Pepper Flea. Last half of the song is just sounds that are sped up and slowed down. "L'Via L'Viaquez" is a highlight. Begins with tape effects and a looped drum part. Really awesome guitar playing in this song. Most of the song alternates between a rockin' part with Spanish lyrics, and a more subdued Latin section with English lyrics. Great drumming throughout. In the middle is a different section to the other two. At the end it sounds like Cedric is drowning.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" starts with various ambient sounds for the first four minutes. Reminds me of Gong. Then some trumpet and acoustic guitar. I love the main melody in this song. Cedric starts singing with some tremoloed guitar. Later drums appear. The "Con Sofo" riff is reprised at the end. "Cassandra Gemini" is over a half hour long! I listen to this as one piece and never skip any part. Oddly enough, though this is so long, it has the least amount of spacey 'filler' sections. It is also the most consistently heavy part of the whole album.

"Cassandra" has great guitar playing throughout. Some manipulated vocals. Occasionally some orchestra and piano. It changes very often. Early on there is a type of 'chorus' that goes: "there's no light". This part comes back later. I like the part where Cedric goes "alalalalala". At one point you hear "25 wives in the lake tonight" repeated. There is a cool riff on guitar doubled with the orchestra. Then a bit of synth and math-rock style guitar. After a nice part based on three notes. Later some organ and guitar freak-outs. Some sax squonking. Some Mellotron. Goes back to "there's no light" part. Ends with the same part as the beginning of the album.

Francis is not as consistent as De-Loused or Amputechture. But it still has some of the best moments this band ever recorded. This was a shock to people who already thought De-loused was self-indulgent. You may or may not like the compositions of Omar Rodrigues-Lopez or the lyrics of Cedric Bixler Zavala, but you can't deny that this band knows how to play and are not afraid of taking chances. One of the more important prog albums of the last ten years. This deserves a 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars I have come to know The Mars Volta for not being that conservative with the lengths of their albums, often filling them to max capacity. FRANCES THE MUTE began that trend (DE- LOUSED was only an hour), but has only five songs, one of them being this 32-minute thing. In essence, the album becomes water-logged in frantic jams. Only ''The Widow'' sneaks in under the ten-minute mark, and while it's not bad, the two fantastic pieces overshadow the psych-pop ''The Widow'' tries to accomplish.

I find it hard to defend the Santana-esque jam of ''L'Via L'Viaquez'' not because of content, but length. No doubt the jam is fiery in places, but it doesn't really say anything in thirteen minutes. Even worse is ''Miranda''; that ''thing'' takes four minutes to even start, and the theme is very weak once it gets going. Only Flea's trumpet performance gets kudos from me. At least the great songs keep the album afloat.

''Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus'' opens the album with a bang like only the Mars Volta can, and the intensity bobs and weaves throughout, but always keeping you on the edge of your seat. Particularly mesmerising is the ''Facilis Descenus Averni'' section that starts slow, but builds to a climax when Cedric comes back in. Drummer Theodore is most impressive here, but we aren't even at the best track yet.

''Cassandra Gemini'' might just be the best epic in recent years. Only Cedric's odd robot vocals in the beginning attempt to screw everything up, but once everything settles into a comfy jam, it's lights out from here. The guitars, bass, and drums are frantically intense, but in a locked groove that is so enjoyable. Like the first track, it alters dynamics well enough to keep interest. Best yet, the band really knows how to lay down a jam like the old masters of rock could, and they let Owens and Alderte cut loose instrumentally. They also can put a spacey atmosphere in the right place, keeping the suspense going until the intense finale, ending the way it began.

The opening and closing numbers are easily essential listening for those into progressive rock and want a modern representation of the genre. I wouldn't hesitate to call FRANCES THE MUTE a masterpiece if it was just ''Cygnus'' and ''Cassandra'', but the load of fluff jams weaken the overall appeal. Not recommended if you don't care for your music to be loud or jammy.

