Review Summary: "What's new?"
A question I might have liked an answer to before ascending into a series of highly improvisational rock suites by cult heroes The Mars Volta. "Not much" would have to be an understatement of the severe shape they are in here. Where is this "progressiveness" I keep hearing so much about? How is 17 minutes of scales that don't actually go together (Tetragrammaton
) going to amount to any progression in the world we call music? That's merely a gimmick. Béla Bartók was miles ahead of that nearly a century ago.
In order to be progressive, you've got to know what you're up against. Zappa & Mothers, Voivod, Mr. Bungle, The Beatles, The Jesus lizard, Radiohead, Led Zeppellin and Meshuggah are just a few of many bands that pushed boundaries in rock/funk/metal, and in comparison, Mars Volta's experiments are kept cautiously close to familiar grounds far too often. Most of their fabled jams are in a comfortable 4/4 or 6/8 and based off a perfectly tonal chord sequence. It doesn't take musicians of this caliber to hit dissonant notes at a steady rate in such an environment. The result is vanity, musicians showing off the cool stuff they can do, without connecting anything to anything.
Particularly embarrassing is El ciervo vulnerado
, 9 minutes of NOTHING. Melody? Riffage? Some chords perhaps? Nope, none are present, just dicking around with synths and tepid guitar licks to create some sort of soundscape. Background music. I guess I should follow the vocals then - that Cedric sounds pretty serious and passionate about his stuff.
Originally Posted by El ciervo vulnerado
if you consume me i will not let you go
if you walk right through me
my voice will taint your throat
blessed be the wrong i've done
Who the heck buys that? I'm not going to look for any hidden meaning in what is obviously a load of crap. If you're going to just randomly throw lyrics together, at least have the dignity to apply a sense of humour into the performance. But Cedric so firmly believes in his crusade against using "humans as ornaments" (Meccamputechture
), it's gullible - not a good kind of funny to be.
I'll freely admit that there is one jam they didn't wank to shreds, which is Day of the Baphomets
. I like how it goes from Dave Brubeckiness to a total rockfest that really packs a punch. That stuff is excellent, yeah, THAT stuff is! Why is this kind of intensity so damn rare here? Do they have their heads too far up their bums to say "fellows, that jam session kinda blew" every once in a while?
Some rays of hope are Vermicide
a decent ballad with a pretty convincingly psycho interlude, and anthemic outro - all this in a modest 4m 15s, and Asilos Magdalena
which features some beautiful flamenco ditties, and an actually nuancated performance from Cedric. Of course some ambienty synth strings had to be added in case someone hadn't noticed it was supposed to be the "sad song" of the album. Viscera eyes
literally taunts me - so at least mr. Omar didn't actually LOSE his talent of writing an excellent guitar-drum duet with intelligent and catchy hooks (see Eriatarka
off De-Loused in the comatorium
for a very fine example). There are some gorgeous riffs and leads on this track, the vocal lines are as dramatically Carmina Burana-like as ever though. FINALLY some enticing drums! Then Omar going Satriani for three boring minutes, and it builds up to an awkward implosion.
A 1.5/5 for this album is pretty fair, considering over 90% of it is a poor excuse for prog rock, and of the 10% more or less memorable bits of music, 8% gets overshadowed by that 90%, which leaves 2% of good music, amounting to a 0.4/5. I rounded up. If you are reading this, Omar: smoke some of the stuff that makes your buddy write about girls with guts for eyes, and put that kind of silly whackiness into the friggin' music!