The Mars Volta
Landscape Tantrums


3.0
good

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
April 25th, 2021 | 40 replies


Release Date: 04/23/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: As far as releases like this go, it's worth checking out.

2023 will mark the twentieth anniversary of De-Loused in the Comatorium and a decade since The Mars Volta hung up their hats and called it a day. Some would argue that it was for good reasons, others, like myself, would counter they were doing just fine writing creative works that, at the very least, satisfied the rabid fanbase’s insatiable appetite. Admittingly, the band struggled to deliver seminal works with the same shoulder-shrugging ease once Jon Theodore left the band, but their consistency endured until the end. Regardless of what your thoughts are for The Mars Volta’s later years, their departure has been sorely felt in recent times. Once the dust settled on the band’s exit the scene was left in desolation, with no band since being able to fill the gaping void in quite the same way. The reason? Well let’s be frank here – their idiosyncratic disposition was just too difficult to replicate. The Mars Volta had every department covered with the utmost attention to detail. Couple their virtuosity, which would make a lot of musicians hang up their instruments anyway, with genuine love for music and passion for artistic expression and they had a formidable formula very few could (or can to this day) compete with. Esoteric and verbose lyrics executed with incredible vocal versatility, bulking, labyrinthian compositions and intricate, multi-layered instrumental work, and punctilious artwork that was placed in the centre of these incredible peregrinations. In short, The Mars Volta used these intrinsic elements as building blocks to develop an inimitable sound that would form their revered legacy.

That legacy is such that people rejoiced over the eye-wateringly priced limited vinyl boxset which was announced only a few months back – the first official, band-sanctioned vinyl release since the albums’ initial releases – one that sold out like hot cakes at the pre-order stage. However, vinyl collectors, hardcore fans or no, for most people, the piquing interest came from the reveal of Landscape Tantrums which was to be included in the boxset: a collection of never-before released demo tracks that came from the De-Loused in the Comatorium era. For a layman, De-Loused in the Comatorium is almost inarguably hailed as the band’s crowning opus; its presentation is built up in a way to be both incredibly dense and profound, yet very accessible in execution. It’s got that liminal feeling where Cedric and Omar were shedding their post-hardcore At the Drive-In ties for more thoughtful prog-rock pastures. This would probably explain its succinct – in the realms of The Mars Volta – nature and why it’s regarded as their most popular release.

So that’s where we are in 2021; fans chomping at the bit for a vinyl re-release and some demos from an album almost twenty years old. And, hell, I’m as pleased with the situation as any other Volta fan out there, but the question remains – how does Landscape Tantrums stack up? In reality, it’s as one would imagine it to be: it’s a snapshot of feral, half-baked ideas that would inevitably morph and flourish into the final product we know De-Loused to be, once Rick Ruben came onto the scene. Essentially, the band started recording the album themselves (ala Landscape Tantrums) before changing course and deciding to get Rick Rubin involved as co-produce for the record. As such, Landscape Tantrums is a time capsule that gets you more intimately connected with the band and how their processes developed over time. It’s still a niche product however, for the hardcore and the curious. If you want to get a better understanding for where the band’s headspace was at the time of making this modern rock masterpiece, there’s plenty of variations and alterations here to satisfy those kinds of needs.

That being said, I’m not the kind of guy who gets his rocks off on this kind of fly-on-the-wall immersion. If nothing else, I can say the sound quality makes it an alluring offering, since “demos” feels somewhat misleading. Indeed, the songs here sound pretty great and are structurally complete with everything there. No, what I think this release reveals more than anything else is that it’s yearning for guidance. After hearing Landscape Tantrums, it’s clear Rubin came into the fray to polish up on production ideas, both big and subtle, to completely capture the heart of what De-Loused would become and as such, it’s hard to not feel like these tracks are inferior in almost every conceivable way. The tracks in this state lack meat and weight. Instruments seem to float in the sonic vacuum with a lack of immediacy and purpose. Cedric in particular is drowning in vacuous vocal effects for the majority of these demos, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the emotional trajectory of various crescendo-building moments, namely on “Roulette Dares”’ incredible vocal highs which feel severely neutered by reverb and delay effects, and some distracting harmonies. Similar differences come from “Drunkship of Lanterns”’ powerhouse rhythm section which now feels far less intimidating and more pacified to make room for the stylophone which takes itself to the forefront of the song. I think the only track I found to be legitimately great in its own way – merely because it’s dominated by Carpenter-esque synths that take hold of the song – is “Son Et Lumiere”. It’s an interesting take that intensifies the foreboding mood, but even then, it takes nearly twice as long as its finished counterpart to get to the point, and after all, this is an intro track we’re talking about here.

My opinion resides in the fact releases like this shouldn’t see the light of day. There are obvious reasons why Landscape Tantrums wasn’t released in this state, but when it is associated with a near perfect prog-rock masterpiece birthed at the start of the twenty-first century, it kind of shows the mistakes the band were making initially. And maybe that’s the point? Maybe this thing is seeing the light of day now to show the more vulnerable side of Omar’s decisions. As I’ve said, if you like this kind of thing, there’s plenty to dissect and compare with the final version, but I’d rather put my time into hearing the finished product than waste any more time on Landscape Tantrums.



