The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003) — 9/10   Leave a comment

A good album to start with.

Background:

The Mars Volta are an El Paso-based progressive rock group that blends the “traditional” (used loosely) progressive sound typical of, say, King Crimson or Dream Theater, a heavier rock sound like Led Zeppelin, and musical traditions of the American Southwest, as affected by Mexico. If you’ve never listened to them, I recommend the 4-minute radio edit of “L’Via L’Viaquez” to get an idea of what you’re getting into.

This album:

De-Loused in the Comatorium is the debut by The Mars Volta, and (of course) features their opening lineup, including drummer Jon Theodore. Objectively, it’d be easiest to describe this album as having a reeeeally heavy sound, thick guitar parts, and intricate rhythmic structures.

First, let’s look at technical skill–not a truly important point (The Beatles were NOT especially good at playing their instruments, Ringo excepted; their talent for writing made them what they are)–but an interesting one, nonetheless. To start, their drummer, Jon Theodore, is a force to be reckoned with. He does things to the kit that sound impossible and mind-bending, and can create a groove while going crazy, as he is wont to do, in such a way that gives seasoned drummers like Ian Paice a run for their money. As well, the guitar work, while not particularly solo-heavy, is formidable. Parts of this album sound as though a wall of guitars is being fronted against the eardrum, and their guitarists know what they’re doing.

Next, a look at the songs themselves. They’re all spectacular demonstrations of this talent and of the lyrical and instrumental songwriting capabilities of the members of the band, and weave through musical intricacies rare in this past decade. The main focal points of the album appear to be the “Esp”s: “Inertiatic Esp” and “Cicatriz Esp”, along with “Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt”, to a degree. These three are hugely different, yet possess something of an overarching sound that makes them feel united.

That last part leads me into the construction of the album itself: it’s beautiful. It fulfills what an album is supposed to be: not a collection of songs, but a musical statement in and of itself. This whole album is united sonically, musically, by an indescribable common thread, and is actually indivisible; that is to say, you can’t listen to “Inertiatic Esp” without the context provided by “Son et Lumiere”. That’s the only weakness of the album’s construction. In my mind, the perfect album is both woven together perfectly by musical similarities, as this one is, but is also separable, such that no song needs the context of the others to be

In that sense, the similarities and inseparability of the songs on this album make the album function much like a song. As such, the album isn’t very accessible to people not accustomed to sitting down and really listening to the music. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend the album to the average listener.

Overall, I’d give this album a 9/10, with it falling short in the areas of separability and accessibility, but being, from a musical perspective, pretty perfect.

Also, Jon Theodore makes me pretty happy. But, that’s just me.

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Posted July 28, 2012 by farglenargle in Uncategorized

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