Review Summary: A shelve of pig smotherd cries.
Back in 2001, it came as a massive surprise when the members of At The Drive-In pulled the plug on the band, just as they were at the peak of their fame and causing even bigger waves, caused by their exceptional third record, Relationship of Command
. It was something no one expected, but inside the group relationships were waning, as well as cliché problems, such as drugs, being another factor of the break-up. However, an even bigger surprise came from the rebound Cedric and Omar made with their next project: The Mars Volta; a progressive rock band, that melded spacey jams, intricate riffs and fantastic vocal work -- supported by a flawless, airtight rhythm section. Though I would debate on De-Loused in the Comatorium
being their finest hour, many will agree it is their finest work, and there are so many reasons why.
At this stage in the band’s career, Juan had not yet joined the band as their official bass player, hiring Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea to hold down the low-end of the album. This pits Flea and one, Jon Theodor, in delivering the groove; a rhythm section at a Richter Scale of 11. For those that don’t know Jon Theodor, he is a phenomenal drummer who is better known these days for playing in Queens of the Stone Age, and one that, coupled with Flea, creates a duo at the same calibre of Bonham and Jones. Retrospectively Theodor’s departure after Frances the Mute
was the coffin nail in the band in terms of groove; the band limped on for the rest of their career hiring very different drummers, which sometimes worked for them, other times it didn’t quite stick. From start to finish, every single aspect of the rhythm section on De-Loused in the Comatorium
is excellent: “Roulette Dares”, “Eria Tarka” and “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” are real stand-out moments where Flea and Jon gel perfectly, but taking the highlights out of the equation, even the low moments are exceptionally high. It isn’t even about musical ability -- which is in abundance -- it’s more their balance of skill flexing and mood making, as a lot of the tracks here have moments for respite; creating a certain mood before shifting into a high-octane finisher.
Another rather appealing quality about this album is its awareness for being concise. The music, while some tracks are lengthy, don’t overstay their welcome, and have a point to the mood-building they set. Omar’s effects lathed guitar passages are captivating, impressive and most importantly: catchy. The squeals at the interlude section of “Intertiatic E.S.P”, shifting into tremolo picking and then finally hitting those last couple of staccato notes before going back into one of the most accessible Volta choruses you’ll hear from their career, is something that stays with you. There are so many great moments that come from Omar, but the likes of “Roulette Dares” and “Drunkship of Lanterns” showcase a guitarist at his absolute best; managing to be both interesting and accessible for long periods of time, which, as the band will find out in later days, isn’t easy to maintain. Equally, Cedric is also in his absolute prime on here; while his lyrics have an intricacy to them, they don’t feel as overly pompous as they do on latter day records, telling his tales in an unusually clear way by Cedric's standards. But it’s the vocal melodies that have the home run on here: irresistibly catchy, poppy, and impressive. Once again, the track “Roulette Dares”, when it hits the vocal highs at its end section of the song, creates goosebumps; “Cicatriz E.S.P” holds a melancholy that will want you to sit through it until the end; and “Intertiatic E.S.P” shows an energetic At The Drive-In tinge to his singing.
If you’ve never listened to the band before, there really is no better place to start than here. De-Loused in the Comatorium
operates on nothing but lean tissue, and even though songs like the 12 minute epic “Cicatriz E.S.P”appear daunting, they whiz past you before you even realise they’ve finished. Though Octahedron
takes the title for being the band's most accessible album, this one makes a run for its money, with unfathomable amounts of excitment attached.
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A