Review by Andy Webb
3 stars This noise just isn't holy anymore

The Mars Volta wowed everyone with their beyond-amazing debut De-Loused in the Comatorium, with their incredibly unique style and breath taking stamina and agility while playing. Two years later, the Mexican-American sensation returned with their next studio album, the adventurous Francis the Mute. Originally composed of just five lengthier tracks, they were forced to split up their 32 minute long giant Cassandra Gemini because the label threatened to pay them an EP's pay for so small a number of songs. Despite this, the band was still able to split the track into eight subsections, making 12 tracks. The one thing that really sticks out is the true length of the album: five tracks, 77 minutes. But, one may ask, how could it be this long? Yes, in part because the album is composed of five lengthy songs, but mainly because of the ambient noise added to each and every track (also known as "filler"). Filler was seen on the band's debut, but was tasteful, coming in only to accent a theme or feeling about the album. Of course, musically, the album is just a genius as the band's debut. Full of intense energy, inventiveness, and a whole slew of other creative aspects this is a very good album, but I cannot stress how much that noise, pointless and jarring at times, really alienates the good parts of this album.

First, I'll talk compositionally how great this album is. Compositionally, this album is great (ha ha). Consisting of the same pep found on the band's debut album, the entire band, led by the guitar mastermind Omar Rodrigues-Lopez, jumps leaps and bounds through musical wonderland, reaching incredible Avant tendencies in a purely Mars Volta style, with raging guitar solos and rhythmic insecurity accenting beautifully orchestrated movements, with perfectly preformed crescendos and decrescendos making it obvious how wonderfully skilled Rodrigues-Lopez truly is at composing. Through the insanity of Cygnus?Vismund Cygnus (which I'm convinced is a Rush reference) to the more mellow and almost popularly acceptable The Widow to the great Latin-fusion piece L'Via l'Vaquez to the incredible (and incredibly long) Cassandra Gemini, this album truly has a number of compositional masterpieces. However, they happened to be near ruined by a certain additive the band seemed to insist on?

Filler. It tends to leave a bad taste in a music lover's mouth. It signifies the band was either too lazy to make an adequate ending or needed to lengthen the album. This band didn't need to do either. Of course, filler was seen on the debut, but in tasteful amounts to compliment the music. On this album, numerous minutes have been pointlessly added to the end of each track (excluding the last track), making for an extremely annoying and unnecessary addition to the otherwise incredible album. I barely fast forward during tracks on an album, but on this album, I skip every second of the wretched filler added to this album. Truly I cannot see any reason to add 3 minutes of noise to the end of virtually every track. It seriously ruins the album for me.

Overall, however, this is a good album. I cannot despite the filler in the album overlook the genius put into all five tracks on this album. The whole atmosphere is that typical adventurous feeling that The Mars Volta emits from their music; scratchy but well produced, raw but very clean, and an overall extremely well executed performance by the band. In the whole scheme of things, however, I still can't ignore (and I know by now you're sick of me talking about it) that horrible filler added. Although I sound like a broken record, that really was unnecessary. Although this is one of the more pretentious things the band has released, it still is a good album. 3+ stars.

Review by Wicket
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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The second Mars Volta album is as near to perfection as anything that has come out of the heavy prog scene over recent years. This is in my opinion the best album for the band after hearing all of their studio releases. It buries anything to come after it and is as good, actually better, than the debut which was an excellent album on its own merits. On Frances the Mute it all fell into place. Everything seems to work on this somehow. the psychedelic polyrhythmic indulgence is dominant throughout, especially the insane percussive time sigs and very loud guitars. Zavala's vocals are a dominant force and unmistakeable on every track. He blasts out in full voice sounding possessed by some unknown preternatural spirit. Many times the lyrics are nonsensical sounding like a mixture of Spanish and some Oriental language. This adds to the high strangeness of the atmospheres, and the puzzle deepens considerably as to what the songs are trying to say.

