The Mars Volta 

Amputechture (Universal Motown)

The first two full-length music features from the Mars Volta (2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium and 2005's Frances the Mute) were amazing and strange rock operas. Both concept albums sounded like surreal sci-fi soundtracks -- Fellini's version of Flash Gordon -- written and scored by the Latin Queen, aka Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. The records probed a heady new form of hardcore punk rock, akin to At the Drive-In (of which the two were former members), recast into neo-prog-rock sagas that feast on free-flowing jazz structures, bizarre true-life gothic tales, and Bixler-Zavala's piercing vocals (sung in both Spanish and English).

Equally absurd and beautiful art-rock overtures can be found throughout Amputechture. "Tetragrammaton" is signature Mars Volta, a cerebral 17-minute opus based on the real murder of a Romanian nun, who was killed because she was supposedly possessed by the devil. It's broken into symphonic movements interspersed with indulgent guitar solos, otherworldly studio effects, and Bixler-Zavala's creepy screams.

"Viscera Eyes," the most accessible single, may begin with catchy rapid-fire guitar (played by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante), but it devolves into a nine-minute Yes edifice that ends in white noise and wah-wah pedals. The other songs are just as exhausting and extraordinary, requiring the patience and endurance of an audiophile who enjoys the hedonism of such art noise.

Speaking of CD Review

More by Keith Gribbins


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