Review Summary: The mars Volta are back with another album full of craziness, albeit a different type of craziness. With two of the greatest rock albums ever produced under their collective belts, can we they top Frances the Mute, considered by many to be a classic?
From the ashes of the departed At the Drive-In, to some the seminal Post-Hardcore band. came Sparta and The Mars Volta. Where Sparta headed further down the road of critical acclaim coupled with mainstream acceptability, The Mars Volta took some of the Prog influences that were hidden in the seams of At the Drive-in’s last album “Relationship of Command” and pushed them to a new maximum. With their latest album “Amputecture,” The Mars Volta continue to push boundaries. But this is album is a very different beast from Deloused in the Comatorium and Frances the mute. Both those albums had a common theme, a story running through them, Amputecture contains no solid theme running throughout. This gives Cedric and Omar an even wider scope to play with, not limited to lyrics that would fit in with their cryptic story. Now they are free to rampage through the languages of Spanish and English like angry horseman, ravishing verbs, nouns and adverbs with gay abandon. “The kiosk in my temporal lobe is shaped like Rosalyn Carter?” Sure! “Fondling with pitchforks in a cattle prodded sea?” Why not? Erm... “En la lluvia me prometistes tu sangre?” I guess so. On first glance the new album seems to have gone overboard, cramming too many lyrical ideas into one album. Have The Mars Volta lucked out? Is the game up for Cedric and Omar?
In a word: no. Through all wailing, vocal gymnastics and synth dubbed vocals, you can barely make out what Cedric is singing allot of the time, but what you’re left with is picking out fractured sentences and little bits that you can pick up on. Unless you’re sitting with the lyrics in front of you, you’re not going to pick up on some of the more unusual sentences. Most of the time you will be sitting back in awe, listening to the frantic and frenetic guitar and bass work. From the opening sparks of “Vicarious Atonement,” to the dying chords of “El Ciervo Vulnerado,” the guitar work fizzles with pure energy, particularly on the standout track “Tetragrammaton.” Clocking in at just less than seventeen minutes, Tetagrammaton seems like half the album in one movement. But what a movement it is. Fizzling, jumping, crackly guitars sparking across the track, insane frantic, blasting percussion, (this time provided by Thomas Pridgen) and a fantastic three minute-odd breakdown with Cedric’s trademark vocals splashed across them, Tetragrammaton is a joy to listen to. All sixteen minutes and forty-one seconds of it.
There is one track however The Volta mellow out, for the first time ever on the album. Yes, “Asilos Magdalena” is acoustic, and yes, it does sound out of place when you first hear it, but then you realize it’s just another layer to this deep and complex album. Sung in entirely in Spanish, the track could easily be a traditional Spanish folk song, albeit minus the mind bending effects at the beginning and towards the end.
The tracks on this album seem to come in pairs. “Vicarious Atonement,” and “El Ciervo Vulnerado,” moody, quiet and atmospheric. “Tetragrammton” and “Day of the Baphomets” long, weird, and jazzy. The two radio friendly(ish) tracks on the album are “Vermicide,” and “Viscera Eyes.” Both contain deadly sharp guitar work, spliced with insanely high and piercing vocals and yet, “Viscera Eyes” contains the album’s most singable line, in the form of “Come on and give it to me, come on and die.” I expect commercial radio to be playing it soon. (I think not.)
Trying to review this album is a tough job, not half because it’s just so damn complicated and well structured that trying to pick holes in it seems just plain wrong. So I won’t even try. I never said this was going to be a balanced review, but I digress. The Mars Volta have pulled off a superb album here, better than anything they have done before, whilst being completely different at the same time. It’s still Volta, but it’s not the Volta we used to know; now it’s a Volta who understands the sound they are trying achieve in every track. The album just bursts with creativity and spark. They have found their sound in this album, a pure form of rock fusion, the jazzy notes more present then ever before. Amputechture may well serve the test of time as one of the best albums ever made.