the Mars Volta – Amputechture

Mars VoltaThe Mars Volta make stunning but difficult music. Considering that Omar Rodriguez and Cedric Bixler left At The Drive In, a dynamic, passionate punk-rock group, it’s hard to see how they’ve ended up making music as dense as this. Whereas the group’s first two albums were loosely concept albums, Amputechture see’s some changes in the band’s sound. They’ve not forsaken the punk energy (which has saved them from being written off as prog I think) that held the previous two albums together, but now there are longer periods of quiet that then explode, usually when you don’t expect it. Plus Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s guitarist John Frusciante play almost all the guitar work on the album although you probably wouldn’t be able to guess as he mimicks Omar’s flamboyant style so easily.

The opening track “Vicarious Atonement” sets up the whole album; it’s fairly quiet, no drums and some electric soloing that gives way to Cedric’s hushed vocals. It segues into “Tetragrammaton” which starts with furious energy, but soon quietens down even though there’s 14 minutes left of the track. The big power riffs at the start of “Viscera Eyes” were a surprise to me and it turns out to be maybe the most “straightforward” song on the whole album.

I know I maybe repeating the obvious, but Mars Volta albums are difficult to get into. Both De-loused In The Comatorium and Frances The Mute have great tracks on them, but with Amputechture. Cedric’s lyrics are oblique and sometimes-plain daft, on a track like “Vermicide” (the shortest on the album at just over 4 minutes), his voice is distorted towards the end of the track so it’s hard to hear even what he was saying. But elsewhere his voice is so strong and has such range, it’s almost an instrument itself. But overall, it’s not like I can recommend this album for everyone; it’s not a bad album at all. It’s just that’s it’s so far out, some of you will just be put off by the complexity of it. But if you’re feeling brave, then there’s plenty of great moments on this album.

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