No User

You must log in to access your account.


Amputechture thumbnail

Best Offer



Average Rating
(96 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Surrounded as they are in the modern music scene by a sea of watered-down corporate tripe, The Mars Volta have stood out since their formation for their (at times excessive) ambition, and their latest album, Amputechture, is certainly no exception. Anyone who liked their first two albums would be pretty hard-pressed not to like this one, as all the prominent features of the previous De-Loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute-the snaky lead guitar lines of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez; the frenetic, jazzy drumming of Jon Theodore; the instantly recognizable, ear-splitting wail of Cedric Bixler-Zavala; the fusion of styles and frequent inclusion of seemingly non-rocking instrumentation-are all very much in evidence. That said, some of the more aimless and long-winded elements of Frances the Mute have been toned down here, with this album falling about halfway between that one and the more accessible and song-oriented De-Loused in overall approach. Most of the songs make at least token nods to conventional song structure, but eventually descend into the band’s trademark chaotic sprawl of quasi-psychedelic experimentalism, with every member going all-out to overload your senses. Many of the songs on Amputechture can admittedly be heavy on the build-up, but once they hit fever pitch the wait is more than justified.

    The album is bookended by two crawling, eerily atmospheric mood pieces in Vicarious Atonement and El Ciervo Vulnerado, both of which honestly drag on too long for their own good, but even with many of the songs hitting ten minutes or more, the rest of Amputechture is largely filler-free. That’s not to say the band has done away with their intricate, meandering song structures; there just seems to be a bit more of a purpose this time around than on Frances. The first “proper” song, Tetragrammaton, is perhaps the best example yet of the band’s wildly grandiose, genre-ducking tendencies, with a sixteen-minute run-time that sees it hopping without warning from languid, relatively quiet verses to a choppy, lockstep chorus highly conducive to headbanging, to an eyebrow-singing guitar solo, and grows increasingly manic in its latter half, constantly coming back for more just when it appears to be winding down. There’s a bit of a reprieve with the tight, efficient rocker Vermicide, which is notable mainly for the highly infectious stuttering main guitar riff in the chorus, but the band comes right back for more sonic brain scrambling with the abrasive noises and pile-driving rhythms of the incredibly intense epic Meccamputechture. The band throws a little curveball next with the quiet reflective Asilos Magdalena, an acoustic guitar number sung entirely in Spanish, but thankfully the calm is quickly shattered by the overbearing insanity of the next two tracks, Viscera Eyes and Day of the Baphomets. The latter is especially addictive, a hallucinogenic mantra delivered by Cedric with monumental urgency and fleshed out with ample doses of acid jazz and latin percussion.

    Well, that’s pretty much it. The Omar-Cedric pairing still has yet to match the greatness of At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command, but I’d put this one right up there with De-Loused as TMV’s best. Any best of 2006 list would be incomplete without it.

    Posted on February 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Being a massive progressive rock fan, I have FINALLY gotten around to checking these guys out. I was kind of weary because things get so overhyped these days with people proclaiming “this is the greatest band ever” or “the greatest film ever”. But luckily, these gentlemen are fantastic. I wished I had checked out them earlier, because this album is pretty damn amazing. The intensity and musicianship are all there, the equivalent of the 1970’s British prog rock bands. The comparisons of The Mars Volta to Floyd, Crimson, Rush, Yes, and ELP are all justified in my opinion. It’s really cool to see bands like The Mars Volta with ambition and a touch of insanity to make such cool music like this. I love the mood piece that opens the album, Vicarious Atonement, and the epic, 16 minutes plus slasher Tetragrammaton. I saw them perform this song on youtube, and I knew they were the real thing. Tetragrammaton has become one of my favorite prog rock songs of all time. I also dig Day of the Baphomets a lot. It has a lot of free jazz, Crimson/Coltrane elements in it that make me feel the same way when I listen to Ascenion and later Crimson (the Red album especially). Many have called The Mars Volta self indulgent and over the top, which I feel is way off base. Honestly, after decades of underachieving, mediocre performers, we can use a band like this. I really love this album and am looking forward to buying their first two, Deloused and Frances the Mute.

    Posted on February 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The flak that this album has generated ought to be no surprise to anyone who shares my opinion of it. I have read reviews saying that this album is chock full of ‘filler’; I have also read reviews say that this album is ‘boring’. These reviewers are clearly of the younger generation of TMV listeners. Those who find this album ‘boring’ are likely those who rated the sub-par ‘Bedlam in Goliath’ with five stars.

    Straight from the brooding reveries of Vicarious Atonement to the masterful tone poetics and scorching pain-inflicted guitar meanderings of El Ciervo Vulnerado this is clearly the band’s most mature, complete, and complex work – both in thematics and musicianship. Listen for the pensive piano playing throughout the album, sifting through the tracks gently in limbo between foreground and background.