The band continue to borrow elements from free form manic jazz, to heavy power riffing and trippy psychedelia, every track becomes part of the whole. The conceptual framework is hard to pin down but is open to interpretation. It feels dark and moody, with dangerous explorations into the psyche and perhaps loss of sanity and identity being a key theme. There is a half hour magnum opus at the end that detours into many directions and never really settles on a particular melody for long. The lavishly illustrated booklet gives a few hints away as to what this puzzle is all about, although it matters not. the music speaks for itself as its own entity. The Widow was actually on the charts in a shorter form and is perhaps the only commercial sounding track on the album. The rest merges together seamlessly and at the end of the album you realise you have heard something completely out of the box. the ferociously original approach is a dynamically refreshing sound that can not be denied. A masterpiece of heavy psyche prog that was never bettered by The Mars Volta.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Those who want to enter into the unknown realms of The Mars Volta's music should either start with this album or with "De-loused in the Comatorium", mostly for safety reasons. If you start with "Amputecture" or "The Bedlam in Goliath", you will be entering the realm of what may seem like chaos and insanity, because both of those albums are some of the most challenging and dense albums I've ever heard. Many listeners actually found this album, "Francis the Mute" very challenging at first, but, believe me, this one is so much more structured than the previous two I just mentioned. The music here fits more of a structured and traditional form of writing, even though there isn't anything very traditional about this album. There are recognizable melodies on this album that are evident on the first listen, and this album probably better represents The Mars Volta than "Deloused..." does, but it is also an excellent album as is this one.

In "FtM", there is a lot more contrast in sound, the music is less dense, there is a lot more experimentation going on, and the music is better on the first listen. This is outstanding song writing and composition all the way through. The process was quite different here then it would be on "Amputecture" and "BiG". On the development of the music on this album, Cedric would write the songs basic structure including the lyrics. Then he would meet one-on-one with the individual band members who would take the basic sound and add their parts to it, taking it slowly at first, and then bringing it up to tempo. Each layer would be added until it became the sound that we have on the album. In later albums, the process was to create music more unstructured and on the fly, all together and at the moment, hence the feeling of chaos that prevails on those albums. This is why it is wise to start out with this album if you are considering exploring the music of TMV.

You get a lot of variety on this album, even within each separate track. "Cygnus..." will give you a good idea of the types of sounds you will hear throughout the album, great structure, complex meters and song structure, amazing instrumentation and even sections hinting on experimentation, especially at the end of the track. "The Widow" is the radio friendly track. It is the most accessible, as would be expected, with a pretty standard 6/8 rhythm and the surprising addition of brass. On the radio edit, the song is just over 3 minutes, but on the album version it is close to 6 minutes. Those extra minutes consists of some really cool experimentation (not really ambient as other reviewers have said, just experimental).

"L'Via l'Viaquez" is another great track that has some great guitar solos and Spanish sounding breakdowns resembling a samba rhythm. This is some great genre mixing sound that you don't get enough of in later albums that break up the wall of sound and denseness that is sometimes present here. Very excellent and creative. "Miranda..." is another great track that continues with the same style of excellent sound and music with all the same complexity. This one has a lighter feel to it at times, though it is still quite complex.

Following this is the 30 minute, multi movement epic masterpiece called "Cassandra Gemini". Again, this one has a lot of structure especially compared to later albums. However, this is probably closer to the chaos that would come, but is still an amazing piece of work. I'm not about to take it apart piece by piece, just expect a lot great guitar work, some dissonance and breakdowns with mood shifts and swings throughout.

The mixes of the later albums would also be more dense to reflect the music. This album is mixed to allow the individual parts to stand out a lot better. Even though I have grown to enjoy the later Mars Volta albums, to me they just don't arrive at the masterpiece status like this album does. It has complexity, experimentation, great musicianship and song craft, better balance and structure yet never commercial (except for the short radio track), great orchestration. This is definitely one of the best prog albums from the 2000's and should be considered essential. This is also an incredible band's best album. A must have for prog lovers.

