The Mars Volta


Written by: PP on 22/09/2006 17:21:42

After "Frances The Mute" took The Mars Volta's direction toward supreme everlasting progression and almost telepathic improvisation, the band was pushed even further into the status of being currently the best group on the planet artistically, easily comparable to the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It is therefore "Amputechture" comes as a shock to me and countless others who had expected the band to take the instrumental progression and the unbeliavable song structures even further instead taking a step backwards and leaning much closer to their debut than its successor.

The songs here often sound like extended versions of the debut album. The 16-minute mammoth "Tetragrammaton" takes your favorite high tone guitar-sound and Cedric's incredibly high pitch vocals from "De-Loused" and mixes them with the length of songs on "Frances The Mute". Notice how I don't speak of the instrumental exploration the band so lovingly took advantage of on the latter, nor about the telepathic improvisations, nor the latino-style solos let alone the inclusion of the several seemingly misplaced instruments and effects. Notice how I do not mention a concept at all, nor do I speak of the beauty of this all, how it fits together like a piece of art that demands to be studied closely and its deep interior and motives understood. There simply isn't any of this present in the way it stroke you as impressive as fuck on "Frances The Mute". Needless to say, this is a giant step backwards strictly artistically speaking.

Disregarding the expectations, we will still end up divided over this album. I for one could much appreciate all of the above as a work of genius, but honestly it wasn't for me. I was a much bigger fan of "De-Loused"'s challanging melodies and semi-progressions mixed with catchiness and class guitar skill, and therefore "Amputechture" suits my taste much better. It feels like listening to reworked, extended mix of the best songs on "De-Loused.." without the unnecessary feedback or 'ambience' as they like to call it. Still, the acoustic/electric latino ballad interplay "Asilos Magdalena" does come close to Frances-material as the sole player, and there are still many passages that invoke the unpredictable percussion patterns with the 11-minute "Day Of The Baphomets" as the prime example. But for the majority of the album, Cedric's vocal style and Omar's guitar structures resemble the material on "De-Loused", and especially "Vermicide" brings "Roulette Dares (This Is The Haunting)" into mind by being the shortest, and at the same time most radio-friendly song on the album.

But artistically, it's an undeniable step backward and leaves you wondering about the reasons of this sudden change. But don't get me wrong here, this is still a fantastic piece of music topping most release this year by far, but "The Mars Volta standard" that all modern progressive music is benchmarked against has fallen considerably with this effort, even if it overshadows Frances melodically. Therefore the most interesting part about "Amputechture" will surely be how the band incorporates it into their live performance. Questions like "Will their liveshow display the same backward trend?" and "Will I still be able to fully live a piece of art at their show?" are dying to be answered in the near future.


Download: Tetragrammaton
For the fans of: Sparta, At The Drive-In, Led Zeppelin
Listen: Myspace

Release date 12.09.2006

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