    Omar’s guitar playing has never been better than on this record. His work is restrained yet feral, melodic yet unmistakably avant-garde. The cut ‘Vermicide’ is a masterwork in this regard. The comparisons to John McLaughlin are justified, and this album is as close as Omar has ever been to this particular influence.

    My favorite tracks on this record are ‘Meccamputechture’ and ‘Day Of The Baphomets’, cuts that I believe helm Cedric’s greatest lyrical accomplishments to date. Meccamputechture is brilliant in its execution – Cedric’s tone is at times insane in its delivery of these fanatically organic lyrics, and Omar’s playing really shines here – truly original, knotty, torturous, what have you. This track displays exactly what is lacking throughout ‘The Bedlam in Goliath’: it is ravenous, chaotic, and wildly busy (listen to the solos nearing the end of the song: experimental guitar, alto sax, flute, studio effects, shakers, organ, congas, percussion, etc.) and yet maintains the *pulse* of the song. All of the tracks on Amputecture are excellent compositions – they have distinct moods and themes that transgress the usual levels of insanity in music without sounding childish – insanity for insanity’s sake is how I describe The Bedlam in Goliath, which is no where near as creative and expansive as its immediate predecessor. ‘Meccamputechture’ then segues beautifully into Asilos Magdalena.

    ‘Asilos Magdalena’ is also brilliantly despondent and yet uncomfortably mercurial in tone. I imagine many people find this track ‘boring’ or dub it ‘filler’ and that is a shame. I think it’s one of the band’s most mature cuts, and one of the best on this album. Another thing about this album that I find so exceptional is how The Mars Volta managed to create such a flawless conflation between Latin and early 70’s fusion jazz influences. These influences are all over this record in *every track* and are no where to be found on their latest album.

    ‘Viscera Eyes’ is a killer jam; it reminds me of L’Via L’Viaquez from Francis the Mute. This cut is heavy as all hell and yet never crosses over into tiring heavy riffing a la ‘The Bedlam’ because of the inundation of Latin horns that often double the guitar. I also love all of the insane guitar/studio trickery that works its way through the background. This is an intense track that fits perfectly with the rest of the album. Also, listen to Omar’s solo about half-way through, it sounds like something Adrian Belew could have played. In the last three minutes of this song the melody changes into a catchy Latin vibe where Omar solos his heart out, never sounding too over the top. Cedric enters with a stellar vocal delivery with some of his token disturbed lyrics that leaves the listener begging for more, and then the song crescendos and ends – right on time. It’s perfect.

    I mentioned ‘Day Of The Baphomets’ earlier. This is a truly epic number. From the marvelous Latin rhythms under the bass solo/intro to the ‘trash can drum solo’ near the conclusion this track is the result of some exceptionally talented composers. Cedric and Omar really outdid themselves with this one.

    Many reviewers seem to consider ‘Tetragrammaton’ the “center-piece” of the album, but I would disagree. It is the longest track, sure, but there is still fifty minutes of music that comes after it! I prefer when the band focuses on a more King Crimson-esque Fripp/Belew interchange of atonal notes rather than fast riffage, and this track is loaded with these kinds of verses.

    As you can tell, I believe that this is the Mars Volta’s greatest recording. The exception to this would be Francis the Mute – both records are amazing. However upon closer inspection I find Amputechture a more rewarding musical experience. I hope upon revisiting the album many of you will as well.

    Posted on February 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The sheer challenge and inaccessibility of the music makes people either love or hate Mars Volta, and loving them is an increasingly difficult job. The band’s reach is so vast and diverse that fans seem to have broken into two camps – De-Loused vs. Frances. I love both those albums, but I fall into the camp that worships the expansive musicianly fury of Frances. Amputechture is considerably quieter and more subdued than Frances, and the renewed focus on Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s emotional but twisted vocal melodies make this album more comparable to De-Loused. Also, read the reviews here carefully because many of the unfavorable ones are obviously from people who only listened to the album once or twice, and judged it too quickly. Many of the reviewers who are praising the album implore you to let it sink in slowly. I couldn’t agree more, because I was initially disappointed by Amputechture’s drowsy slide away from the violent mood swings of Frances. But after a dozen listens, Amputechture has won me over, proving that once again Mars Volta are probably the one band on Earth who are most successful at challenging both themselves and the listener. These guys take the term “progressive” seriously.

    The songwriting and directorship of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is astonishing in quantity, knowledge, and ambition, and no mere human should be able to create full new Mars Volta albums every 18 months, plus a solo album and a few other side projects along the way. The top half of Amputechture is musically insistent, but rather quiet and vocal-oriented. The musicianship remains challenging, and the unhinged Latin lullaby “Asilos Magdalena” is a pleasant surprise. The band finally starts rocking out in “Viscera Eyes,” and a nearly funky groove pops up in “Day of the Baphomets,” and these tracks are reassurance for lovers of Mars Volta’s rock side.