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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'm so glad for the existence of THE MARS VOLTA! Between they and any Toby Drive project, progressive rock is safe moving forward along its rougher edges. In his review of the same album, Neu!man made reference to two albums that I think of every time when I listen to TMV: YES "Relayer" and IL BALLETTO Di BRONZO's "Ys"--two if the most amazing boundary punching albums ever to grace the "classic prog" scene. The raw and sonically mind-twisting TMV debut, "De-Loused in the Comatorium," coupled with this more-"controlled" chaos and frenzy here in "Frances the Mute" put TMV in that rarified company of innovators and, thus, true members of the moniker "progressive" rockers. I must add that I'm quite often hearing the spirit and genius of early LED ZEPPELIN in these compositions as well--which is such a refreshing sound to hear and feeling to have once more. (There was only ONE Led Zeppelin!) Though I will not be posting song-by-song, moment by moment commentary in this review (I hope to add that later) I will say that my first attempt to sit through all 77 minutes of this music met with a resounding success; I was glued to my seat, reveling in each and every moment, fully engaged and feeling every nuance and layer of the onslaught I was bathing myself in. Wondrous from start to finish (and around again we go!) (And so I did!) Maturity? Sanity? Clarity? Sobriety? Freedom? Unbound Joy? transformation? Transcendence? Reinventing oneself? I don't know the secret to The Mars Volta's evolution from De-Loused to this one but it is, to my mind, radical as well as a step in the right direction. I have no qualms proclaiming Frances The Mute as a true masterpiece of progressive rock and a sign that the wild and adventurous spirit of contained nuclear fission is alive and well in 21st Century prog. Praise the Lord!
Review by DangHeck
3 stars Classic Mars Volta, including the associations of not only FLEA and John FRUSCIANTE, but also of then-veteran Art-Rock extraordinaire Roger Joseph MANNING Jr. (JELLYFISH, BECK, LICKERISH QUARTET, IMPERIAL DRAG) on piano. Nothing is made in a vacuum, but I am once again curious of their specifically progressive influences. Love the (current?) modern designation of Heavy Prog for them, as this is a genre very much rooted in the past, in the days when Heavy Metal was simply an Acid Rock offshoot.

Of course replete with perverted and near-classic (see "L'Via L'Viaquez") Latin passages and influence, this album is an unrelenting barrage, through loud and quiet moments alike. And of course, this very unique mix of all of the above is what makes The Mars Volta them. Give 'em hell, lay it back down, ramp it up to 11. That's Mars Volta, for sure. In addition to the obvious Latin flavors, we get electronic and dub passages. All nicely fitted into this package, Frances the Mute.

And also, fans of the modern Prog genre should recognize the second track, "The Widow". It's got the hook, for sure. Great song, really. A modern classic, easily. A sort of LED ZEPPELIN Blues Rock thing, with all its modernist complexities (rolling bass, flailing organ, horns, etc.). A similar effect occurs on "L'Via L'Viaquez" (this track is far more masterful than you may realize upon first glance); it's intense and yet very tactful. What can I say? They were a great band.

I would just like to mention that "Miranda... [long title]" is the clear standout... lowlight on the album. It's low and slow. It's not not Mars Volta, or anything like that haha. It's just not that good. A breather on a heavy, dense album such as this one is probably necessary, but certainly not at 13 minutes' length...

The opening monologue on the first part of "Cassandra Gemini" struck me as a cross between Frank ZAPPA and Tom WAITS. Great effect. The big question with this song was "How necessary was it for them to digitally break this up into 8 parts?" Given its clear weaknesses, in my opinion ("Tarantism", "Plant A Nail...", "Pisacis"), really, quite necessary. Does it make for a weak epic? To me: yep. Again, surprised to see it, but "Plant a Nail..." is a Zeppelin interpolation, no? I wouldn't be able to place it specifically though...

True Rate: 3.5/5.0

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
5 stars ĄFeliz Cinco De Mayo! You know, a lot of people relate this day to Mexico's independence day, but that is on the 16th of September. This day is celebrated, though, as it marks Mexico beating France in the battle of Puebla in 1862. I thought, with such a celebratory day, I'd give a little something to celebrate, and what better way than listening to one of my all time favorite bands of The Mars Volta, specifically my personal all-time favorite from them, Frances The Mute.

In terms of alt prog, I think Deloused was the genre's Fragile, but Frances The Mute is the genre's Close To The Edge. I consider this, namely in the fact this is a big album for me, as it really made me wish to push myself to look further into this strange and wild world of prog rock. I listened to this album in late 2021, and at the time I never really liked The Mars Volta all too much, but when I listened to Frances for the first time, I really knew this was an album that is worthy of being called a masterpiece, but it wouldn't be a little later into 2022 that I knew WHY this album is a masterclass of prog rock.

