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.