    However this album shows some signs that Omar might want to take a short break from his hyper-creativity, because the King Crimson-like prog elements are starting to get a little repetitive in places. The focus on constructing the album as a whole, which was a real strength on both the previous albums, has resulted here in some songs that are all middle but lack beginnings or endings (“Vicarious Atonement” and “Meccamputechture” are two very obvious examples). Meanwhile, the musical skills of the band members (including Omar) are frequently getting lost in longwinded noodling. This applies especially to the unsung hero of Frances, drummer Jon Theodore, who recently left the band (fans will soon lament his absence). Fortunately, these issues don’t damage the believability of the songs or the overall performances. Mars Volta remain tough to love, but their progression into the outer reaches of rock are still intensely rewarding for the thinking (make that the obsessive) listener. [~doomsdayer520~]

    Posted on February 23, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • If you want _Comatorium_, part 2 or _Frances the Mute_, part 2, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. If you want furious and crazy riffs and jamming from the first second to the last, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. If you want music and lyrics that seem to suggest even the most conventional linear sense, DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM. Do I still have you after all these disclaimers? Proceed.

    While I cannot really say that this piece is better or worse than their first two full-lengths, I can unabashedly say that MV have made another distinctive masterpiece. Some of the same elements as before are there, but in many cases simply better. The jazz fusion feel that they always had has been refined to near-perfection. I reviewed Omar’s self-titled piece that he did in the interim between _Mute_ and _Amputechture_, saying that he’s going for a John McLaughlin level of stellarity without quite reaching it. Darned if he doesn’t reach those empyrean heights here (check out the unjustly-maligned “Tetragrammaton” for the most fusiony rock has ever been). Jazz fusion esotericism and exploratoriness is all over this piece. If that’s too pretentious for you, stop here. If it sounds interesting, dig deeper.

    The sound manipulation element that’s always been with them has been upped, too, thanks in large part to ATDI alum Pablo Hinojos-Gonzalez’s evocative contributions. This is all over the album, so I don’t have to point to any particular cases. Let’s just say it’s stranger than it’s been in some places and subtler than it’s been in others. Don’t care about the qualities of sound and electronics in MV’s sound? See ya.

    MV are more tender and contemplative than they’ve ever been, too, which is likely a big turn-off to more market-driven fans. The album starts out very bluesy and slow with the drumless “Vicarious Atonement” (this is more than made up for by the Cobhamesque onslaught that Jon Theodore unleashes on the following “Tetragrammaton”). The album also ends on a slow and reflective sitar-tinged note with “El Ciervo Vulnerado.” I imagine hardcore MV fans could not be more thrilled with these slower pieces since they add another layer to the allure. Just like their previous heavy work, these songs offer lyrical soundscapes to be lost in, yet this time the soundscape is not so vicious. The gem of all these more reflective pieces is the heart-rending “Asilos Magdalena,” which has Omar and Cedric digging into their Mexican folk heritage more than ever before (and coming up with sentiments and feelings worthy of a Spanish-language Rimbaud). Sound all too wimpy? Adieu. Won’t be running into you at the Slipknot concert.

    I have this dream that the “poppiest” of the songs here, “Viscera Eyes” will be released as a single and the whole world will sing along to the tune of “C’mon and give it to me/ Come on and die/ with your viscera eyes,” people playing air-guitar to the convoluted chromatic-scale fusion riff (and still somehow commercial!). Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen. MV is going to retain a passionate cult just like the best bands in the vicinity of its milieu (e.g. VDGG, Yes, ELP, King Crimson). Also like these bands, they are going to put out classic after classic while “critics” and poseurs alike will cry “too pretentious” and “songs too long,” blah, blah, blah. And they will retain their cult well into the future (I mean, I’m serious, Omar Rodriguez is only thirtyish and already one of the most intriguing composers this generation has to offer in any musical genre–can’t help but think he’s going to be something like the 21st century Heitor Villa-Lobos. I’m serious, give it half a century and get back to me.)

    Because they take a hook, defamiliarize it, put it out there, and make you see music, art, and life in ways you’ve never seen them before (if you listen with an open mind). And they do it about every minute or two on this CD. Flavors of the month will come and go and critics will even praise them for doing entertaining things with the rock formula. Whatever. MV are looking both before and after rock while assuring their legacy amidst the most uncompromising auteurs in the history of music. They can take Villa-Lobos, Miles Davis, and Carmen Miranda and place it in the midst of a Black Flag mood and make you rock like mad. Tell me someone else who can do that right now and I’ll send you back to high school.

    Then maybe you can learn a little something and prep yourself for the sort of brilliance that rushes through every undercurrent beneath this album. Because, really, when it comes down to it, I want you to own this album. The world would be such a better place if everyone could process the mind-boggling genius that is MV.

    Posted on February 23, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now