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De-Loused in the Comatorium

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★★★★½
(531 Reviews)

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On De-loused in the Comatorium, the Mars Volta approach rock & roll like it’s an ascetic discipline, a calling that comes with lyric sheets as dense and impenetrable as the Kabbalah and a ritual of worship that’s dervish-like in its intensity. Formed by vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez after the split of their former band–Texan hardcore legends At the Drive-In, who splintered acrimoniously in 2001–the Volta are an unashamedly progressive outfit, dealing in grandiose arrangements that come on like Led Zeppelin fired through Saturn’s rings. You can still hear many of ATDI’s hallmarks inside the spasmodic dynamics of ”Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” and ”Eriatarka”–it’s just now they’re immeasurably more complex, governed by time signatures responsible only to some alien logic, and cast out on ever more remote waves of mind-bending conceptual fantasy. Bixler’s serrated howl has mellowed somewhat, veering here from tender croon to shrill falsetto. And interestingly, Flea guests here, although you wouldn’t know it: his brooding basslines bear nothing of the slap-happy funk he displays in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But ironically, the most startling contribution comes from the band’s late sound manipulator Jeremy Ward, who passed away after a heroin overdose on the eve of this album’s release. His dubby ambient fills unfurl in the valleys between each jagged instrumental peak, lending a truly otherworldly feel to proceedings. A morbid legacy, but thankfully, far from this album’s only selling point: De-loused in the Comatorium is the rare prog-rock landmark that prizes punk passion over meandering pretension. – Louis Pattison

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  • The second band to rise from the ashes of At The Drive-In, the Mars Volta was formed by Cedric Bixler (vocals) and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitars) in 2001, months after At The Drive In’s breakup. The Mars Volta focuses on ATDI’s experimental side, by adding hits of progressive rock, free jazz and Latin music to the aggressive blend of emo and punk. Bixler and Rodriguez-Lopez are joined by Ikey Owens, Jeremy Michael Ward (who died of an overdose a month before the album’s release), and John Theodore. Flea and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers also collaborate on the album. De-loused in the Comatorium was inspired by the life of Julio Venegas, a childhood friend of some of the members in the band. Venegas, an artist in the El Paso region, slipped into a coma for a week after a drug overdose, and experienced a series of dreams, and battles between the good and bad aspects of the human conscience. He emerged from the coma in the end, but ultimately decided to take his own life. De-loused in the Comatorium narrates the internal struggle of Venegas, his addiction, his fearlessness and his thoughts while comatose until his life came to self-inflicted end. Yet the lyrics are very abstract, which probably represent the psychological and subconscious battle. Yet abstractions have been constant with Cedric Bixler ever since his days fronting At The Drive-In.Musically, however, Comatorium is eclectic, bizarre, bewildering, and mesmerizing. Comparisons to art rock legends Rush are frequent, yet this is a lot more intense and complex than anything ever put out by Rush. Yes, Bixler’s vocals are high-pitched, like Rush frontman/bassist Geddy Lee’s, yet they are a lot more hostile and urgent. The guitars aren’t also as carefully composed as those of Rush, and the drumming isn’t nearly as multifaceted or virtuosic. However, the songs on Comatorium are long, sprawling and interesting, usually going through several phases before its conclusion. This is a throwback to progressive rock. It is indulgent, ambitious and bombastic, much like prog-rock bands that have come and gone in the past, but yet The Mars Volta always keeps the music exciting. They also have a sense of direction on where the music needs to go, something a band like Rush was very good, at as opposed to past albums by Yes or Dream Theater, which insisted on the band members aimlessly noodling or overexploiting their musical talents. The band members started out playing in bands where raw emotion was the fundamental constituent of the songs they created, and did not rely on classically trained instrumentation. In fact, most of this album sounds like ATDI with longer songs with elements of old Santana, Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Miles Davis circa 1969.De-loused in a Comatorium is not an album; it’s an encounter. It reflects a tragedy so musically and so abrasively. It is not mainstream in the slightest, so don’t expect a 12-minute jamfest like “Cicatriz ESP,” or even a short 4 minute song like “Inertiatic ESP” to come on the radio anytime soon. It’s full of enigmas, questions, emotions and reflections. Whether the Mars Volta is your style of music or not, De-loused in the Comatorium is probably the most interesting and uncompromising album released this year.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Guys, RELAX. The singer DOES sound SLIGHTLY like Geddy Lee. The similarities between RUSH and THE MARS VOLTA are more in the complex and non-traditional song structure (no simple verse-chorus-verse here!), the tempo changes, and the dynamic contrasts. The way this band can stop and start on a dime reminds me of THE MINUTEMEN. The rhythm section is stupendously tight and powerful, really amazing, as is the guitar playing. I really liked AT THE DRIVE-IN, but this is in another league.”De-Loused …” is focused and powerful. Let me reiterate: it is powerful without being overly “heavy.” The drumming and bass playing isn’t slow, plodding and methodical (i.e, BORING) like many hard rock bands. I would call it “athletic” or explosive. Wait until you hear it …”De-Loused …” is a masterpiece that gets better with every listen. This is definitely an album that takes a few listens to totally grasp, (and I liked it on the very first spin) but don’t let that last statement put you off: it is easy to listen to and enjoy, while at the same time, it is challenging. You just can’t get a handle on the entire package in one listen.The sound on this album is amazing. I’m an audiophile and have been very dismayed at the recent trend to “turn up the volume” (i.e., record at a higher average level) of most new CDs, which simply DESTROYS the dynamic range and ultimately the fidelity of the recording. Most of the (modern) music that I love sounds [terrible] on a great stereo. This – on the other hand – sounds absolutely wonderful. You can easily follow each and every one of the complex, interweaving musical lines in this mix. This clarity allows you to really hear what the artists want to convey. I just keep turning this up louder and louder and it sounds better and better.So far, this is the best and most adventuresome album of the year.BUY THIS NOW!!! SUPPORT GREAT MUSIC!!!