For one, compared to the bombastic but very controlled Deloused, Frances marks when The Mars Volta went from boys to men, as they matured dramatically, not only in music, but in creativity, and just straight up bizarreness. The music here is this chaotic butchery of what Deloused put down, and not only rips it to shreds, but rebuilds it into this weird mix of psychedelic infused latino rock, jazz, hardcore, avant garde rock, drone, and just so much more. They also cranked the latino and hispanic scores to 11, with scores written in a more latino-focused sound and energy, utilizing rhythms that ferment through salsa sounds, and moments of samba, with lyrics often times written and sung in Spanish, such as L'via L'viaquez and Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus.

At first, this strange mix of various styles, genres, and sounds may seem like it'd be the worst time ever, and to those who do think this, I can totally get it, but I just absolutely love it. The band pulls this giant, chaotic bull by the horns, and rides it until the very end. This disorganized but energetic and lively music is what I drive for with The Mars Volta, and is a big reason why this album always struck me as amazing since it does it the best.

This album isn't all chaos though, there are a lot of downtimes in the songs too, namely The Widow and Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. While I love the fast and hardcore rhythms and energy found here, the times of slow, reflective, but equally bizarre music just washes over me, and I love every second of them. This also goes for the ambient and drone pieces from song to song. While it is very divided among fans, and I do see why, I think they are a neat and actually needed element, to let each song settle and transition smoothly into the next. I feel like removing that part of the album just wouldn't work as well, and in fact, would actually ruin the album for me personally.

I think another factor I really love about this album is just the bizarreness of it all, with lyrics containing nonsensical phrases and descriptions, but it is stuff that Cedric sings with such energy and power, that, while I may not understand fully what he is trying to portray, I can definitely feel the energy, so I don't even care, I am here along the ride, no matter what you have to say.

Speaking of Cedric, the musicianship here is just immaculate. Omar, Cedric, and the rest of the band put forth this cathartic instrumental palette that I will eat up anytime, anywhere, and in their giant substream of sounds do I just feel their energy flow through me. Sure, the energy may be extreme and even a little dark and scary, but I live for the fear here, and I think people who may not like this album should take this album into, not one that is the same prog fanfare of Renaissance, or King Crimson, but one that isn't fanfare at all, and more of this dark and underground punk palette, and simply just experience. That is the best way to listen to this album in my opinion, just alone, with nothing around you, and just experiencing the music at hand. I say, from my experience, it works like a charm.

I don't have much more to say other than to just listen to this album. Even if you may not like it, I still say it is an essential listen in both prog, and music in general. This album is one I doubt I will ever stop liking. It is just THAT good.

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Report this review (#2696865) | Posted by Krav0 | Friday, March 4, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1448777) | Posted by Insin | Monday, August 3, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 10 Years On: The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute I think I have a rather big slice of humble pie to dig into. There have been some rather negative opinions pointed towards Frances the Mute that have been flung around the internet over the last year or so, many of them coming from my mouth (or ... (read more)

Report this review (#1376677) | Posted by Gallifrey | Monday, March 2, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Mars Volta was probably the most important new Prog Band of the 00's. Finally there was a band that could write songs that stretched out for 15 minutes, play in odd time signatures, create some of the most esoteric lyrics you are likely to hear in modern rock and still recieve some mainstream at ... (read more)

Report this review (#951228) | Posted by Knapitatet | Sunday, April 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Frances The Mute - Masterpiece. 5* "No there's no light, In the darkest of your furthest reaches " The first Mars Volta album was something incredible,one of the albums I respect the most and then I listened to Frances The Mute and I could see a evolution/progression on every respective el ... (read more)

Report this review (#781331) | Posted by Rodrigo Progressive | Monday, July 2, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Damn fillers ... "Frances the Mute" was an album that appealed to me more than "De-Loused in Comatorium." The sounds and break beats, the furious pace and energetic with influences from jazz and Latin sounds, all these elements were in your album premiere, but are taken to another level, cl ... (read more)

Report this review (#470340) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, June 26, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Frances the Mute ? 2005 (3.4/5 almost 4 stars) 11 ? Best Song: L'Via 'L'Viaquez Sheesh! When you give somebody an inch, they certainly claw and fight to get that mile, don't they? Mars Volta had a good run with an album, so now it's a double album super rock opera that's thrice as convolute ... (read more)

