On De-loused in the Comatorium
, the Mars Volta approach rock & roll like it's an ascetic discipline, a calling that comes with lyric sheets as dense and impenetrable as the Kabbalah and a ritual of worship that's dervish-like in its intensity. Formed by vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez after the split of their former band--Texan hardcore legends At the Drive-In, who splintered acrimoniously in 2001--the Volta are an unashamedly progressive outfit, dealing in grandiose arrangements that come on like Led Zeppelin fired through Saturn's rings.
You can still hear many of ATDI's hallmarks inside the spasmodic dynamics of "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" and "Eriatarka"--it's just now they're immeasurably more complex, governed by time signatures responsible only to some alien logic, and cast out on ever more remote waves of mind-bending conceptual fantasy.
Bixler's serrated howl has mellowed somewhat, veering here from tender croon to shrill falsetto. And interestingly, Flea guests here, although you wouldn't know it: his brooding basslines bear nothing of the slap-happy funk he displays in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But ironically, the most startling contribution comes from the band's late sound manipulator Jeremy Ward, who passed away after a heroin overdose on the eve of this album's release. His dubby ambient fills unfurl in the valleys between each jagged instrumental peak, lending a truly otherworldly feel to proceedings. A morbid legacy, but thankfully, far from this album's only selling point: De-loused in the Comatorium is the rare prog-rock landmark that prizes punk passion over meandering pretension. -- Louis Pattison