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The Mars Volta, as I’m sure you already know, contains 1/2 of ATDI’s members. According to Cedric, he left because he felt they had reached somewhat of a musical stalemate and they would keep making “the same album”. “De-Loused in the Comatorium” is definitely not that. Although there are numerous comparisons (although somewhat well-founded) to ATDI’s work, this music is all around different. There are, however, elements of ATDI’s trademark post-hardcore sound, especially on tracks like “Inertiatic Esp” and to an extent in “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt”. Not to say that this is a bad thing. “Inertiatic Esp” is one of my favorite tracks.More prevalent than the former musical elements are the inclusion on a somewhat more psychadelic approach. In areas the music is reminiscent of Led Zepplin and Cedric sounding like Geddy Lee. But The Mars Volta puts a much more modern twist on it. Combing frenetic sampler beats and distortion as well as almost Doors-esque jazz. And of course, there is the brilliant, yet often inexplicable, lyrics. Self-admittedly selfish, Cedric lyrics cater to his own sensibilities with an attitude of “If we get it, somebody else will”. Knowing that the album is dedicated and based upon the life of Julio Venegas helps to act as a loose guide in decrypting some of the lyrics. Even those that one isn’t able to annunciate the meaning of still have their own way of touching you in a very personal way. A way that couldn’t have been put better. In these sense the abstract, occasionally disjointed nature of the lyrics acts simultaneously to both generalize and specify a particular emotion or event to the listener.All-in-all it is a brilliant album. It magneticly pulls the listener throughout the sonic landscapes they have created. And I loved it, every step of the way.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I just got this CD and have not been able to tear myself away from it. Work and sleep are now merely times I can not listen to “De-Loused.” This album definitely takes some patience and some getting used to, but isn’t that true of all your favorite albums? A lot of the songs have some strange bridges and tempo shifts, but then shots of amazing melody that makes the whole song make sense…if that makes any sense. I’m still having a hard time with track 5 (sorry, don’t know names). I instantly liked Track 2, still my favorite track. Tracks 3, 6, and 10 are also standouts, although it’s really hard to find a bad track on this album. I’m sure eventually I’ll even dig Track 5 If you’re like me, you’re constantly in the market for new music, and are constantly being disappointed…but this is hard rock, prog rock, whatever you want to call it at its very best. It’s loud, smart, unique, melodic….just BUY IT.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The Mars Volta are one of those bands that defy categorization. The band features two ex-At the Drive in members as well as Flea contributing bass to some parts (don’t know which ones, it doesn’t say). Don’t expect At the Drive-in, pt. 2 however. This is something pretty different. I don’t know ATDI too well(though I own “Vaya” and I like it, so I plan on getting more), but from what I’ve heard, this doesn’t sound a whole lot like them. It’s more abstract and progressive, and a little harder to appreciate. I guess the music could loosely be described as progressive-punk-jazz-indie-whatever. It really doesn’t matter. It’s something really original and good.

    “Inertiatic ESP” is the first real song (the first track just being an intro to it), and it starts the album off in a rocking fashion, with Cedric yelling “Now, I’m lost” over some speedy riffs and drumming. Cedric’s vocals may be kinda hard to get into, but I loved them the first time I heard them. I dunno. He’s kinda wail-y at times, but it’s cool. “Roulette Dares (the haunt of)” is one of my favorites on the album, mixing speedier sections with catchy vocals with softer, prettier passages of guitar explorations (and one almost free-jazz-esque part that’s really amazing). There’s definitely some King Crimson influence in this one. “Cicatrez ESP” is another highlight, a 12 minute long piece with a long synth interlude and lots of cool guitary stuff. “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” has some of the coolest guitar playing on the album in it’s second half; it really must be heard. It’s like Crimson-jazz.

    This album will probably take a few listens to sink in if you even like it at all, but I give it a high recommendation to those looking for something original and progressive. Don’t expect “prog” however…As Cedric said on their website, it’s progressive, but has much more of a punk aesthetic to it.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now