Report this review (#459128) | Posted by Alitare | Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars With "Frances the Mute" TMV changed their music totally. You cant compair it to the debut-album "De-loused". While there the sound is very hard and eclectic, is it on their second album more psychedelic and you can often find space-rock like passages which will remember you a little bit to hawkwi ... (read more)

Report this review (#367875) | Posted by Elveeye | Thursday, December 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An absolute sonic masterpiece. No denying that I'm a fanboy of Omar Rodriguez- Lopez and his musical excursions, namely The Mars Volta, and Frances The Mute is the prime reason. After hearing this record all the way through for maybe the 3rd time, I found that I could not escape it. At the tim ... (read more)

Report this review (#305960) | Posted by Sgt. Smiles | Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This was my first Mars Volta album, and I'm glad it was, beacause it is my favourtie. The moment I put on the first song, I knew this album was something special. This album was incredibly different from their debut, but way better in my opinion. Taking song writing into more experimental pat ... (read more)

Report this review (#289514) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Frances The Mute, the second studio album by The Mars Volta is one of the most interesting and creative albums ever released. No other album has ever had such an effect on me, at first I hated this album, resented the large music free sections, impenetrable lyrics and Latin music influence whi ... (read more)

Report this review (#278833) | Posted by Gentlegiantprog | Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Okay, I'll start by saying that this is my 3rd favorite of 5 MV albums. It is behind Deloused and Amputechture but ahead of Bedlam in Goliath and Octahedron. This is not a bad album, but it does not have the immediate "new and different" impact that their first album gave me. One major problem ... (read more)

Report this review (#278721) | Posted by mohaveman | Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is: metal, symphonic, psychedelic, free jazz, krautrock, latino, cabaret music, ambient, Darmstadt school and whatever else I forgot to mention! Truly progressive music, King Crimson ca 71-73 an obvious reference, but definitely up to date, yet timeless and unique. Does that sound like a contra ... (read more)

Report this review (#245698) | Posted by Eskil H | Thursday, October 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars From my personal point of view, this album exceeds by far that acclaimed debut album, Frances the Mute, is much more accomplished... landed... this is an album that consolidates their sound and even have the (luxury) to makes "experiments", and not fall into the easyness or the pretension. Continuin ... (read more)

Report this review (#242014) | Posted by Diego I | Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ti ... (read more)

Report this review (#229080) | Posted by Johnny_Tsunami | Thursday, July 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is definetely one of the more compositionally sound Mars Volta releases. Although many will complain about long spacey segments between tracks (and trust me, there are quite a few of them), others will argue that it serves to bring a well-deserved atmosphere to an intense album. ... (read more)

Report this review (#218763) | Posted by topofsm | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Wow, this album is incredible, as the Mars Volta is usually. It is such a masterpiece that I do think it deserves 5 stars, and to be appreciated up there with Dark Side of the Moon and other such relics. The Mars Volta just has so much flavour in it, and in this album it is no less than usual. ... (read more)

Report this review (#209010) | Posted by HammerOfPink | Friday, March 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Definitely TMV's best! De-Loused in the Comatorium, don't get me wrong, is a great album... But Frances the Mute is way better in terms of musical composition. I think De-Loused contains too many easyli-accessible songs. The songs on this record have sometimes melodies, sometimes choruses or r ... (read more)

Report this review (#202455) | Posted by Messi19 | Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Francis the Mute is the second album by The Mars Volta. Great ideas that were just drawn on too long. From the soundscapes on Miranda that ghost just isn't holy anymore, to the chaos on Cassandra Gemini. They arnt bad songs, its just that they get boring and a little noisy after a while. Im not ... (read more)

Report this review (#201304) | Posted by pianoman | Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yeah, yeah. I know. Only assign 5 star ratings to absolutely essential albums. Well, I can't think of a more perfect description of this, the Volta's second masterpiece. I was a fan of their debut, but not a rabid one. This album changed all that. This album, in my opinion, established the Mars ... (read more)

Report this review (#199238) | Posted by Eapo_q42 | Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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