Sometimes, we give an album far too much credit the first time we hear it. Or the first forty times we hear it. Regardless, that album is usually one that introduces you into something new, a musical territory that you frankly had never explored before. You're entranced by it; you think it's one of the greatest works of art you've ever experienced. When I first heard De-Loused in the Comatorium
, The Mars Volta's first full length, I had that exact feeling. While I had listened to artists like King Crimson
, I had never listened to such a completely frenetic and, honestly, strange album as this one. I was completely taken aback by how 'kick ass' everyone was on here. However, as time went on, and I got into far more music than I had been into when I first listened, I realized that this album just wasn't anything truly special. It was merely a solid exhibition of ideas and musicianship.
Frankly, I feel uncomfortable listening to certain songs off of this album now. For example, at times, The Mars Volta gets far too loud and crazy without truly accomplishing anything. Intertiatic ESP
is the most apparent example of this. The band sounds as if they don't have much of a cohesive thought process for much of it; Jon Theodore (drums) and guest star Flea (bass, of Red Hot Chili Peppers
fame) really don't mesh well at times, and it leaves the feeling everyone in the band is trying to outshine each other. Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals), while for the majority of the album quite enjoyable (once you get used to his rather high pitch), is plain annoying here, as it sounds as though he is just throwing his voice around with very little emotion, something that was certainly lost in translation from At the Drive-In
. It's a shame, as even here, it's apparent how amazing the level of musicianship is on this album.
The following track; Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)
is one of the stronger tracks on the album, but also once again highlights glaring weaknesses in their songwriting ability. Musically, the song is as solid as you'll get; Omar Lopez-Rodriguez carries the song with effect-heavy guitar work that leads into one of the more psychedelic and dark sounding songs on the album, and the band works far better together here. Looking at the lyrics brings up a completely different story. In the telling of their concept (a tribute to fellow musician and El Paso-native Julio Venegas), Cedric and co. decided that a more imagery directed focus should be taken, instead of actually saying anything. Most concept albums are made or broken by how the listener connects with how the story evolves, and the points it attempts to get across. Sadly, the entirely too convoluted lyrics here prevent any of that from happening. It's rarely more apparent than on Roulette
, as some choice highlights of what Cedric says are "Transient jet lag ecto mimed bison , This is the haunt of roulette dares, Ruse of metacarpi, Caveat emptor....to all that enter here "
. What the hell does that even mean
. It's fine and dandy to force the listener to conjure up images, but when they must bust out a dictionary to even attempt to grasp what you're saying, it leaves a sinking feeling that refuses to go away.
The song I'm most torn upon on the album, however, is Drunkship of Lanturns
. After the previous song and a neat little Spanish-tinged guitar break (Tira Me a las Ara'as
), we get the extremely manic Drunkship
. It's actually my favorite Cedric vocal performance (only to be compared by Take the Veil
five tracks later), and features many-layered vocal effects, more than one of which serve to act as a near second guitar. However, the songs verses drag on a bit too much for the own good, despite the brilliant work on here by Omar. While it keeps the Spanish-tint given by Tira Me
, it turns into a much more psychedelic experience when the bridge kicks in, as the explosion of sound The Mars Volta has essentially taken on as its own comes in full effect with Cedric wailing "Lash of one thousand eye brows clicking , Counting the toll , Counting the toll "
. If it wasn't for the fact that the song just plain runs too long, and that the lyrics are once again utter tripe, the song would be a highlight. Instead, it merely leads into the first amazing song of the album.
, at least in my book, is pure genius. After a very quick drum intro reminiscent of Inertiatic
, Omar cuts in with some of the best guitar work on the album, establishing a slow, ballady mood for the song. While the lyrics still haven't improved (and generally wont), Cedric makes it sound like they have meaning this time around. He may be talking about amoeba land crafts, but it feels like he's talking about something much closer to the heart. The song brilliantly transposes into a very high-energy chorus, once again bringing back memories of what was good about Inertiatic
, and then leads once again into the beautiful guitar work. However, after this, the song bursts open, and the eclectic ness of it all completes a feat The Mars Volta rarely accomplish, a song that works on nearly all levels.
