Review Summary: No surprises here.
It's hard to, strictly speaking, "review" an album by The Mars Volta without being just a bit biased, whether you're in the "Everything they've done is fantastic" camp, or the "I want De-loused sequels for albums" camp. The six piece band from Puerto Rico has been through a lot of crazy stuff in their ten years and six albums, from lineup changes to the amount of shows they play, to how many side projects theynhave and how much time they spend in the studio. Most people would know that The Mars Volta spend a LOT of time in the studio, to give their albums that surreal kick, and to add as many special sound effects and distortion and what not. It's mainly this reason that they're one of the most polarizing bands of the century. But for those of us that are willing to listen, and give things our full attention, the band's music sure can be rewarding.
If you've paid attention to the band's direction as of The Bedlam in Goliath
, the band has been going into a less prog/jazz rock direction and more into a just straightforward rock style. Octahedron
shocked many a fan with this decidedly more accessible direction- if anything, it was a good pop album. I mean, I wouldn't call any of it progressive, strictly speaking. Maybe two songs (Luciforms, Halo of Nembutals) were a tad proggish, but the album was just more straightforward pop rock, as it was accessible to even the most pedestrian of listeners. And it was clear with that album that their next album was going to continue that direction... and thank god they did.
There isn't a single track on the album I'd dare call dull. In fact, amongst so many flawless songs, it's really hard to choose a favourite). All the songs have an eerie sense of repressed rage just begging to be set free- they're subdued, yet at the same time chaotic. One particularly lovely example is the second track "Aegis". The song is just haunting in every sense of the word. The drumming is fast, yet the vocals, guitar and bass all remain soft for the most part. The vocal melody is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard as well, and the lyrics are powerful, even despite being full of typical MarsVolta psychobabble. The chorus of, "Even if there is no way back home/I'm not running away
really sticks out in your mind.
Other songs like this include "Dyslexicon", which is dreamy and pleasant yet nightmarish and ugly. "The second that I fell in love with the handle of your revolver/I always seem to hear it in your laughter...
", definitely one of the most haunting transitions in music, and let's not forget the harmony near the end of the bridge, "That's when I repent/into the night
" just inspires chills every time. "The Malkin Jewel" is like a heavy metal tune meets a Jimi Hendrix tune, with gloriously angry vocals and the typical nonsensical lyrics courtesy of Mr. Rodriguez himself. "And all the traps in the cellar go CLICKETY CLACK, you know I'm gonna set em for you!!!"
Certain songs have an industrial tinge to them as well. The chorus to the dreamy opener "The Whip Hand" would surely make NIN proud, with the overlapping synthesizers. The song is already reminiscent of Octahedron
enough, but the industrial elements sure are a great addition. The highlight of the album, "In Absentia", is ultimately then most industrial song on the album-it's half a nod to Skinny Puppy and half a wonderful dream-pop spectacle of a track. The tune opens with loud, clanging noises, only to just abruptly transition into a heavily distorted synth riff, with shades of echoey guitars and drums. Then first chorus is without a doubt one of the most unreal things you'll ever hear- with Deantoni Parks showing off how truly talented he really is with a beautifully intense buildup of just rolling the toms. How his arm didn't fall off after it, guess we'll never know too. Then, when the second half hits, it will ultimately just blow you away.Â*
The song isn't without its share of ballads either- "Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound" is like a more powerful version of "Copernicus" from Octahedron
. But when the heavy parts hit, boy do they hit hard. "Trinkets Pale of Moon" is a lovely and mournful track that's like a trip to the moon and back in a few minutes, with Omar's beautiful falsetto gracing it further. "Imago" has a lovely Latin kick to it, and wouldn't feel out of place in a Robert Rodriguez flick. It's also kind of spooky, in a way.
But even despite all that above, the song that will really leave a lasting effect on your brain is "Zed and Two Naughts". The song is like the marriage of a post-apocalyptic dirge by Godspeed You! Black Emperor" and one of Iron Maiden's fast paced better efforts that will stay in your head long after the album is over. The energy and sheer emotion of the song is unlike the band have ever executed before, even "El Ciervo Vulnerado" has nothing on this.
It's pretty clear how The Mars Volta have been taking things for a while now. They've done from jazz-punk with De-Loused
, to progressive metal with Frances
, to even just straightforward prog with Amputechture
, and this and its predecessor are more in a just straightforward rock direction, with a few progressive elements. Granted, if you want their first album all over again, you know very well to stay away. This is the new The Mars Volta, whether we like it or not. It's definitely going to be that way for a whi-
Oh wait, never mind. Ignore all of what I typed above. This review should really read this:
"Deloused in the Comatorium was one of the best albums ever. It got me into the Mars Volta. Since then none of their albums sound like it. This is unacceptable to anyone with a brain. I want Deloused all over again because I can't accept it when bands change. When are they going to realize every album needs to sound like Deloused?"