Friday, July 26, 2013

FDF Volume 4 Issue 312 - The Mars Volta De-Loused In The Comatorium

Album – De-Loused In The Comatorium
Artist – The Mars Volta
Key Players – Jeremy Michael Ward – effects and sound manipulation. Flea – bass.* Isaiah “Ikey” Owens – keyboards. Jon Theodore – Drums. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – guitar. Cedric Bixler-Zavala – vocals.

Produced By – Rick Rubin, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

Release Date – June 24, 2003

Overview – This was the debut full length from “The Mars Volta”. Formed after the band “At the Drive-In” dissolved the Texas based band would unleash a frenzied album. Based on a character “Cerpin Taxt”, a man who has a week long coma as a result of morphine and rat poison. The layers of wild guitars mixed with Latin and jazz tones could be a challenge to listeners. Critics were mixed on the album at the time, some saying it was great, others not so great. It would sell over 500,000 copies in the US and would land on many year end “best of” lists.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) Ten songs, sixty minutes. That is what it takes. Opening with the atmospheric “Son Et Lumiere” made mostly of a slow guitar line from Rodriguez-Lopez and Owens keyboard work. As Bixler-Zavala comes in, the vocals are phased and it quickly goes to
"Inertiatic Esp" which has the band at a frenzied pace. The drums are tight and layers of keyboards balance somethings out but Rodriguez-Lopez attacks his guitar and Bixler-Zavala soars vocally as the pace just breaks all sort of time signatures and Theodore is the leader in bringing it all back to structure. Owens keyboard runs seem to blast off the speakers, but the chaos of the entire song is somehow so well put together yet frantic, its a wild listen. Tracks like “Roulette Dares (the Haunt of)” stretch in to seven minute territory and mesh so many styles (that Latin jazz comes in to play here) but the wings of prog rock and funk also flash from time to time. The listener can feel exhausted at times on tracks like this, but it stretches the bounds of a “rock song” that you dial in and just want to hear where they are going to go. From the full Owens keyboard runs to the monster fills from Theodore. It just leaps out at you. It does flatten some as it winds down and heads towards “Tira me a las Arans” which serves as an interlude with some layers of guitars but its really a palate cleaner before "Drunkship of Lanterns" comes at you. The salsa like percussion and feel has the first real noticeable Flea bass line, but its Rodriguez-Lopez and Theodore who seem to get an equal work out and some of the breakdowns during the track are short blasts of schizophrenic chaos, before the percussion sends it back towards a structure most listeners are used to. The Mars Volta challenge you, I keep saying that, but listen..its rewarding. You hardly get a come down as “Eriatarka” does much of the same. Bixler-Zavala is a little more laid back on his vocal delivery, at least for a bit before the 1:30 mark where they take off, but settle it back down quickly. Rodriguez-Lopez has his first real “solo” but it is short as it is flashy. The track that may sum up what the band is all about comes in  "Cicatriz Esp" (live). Just listen to that, it gives you the idea of what the band is about and what they are capable of, even if the last few minutes are sort of this ambient mixture of things...but it all comes back again, see..patience listeners. Patience. The band does seqway in to “This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed” and is as intense and layered as one has come to expect. The final two “Televators” (a surprisingly mellow song for the band) and “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” (a terrific closer) continue to fall in to that “challenging yet rewarding” pool.

Where are they now? - Ward died of an overdose weeks before this album was released. Theodore is now the touring drummer for Queens of the Stone Age. Owens has done a lot of studio and live work with artists from Saul Williams to TV on the Radio. He was the keyboard player for Jack White on his “Blunderbus” tour when White used his “male band” called “The Buzzards” (White used an all female band too called the Peacocks) Rodriguez-Lopez is currently on tour with his band “Bosnian Rainbows”. Bixler-Zavala has formed the band “Zavalaz”

FDF Overall Take - There is no doubt this can be a challenging listen. I recall when this came out and I'd say “its a challenge, but it is so rewarding too”. As listens progress you hear more layers, more subtle changes and it just gets to be more of a “whole picture” type thing. If you like some of the prog rock tendencies, mixed with heavier rock this could be for you. There is no doubt these guys are not talented and well skilled, but it lacking that 'verse/chorus/verse' that makes up what many folks listen to it can be hard to get your head around, but try. You can thank me later.

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