For people around my age, give or take a few years, this falls into the category of “year 9 music”. This was the age where a lot begin to stop listening to music fired at children and establish our own tastes. There seemed to be some… similarity between some of these artists (Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance…). It’s usually quite a fast drum with heavy guitars and a clear tenor vocal echoing over the top, singing much slower phrases over the very energetic accompanying instruments.
OK, perhaps that starts a little cheekily. The Mars Volta takes a more forward sound, at least for the time, which places it firmly in the Prog Rock category; of course Prog Rock itself is a fairly broad genre and constantly on the move.
I rather likes the sound in one of the earliest tracks Inertiatic Esp, which is primarily in 3/4 but forces 4 notes into the guitar part leading to this off beat melody that drives the song. Actually, over all the sound is defined a lot by these interesting unconventional rhythms, Cicatriz Esp is a shining example of this, with an incredibly paced drum part supporting the vocals.
I need to briefly break from the sound to talk about the album as a whole, it’s truly a concept album, actually following the story of one man who attempts suicide and falls into a coma, the tracks being the exploration of that coma. This is an interesting idea, almost giving an excuse for lyrics to be disparate when tied together by the “it was a dream” idea. I will say this, it works a hell of a lot better in music than it does in other fictional stories. This also means that if you are interested in this stories, it might be worth listening to the full album and not have me just pull up lyrical samples here.
There is so much energy in this album, see Drunkship of Lanterns, it’s so energetic and the instrumental writing really works, it’s so solid and completed by the vocals, but I think for me that the problem emerges here. The vocals are a tad generic in style and do send me back to that “year 9 music” phase; it just sounds slightly immature and maybe that’s my projection! It does have me curious to what the band could do with a different vocal style. Furthering this Eritarka is a really solid song but the vocals melody could really be switched with Dance Dance by Fall Out Boy.
They do try some really individual ideas in rock for their time though, in the previously mentioned track and the closing one, Ambuletz, they take influences from genres like dub and it completely works! This is certainly writing that is way closer to “great” than “competent”.
Overall for me, I did enjoy this album and will be adding some songs into my regular rotation, but it had flaws that were quite personal for me, a mildly immature sound, but this was definitely outweighed by its incredibly clever musical writing.
P.S. I really don’t hate the compared bands at all; I quite like the sound, I just expected a greater separation.
Is this album for you?
It’s not going to appeal to everyone as it does kind of ooze the mid 2000’s and its mildly-niche (I said mildly) rock. On balance, I want those who really like clever music ideas to listen to this once. Also I want people who love a good concept album to listen to this once. Really keep an open mind and you might find yourself settling well into it but one thing i will say. Listen to it all the way through!
- Writing: 8.5/10
- Performance: 8/10
- Style: 7/10