Unfortunately, Cicatriz ESP
does not. It starts out interesting enough, with the very bubbly line "Do you recall its name?"
leading into some excellent tradeoff guitar and bass parts between Omar and Flea, and the always-excellent Theodore drumming (on a side note, he is easily one of the most air dummable guys out there - just pointing it out). I've Defected!
, the proclamation made on the second chorus of the song is arguably the apex of the album, and one of the best car-stereo moments on the album. However, the problem with the song lies in its abysmal ambient section. The jam session here is decent enough, although fairly boring and rather skippable (however, considering this started out as an excellent car song, this is a problem), the 3 or so minutes of ambiance is just appalling. Attempting to instill some sort of mood just doesn't work, as the jam session will leave most listeners already disinterested. Even the attempt to bring it all back together at the end fails to revive this song, and leaves it as a great idea gone wrong... somehow. The song is much better than what follows, though.
Ever just pretended a song wasn't on an album, just so you could justify your liking of it even more? That's how I was with This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed
. On paper, it should be a great song; it combines all of the elements the Mars Volta possesses into one 5-minute blast. It plain sucks that it's even more disjointed than Inertiatic
. The verse isn't bad, Flea's bass line is arguably his best on the album. Omar's guitar work is a different story, as it just generally seems pointless and distracting. The chorus... it's very hard to describe it well. The best way I suppose is it to say its noise. It's painful to listen too, it tries too hard to be some kind of explosion and instead ends up as just a vortex of suck. However, one of the best lyrics is here, and one of the few ones that is easy to grasp: "does it sting of augur truth, was your temple left in ruins , is that you moatilliatta
." Still completely inane, but leaving a temple in empty ruins is a fairly good summation of what this song does.
shines brilliantly. Instead of attempting to set a mood halfway through the song, Televators
begins with a very dark sounding introduction, comprised of bat squeaks and a very soft synth. The acoustic guitar is a welcome respite from the extremely high energy of almost the entirety of the rest of the album, and Cedric's soft vocals fit perfectly. While the diction used is still largely poor, at times you can actually somewhat relate to what Cedric says (when taken in bits), and when he pitches up his voice, the song truly makes its mark. The relative explosion of noise here is essentially the culmination of the album, as the chorus like bridge is one of the few moments that I have received chills from a song. It's a perfectly crafted ballad, and it's almost perfectly positioned to give the album's ending its incredible impact.
After the extremely slow Televators
and its long ambient outro, we are treated to the best song on the album (and the only one to feature Cedric's psuedo-rapping), Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt
. While the rest of the album generally has some point where you get either bored or wonder "why the hell is this happening", Take the Veil
is a track absolutely devoid of anything that can be considered filler. Flea's bass is incredible, featuring his funky playing more akin to BloodSugarSexMagick
than By the Way
, and combining perfectly with Theodore to keep a strong sense of awareness in the song. There is of course the bass solo, which is one of the most kickin' moments of the album, and the final cries of "Who brought me here, forsaken deprived and wrought with fear, who turned it off, the last thing I remember now"
is, in this reviewers mind, the only way to encapsulate the energy of this album.
De-Loused in the Comatorium
is very much what can be considered a landmark album. It would be nigh impossible to debate that, as an album that has come out in the past 5 years, that it was extremely unique and, for at least the time being, will influence many up and coming bands. However, that is not to say it is a classic album by any means, nor is it amazing. It's merely an impressive album, showcasing one of, if not the, most talented band that is even relatively known. If not for the excessiveness that this album protrudes at many moments, it would have been a veritable renaissance of progressive in the mainstream. Instead, it merely gave even more way for more experimental acts to get recognition in the past few years. In the end, it's a disappointing album, surely, but does that make it bad? Not at all. For all of it's shortcomings, De-Loused
is a great album, and decent entry point into the new wave of prog. Just don't expect a In the Court Of The Crimson King
or Operation: Mindcrime