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The Mars Volta 
by Dan Grote

Once upon a time there was a band of critics’ darlings called At the Drive-In who became such an alt-rock sensation that they bankrupted their record label (the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal Records), forced said label’s only other artist back onto the streets (Scapegoat Wax, who later landed at Hollywood Records with a retread of his Grand Royal album), and imploded on itself, splitting into two separate bands. One of those bands, Sparta, who released their debut last summer, took ATDI’s politically charged art-screamo and added more melody and hookiness, while the other band, the Mars Volta, made up of the ATDI’s two afro-ed members, went to the other end of the spectrum and released an instrumental-heavy prog concept album that is more of a mind-blower than a tune factory.

Written predominantly by Omar Rodriguez and sung by Cedric Bixler, whose voice now occasionally emulates the nasally warble of prog godfather Geddy Lee, Deloused in the Comatorium continues the ATDI tradition of using big words and medical terminology to make charged statements. The verse-chorus-verse formula is tossed out the window in favor of refrains that take place between long stretches of Latin, jazz, and progressive instrumental solos that are sometimes so long you forget the track hasn’t changed in over ten minutes. Such is the case especially with “Cicatriz Esp,” which bookends a series of spacey, atmospheric musical interludes between pronouncements of “I’m defective.”

Predominantly a heavy album, there is only one laid-back track in the ten, “Televators;” however, even that song does not escape the album’s intellectual leaning, as it is probably the only song anyone will ever hear containing the phrase “auto de fey,” a term which refers to the executions of the Spanish Inquisition. Much of the Mars Volta’s music can expand your vocabulary, from the opening lyric of “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt”: “You must have been phlegmatic in stature,” to the song titles themselves, which run from big-word English to Spanish (“Tira me a las Aranas”), to… well… I’m really not sure what “Son et Lumiere” is. Maybe French or Latin?

VERDICT: The Mars Volta will either make you feel really smart or really stupid depending on how highly you think of your own brain power. Most people won’t catch the big words, but everybody can enjoy how the album progresses musically. In the battle of the ATDI stars, the Mars Volta make Sparta sound like the Backstreet Boys.

CD Info 

The Mars Volta - Deloused In The Comatorium 
Label: Gold Standard Labs/Universal
Son Et Lumiere
Inertiatic ESP
Roulette Dares (This Is The Haunt)
Tira Me A Las Aranas
Drunkship Of Lanterns
Cicatriz ESP
This Apparatus Mus Be Unearthed
Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt
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