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The Mars Volta: De-Loused In The Comatorium


The Mars Volta

Album: De-Loused In The Comatorium
Label: Universal

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Any out-of-context passage of The Mars Volta's debut full-length De-Loused In The Comatorium would likely sound shrill and pretentious to even the most adventurous rock fan, but taken as a piece, the record's free-flowing synthesis of Santana, Yes, and Metallica is overwhelming in a good way. Since splitting off from the raging revolutionary punk band At The Drive In (and leaving the remaining members to soldier on as the lyrical-but-predictable Sparta), singer Cedric Bixler Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have spent a year or so experimenting with alternately punishing and pleasant sonic environments. Last year's debut EP Tremulant skewed more toward the spacious and atmospheric, but the Rick Rubin-produced Comatorium is pushier, with jackhammer drums and screeching guitars providing the foundation for almost every track. "Son Et Lumiere" rises from silence to a series of short percussion bursts, setting up the initial punch-shout-and-breathe dynamic of the next track, "Inertiatic ESP," which shifts in its second half into a polyrhythmic, quasi-psychedelic freak-out before easing into slow drips of tape hiss. The drips lead into the similarly wide-ranging, seven-and-a-half-minute "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)," which flashes loud and quiet with the haphazardness of sunbeams breaking through the window of a speeding train. The song titles–"Drunkship Of Lanterns," "Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt," and so on–give the first hint that The Mars Volta is aiming for some kind of hybrid of prog-rock fantasia and '70s funk surrealism, and in truth, the separation of tracks into 10 "songs" is almost arbitrary. Like the high-minded concept albums of 30 years ago, Comatorium's arty exploration can only really be grasped and enjoyed when played straight through, so that the whispers have their neighboring screams as context.