Before I dive into this review, you should probably know a brief history of how the band The Mars Volta came to be. Musicians At the Drive-In release “Relationship of Command” in 2000. The new release gains more recognition than any of their previous albums, their single hits the radio, the video hits MTV, and the band tours with rockers Rage Against the Machine. Everything looks aces, up to the point where the band suddenly announces they will be on an “infinite hiatus,” and in turn, they break up.
Three of the five ATDI alums go on to form the group Sparta, while the two founders (commonly referred to as ‘those dudes with the fros’) create a little band called The Mars Volta. They release a three-song EP as a teaser, and follow it up with their long-awaited full length, “De-Loused In The Comatorium.” Mayhem ensues, and the routine question arises: Is it all that it is cut out to be?
The album begins rather quietly: a murmur of white noise introduces the track, accompanied by a fairly simple melody. Soon enough, singer Cedric’s distorted voice has joined the progression, along with a falsetto pitch that sounds like it could be achieved with a swift kick in the jewels. If you’re listening closely enough, one thing that might come to mind is, “what is this guy singing about?” Phrases like “Clip side of the pinkeye flight / I’m not the percent you think survives” come off as being not only cryptic, but maybe a bit nonsensical as well.
It is immediately obvious that one of the most prominent carryovers from the duo’s previous band is a lack of lyrical sensibility. But is this a bad thing? No, not necessarily. These enigmatic ramblings actually work quite well texturally – if you block out your ears reaction of trying to decipher the lyrics, you might find that his singing fits nicely into the context of the songs.
One thing that makes this hour of music truly shine is the amount of concentrated energy flowing throughout almost every song. From the explosive transition of the first two tracks to the disjointed, adrenaline-powered jam that concludes the final song, TMV refuses to let the listener down. They put their hearts and souls into this, and it shows; through the fierce Santana-esque rhythms in the latter part of the extensive “Cicatriz” (which clocks in at over 12 minutes), the outburst of sound at the beginning of “Roulette Dares”, and the rush of “Eriatarka”s chorus, they maintain their vibrancy.
Yet, after multiple listens, the lack of diversity finally begins to show. During the first few listens, it is euphoric and it may feel like you are listening to one long, chaotic mess of a song, but that only adds to the overall experience. However, after each listen goes by, that lengthy song becomes more tarnished, until you realize how hard this album is trying to be diverse, and how it is failing to meet that goal. Sure, it is still enjoyable, but it is also becoming easier for it to end up in the back of your music collection.
With this release, The Mars Volta have successfully established a signature sound. They have managed to take influence from the likes of King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Santana, and fuse them with their own style of intriguing rhythms and melodies. The ride that De-Loused gave us was a remarkable one to start, but it just didn’t have the replay value to be exceptional. Our only hope is that their next effort will boast being more focused – something that can truly prove the talent of these musicians.