Review Summary: Why?
2022’s The Mars Volta
was a ballsy move. The fervour and reverence for The Mars Volta before their ten-year hiatus was no joke. The passionate fanbase would absorb every sonic crumb given to them by this venerable duo without question, largely overlooking the glaring obviousness the band’s overarching approach to writing music just prior to their hiatus, while disparate and great in execution, had diminished and wasn’t quite the explosive, inimitable peregrination it had once been. For most rational music enthusiasts with a modicum of nous in them, they’d agree it was probably a good time to call it a day when they did; leaving a fantastic body of work behind them and retaining their legacy and dignity before it got ugly. For someone as well-versed in their subversive proclivities as I am, Omar and Cedric’s decision to make their return a furtive scuttle through the door over a cosmic explosion came as little surprise. It’s pretty cliché to say The Mars Volta
is their “mature album”, but given their age and what they’d already accomplished as artists thus far, it seemed logical to go down this path and explore pastures previously only dabbled in. That said, while The Mars Volta
generally succeeds with its goals, there’s no denying there were some very serious issues with it. One of those issues was despite the solid effort, it didn’t leave the band a plethora of avenues to explore in this vein.
Which brings us on to Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
, an album nobody asked for. For the life of me, I can’t understand where this decision came from. I think most would agree The Mars Volta
isn’t one to raise your heart-rate; it’s an album with a very austere structure to it, surrounded by lavish instrumentation and Cedric’s (mostly) solid vocal performances. What’s most interesting about Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
is it feels obligated to remove the few bells and whistles from its original counterpart and make an even more subdued record – which, as you can imagine, is the main problem here. If The Mars Volta
had the same level of energetic density as Bedlam in Goliath
, filled with instrumental chaos and intricate song structures, this ying-yang offering would have been an extremely welcoming addition, serving up new facets to the original recordings. But there’s the problem; the The Mars Volta
already feels like an acoustic version to an energetic album we never got.
The results are as you’d imagine them to be. Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
is an even more solemn rendition to an album that already sounded like a slow, sombre eulogy, stripping away at all of the character from its preceding version to delivery what is a pretty soporific experience. The overall criticism pertaining to last year’s album was that the tracks themselves weren’t very memorable, so it’s very bemusing to see a record cannibalising the source material’s very meager layer of engaging armour, just to reveal the emaciated body we all knew was underneath it. What’s worse is these renditions have a high fidelity for the original compositions, making these new versions all the more redundant. With Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
you are literally listening to last year’s album again verbatim, only now you’re getting far less bang for your buck. Sure, the thudding double-bass and pattering drum patterns are nice, and the minute differences in Cedric’s approach can be okay at times but ultimately, I always fall back on the same question.
What is the point in this bloody record?
It goes without saying, if you didn’t like The Mars Volta
to begin with, don’t bother with Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
. As a tenuous defender of The Mars Volta
, I don’t see a warrant in this version’s existence. There are no differentiations to be made structurally and the omission of the electronic aspects here do severe damage to the album’s ability to captivate. If nothing else, Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
was a good experiment to prove just how barebones their return LP actually was, but it’s quite surprising Omar and Cedric decided to do this in the first place, all the same. It’s not even that this album is bad – this version is serviceable and if you’re that way inclined, you may enjoy it over The Mars Volta
, but to me this album echoes a lot of Hollywood’s creatively bankrupt sensibilities and their penchant for remakes and reboots: to me it’s completely unnecessary. Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
doesn’t expand on its original ideas, it gives you less – a familiar, now tenebrous and barren wasteland. The bottom line being; when your reimagined version makes an already lethargic album look like an action-packed thrill ride, you know you've got problems.