Reviewed by Matt Dentler, Fri., July 11, 2003
The Mars Volta
De-Loused in the Comatorium (Universal)
After El Paso's At the Drive-In disbanded in 2001, the members broke off into two factions that divided the group's progressive aggression equally. While one half put together the emocore Sparta, the other half crash-landed with an epic prog-rock collective called the Mars Volta. On their major label debut, TMV unleashes atmospherics that pay homage to everyone from Rush to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That latter influence is no surprise since De-Loused in the Comatorium was co-produced by Chili Peppers mainstay Rick Rubin and features cameos from Red Hot axemen Flea and John Frusciante. Nevertheless, something quite unique is going on here as former ATDI singer Cedric Bixler wails effortless melodies over bombastic jams. Bixler's voice is instantly cosmic, blending Geddy Lee and Jeff Buckley into his own, razor-sharp delivery. Pieces like "Inertiatic Esp" are chaotic towers of blasts and blips, sometimes catchy, but always engrossing. The titles on Comatorium convey how jazz-minded ("Son et Lumiere"), experimental ("Televators"), and mildly pretentious ("Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt") the music is. "This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed," for instance, would be laughable if the band didn't have the smarts to back up such unwieldy titles with equally unwieldy songs. The album, inspired by late El Paso artist/"Frankenstein" Julio Venegas, is overindulgent at times, but the Mars Volta has created an art rock album that pays equal attention to both art and rock.