OK, this album is going to be tough for people looking for that nostalgic feeling those of us have for albums such as De-loused or even Frances the Mute. The last couple of albums have represented a specific groove in my opinion that has lacked some progression from a “feel” standpoint. I personally found that I was almost tired after listening to Bedlam from the onslaught (which I adore about the album). I mention this only to set the stage for this album.
The time signatures are a much more straight- forward as compared to previous albums. However, this doesn’t mean that there what can be known as the Mars Volta time signatures/riffs aren’t here. The album contains a great psychedelic edge that traverses the soundscape quite well. Vocals represent a format that is more fluid, less manic, than previous albums, which may be difficult for the first-album fans to buy into. This, coupled with more breaks in the song structure (fade out guitar riffs for guitar effects over a bass/drum/vocal combo for instance), over a slower BPM, can come as somewhat of a shock for fans.
The soundscapes Mars has provided here are fantastic. The grooves are no less powerful as well, and in many ways it contains little more edge in its directness (referencing Cotopaxi here, and for those who got picked up the iTune pre-order with the live version have a REAL treat!). I found the nod to Pink Floyd’s “time” awesome personally. I haven’t seen reviews that picked up on the similarities between Halo and Time. It also is a great metaphor for the feel that they are trying to incorporate into the music, as well as the influence this style of psychedeia has had on their music.
In summary, I totally disagree with the poor reviews. This album does not sound like any other album out there, by other bands or Mars Volta themselves. That’s a very good thing, since what secures a bands longevity is whether it can progress as a band. People tend to get stuck in a form of nostalgia, always looking for that “same experience,” yet these same people tend to be unable to break out of this old-school vs. new-school paradigm. If this album was Mars Volta’s first album, it would absolutely be recognized as a hit. Obviously there’s a disconnect between what some people expect Mars Volta to produce vs. what Mars Volta (obviously) expects themselves to produce. This contention has been ongoing since Francis.
For those who are able to appreciate Mars Volta’s earlier albums for what they were, and who are interested in hearing how Mars Volta is trying to change up the in-your-face aggressive styling that they have been producing the last couple of albums, I think you will really enjoy this album. For those who are looking for counter-culture rock and roll will also enjoy this. However, for those who are looking for a De-loused or Francis the Mute, you may very well find yourself disappointed again.