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user ratings (25)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2021


45790 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

this boxset was a cool idea and I fully support them taking the music back from Universal's bullshit but there's just some weird choices. no Plague Upon Your Hissing on this, no Frances title track but they used a whole vinyl side for Mr Muggs lol. only this band

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2021


17187 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mate, I was gutted to find out the t/t for frances wasn’t included — like wtf is that all about?!

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2021


45790 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

absolutely bizarre, it might literally be my favourite TMV song lmao. wild it wasn't on the album in the first place tbh

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2021


45790 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

just read the writeup, good stuff as always Gonz

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2021


17187 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks man, always appreciate the kind words.



And yeah, I love frances, but it definitely lacks conventional tracks — it’s more ambient than anything else — and the t/t is one of their best. I never looked into why it never got released, but it’s just a no brainer to have it on there lol

Slex
April 25th 2021


12249 Comments


Frances is a top 10 all time album for me and about 5x better than anything else they've done but I've never heard the t/t lol I'm a fake fan

Digging: Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World

LeddSledd
April 25th 2021


6153 Comments


BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

rodrigo90
April 25th 2021


7058 Comments


Frances is a top 10 all time album for me and about 5x better than anything else they've done but I've never heard the t/t lol I'm a fake fan

No you're not. Frances is million times less accesible than de loused so you're into some avant garde shit I'd approve.

Ashtiel
April 25th 2021


1267 Comments


the t/t is amazing, doubly so if you sequence it in as the first track for Frances the Mute. get on it

Veldin
April 25th 2021


4522 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Frances t/t is incredible and I also listen to it to start out the LP, but I assume it was cut because it would have forced the album to be a double album which is more costly for the production. Sad it wasn't included in the boxset. I personally love this demo and find some portions of it more enjoyable than the final Rubin product (hence my high rating), but I've been jamming a lot of these demos as the Summer Demos for awhile, so I've grown to really love the more lo-fi sound (tho I think these may be slightly different/better than those Summer Sessions). Iirc Omar has stated his dissatisfaction with the final product and I think that may be a reason he wanted to release this collection of demos. Where tf are Plague Upon Your Hissing and Eunuch Provocateur that were supposed to be from these sessions tho?

Slex
April 25th 2021


12249 Comments


I'm gonna get on it asap

Ashtiel
April 25th 2021


1267 Comments


ty ily

Veldin
April 25th 2021


4522 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just listened to the t/t after not hearing it in quite some time and forgot how emotional it is. Favorite song from Frances sessions next to Cassandra Gemini, which is my favorite TMV song. "Thirteen seconds", "Gutted and depraved" and "This never happened" sections are especially powerful. And after reading and analyzing lyrics on Genius.com, I forgot how absolutely brutal the concept of the album is and so disappointed the t/t never made the LP because it's so important to the story. Even has the Sarcophagi movement that perfectly leads into Cygnus.

Veldin
April 25th 2021


4522 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also noticing a reoccurring theme of females getting screwed over by men and religion in Cedric's lyrics (Frances the Mute, The Bedlam in Goliath, "Tetragrammaton").

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2021


45790 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

"Frances t/t is incredible and I also listen to it to start out the LP, but I assume it was cut because it would have forced the album to be a double album which is more costly for the production."



I'm guessing this is it, but crazy thought they could have cut the 20 minutes of literal crickets and bells ringing and other shit, instead of cutting their single best song, and still made it a single album?



"Where tf are Plague Upon Your Hissing and Eunuch Provocateur that were supposed to be from these sessions tho?"



right, and there's a version of Cut That City from these sessions too if memory serves. I feel like they released the most uninteresting version of these demos they possibly could lol

Cormano
April 26th 2021


2957 Comments


love how meaty the rythm section on this thing sounds, still unsure wheter it was Eva or Flea on bass, not sure if I'd agree these demos were directionless, pretty sure Omar would rather have fans jamming this than Deloused, I think this is a beautiful rendition Televators and Take the Veil goes fucking hard

Veldin
April 26th 2021


4522 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Rowan, totally agree, because there's a cut on YouTube that STILL includes the ambient passages, but minimizes them to include t/t and still be 79 mins (CD requirement), so yeah. Yeah, I think you're right, there is a Cut That City from De-Loused sessions iirc. The De-Loused version of Eunuch is so damn good and it has the damn album title drop.

@Cormano - I was really surprised at this version of Take the Veil (4 minutes longer and essentially instrumental) and this Televators was haunting

Veldin
April 26th 2021


4522 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2puUdO4YBg&t=2837s

^^ Here's the Frances the Mute full album edit (with t/t) that fits on CD (with DL link), for those times when ya just want to get to the good shit. The edited transitions are really well done imo

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2021


17187 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"not sure if I'd agree these demos were directionless, pretty sure Omar would rather have fans jamming this than Deloused"



funny you say that. i actually got the boxset and i was reading the book that came with it yesterday. turns out my overall assessment on the matter was pretty accurate; omar was having a nightmare getting the album finished and rubin was like a mentor to him during the piecing together of deloused. he liked what they had recorded, but he seems far more pleased with the final result, and also said he owes an awful lot of what he's learned about production to rubin





DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2021


17187 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i may come across harsh in this review, but bear in mind, if you havent got that impression from my overall opinion on de-loused, i regard it as a near perfect album. landscape is still decent, because it's essentially what we get on de-loused, but there's a lot of important little ideas and elements missing -- elements that make it the greatness it would end up becoming.



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