Reviews The Mars Volta De-Loused In the Comatorium

The Mars Volta

De-Loused In the Comatorium

Every now and then a super heavily hyped record comes along and completely lives up to all of the expectations set by the preliminary buzz. This is neither now nor then. De-Loused in the Comatorium was hyped by some to be the "best album of all time", but alas, it's not even one of the best albums put out this year.

It has the worst cover art ever.

While the Mars Volta step out of basic song structure, they don't seem to understand that simply writing songs that escape the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown/bridge-reprise format does not make your music interesting. The songs at times seem formulaic and terribly contrived. Their failed attempts at being 'experimental' and 'out there' doom most of the songs. You're bound to get bored of their drawn out sound effects + guitar pedal stomping parts, as you would get bored of the long repetive beat/keyboard parts after the second chorus on every Wesley Willis track.

WORST COVER ART.
EVER.

The lyrics, how can I best sum up the lyrics? Well, here, want to write your own Mars Volta lyrics? Write a sentence down, now run it through a Thesaurus 750 times over and see what you come out with. I admire a big vocabulary, but when it gets to a point where it just seems like Cedric is trying way too hard to sound intellectual, I can't help but giggle. The lyrics are so dense and littered with samples from Bixler's word of the day toilet paper that emotion and meaning are hard to find. He mistakes big words as a strong artistic approach. While the out there lyrics of the Blood Brothers may cause you to think, 'what?', and then slowly allow you to piece together meaning, or later find out the meaning and think 'oh, I see, that's rather cool'. With this record, once you figure out what a song is about, you'll think 'oh, why'd he have to say it like that'? I wondered at times if the Warrior (www.ultimatewarrior.com) stepped in and picked up the pen for the band.

High points in my book would be the slick production and Cedric's improved vocals. While the melodies fail to stick in your head and really do little more than hold you over 'til the next OMG experimental breakdown, he does demonstrate an improved range and a much cleaner sounding voice.

Wait, did I mention this album has the worst cover art ever?

The band has tons of potential, I can hear it bubbling out of the cracks and crevices of this record. This is a mediocre record by a great band, and when they realize what they can do, and exactly how to do it, I'm sure they will put together an amazing piece of work, this just isn't their time.

De-Loused in the Comatorium is apparently a concept album, its concept being 'overkill'. If you're a fan of not-so-prog prog that is as experimental as mixing baking soda and vinegar, pick up this record.

6.0 / 10 — Sean

I've never heard The Mars Volta call themselves "experimental" or "out there," have you? Where does everyone get this idea? Why would anyone call their music experimental? They DO get spacey at times with their long, drawn-out segments of little or no music in the middle of a song (i.e.: "Cicatriz ESP," "Take the Veil, Cerpin Taxt," etc.), but the only people who label their music with the quoted adjectives are generally critics and/or fans.

The closest thing the band has given to a definition of De-loused is the concept for the album: the life and times of Cedric and Omar's friend, Julio Venegas. Considering how hard it is to turn something as intangible as life into something musical, I thought they did this splendidly; the whole album is fluid from start to finish; there are ups and downs (i.e.: "Eriatarka," "Inertiatic ESP"); intense, confusing parts (the chorus of "Cicatriz ESP") and docile, mellow parts (middle of "Cicatriz ESP"). They've arguably accomplished their goal by capturing something well-known in life: contrast and change.

With the concept of the album aside, the music appealed to my aesthetics. They don't do the standard "verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse" etc., but just because they don't doesn't mean they're intentionally trying to break boundaries and show all the other bands what's up. The A-B-A-B-C-D-A-B-E-C-D-D-E-C-F structure of "Drunkship of Lanterns" is something not unheralded, this has been done, but what The Mars Volta did with this album that should be praised is how they ACTUALLY COMPOSED IT. The Mars Volta has spaces in their music where only one instrument or a few instruments are playing at a time instead of an orgy of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. It's as if there was a seventh member of the group that conducted them instrument by instrument. Everything was so perfectly set, everyone knew their job, when to come in, when to take a break, when to rock out, etc.

Cedric's voice is amazing on this album. Not to imply that it wasn't good on Tremulant, but this time, he really shines through. His range is something that only a handful of rock singers have and considering today's rock music singing range is usually either non-existent (meaning, monotonous) or maybe half a scale in the soprano range, I really enjoyed listening to every word he had to say (despite the lyrics being awful). I haven't heard a voice so brilliant since Freddy Mercury.

Albeit, this album does have its faults: it does get spacey and ridiculously so. "Cicatriz ESP" stops in the middle of the song with only a faint sounding feedback to hold us over for about five minutes. Yeah, I don't like it much either. Although this may have been because of their "goal," I still would've appreciated more rocking out than sitting and waiting for the song to pick up again, but I expect their next album to be less "spacey."

If you loved At the Drive-In, you'll probably like the song "Take the Veil, Cerpin Taxt," and maybe the album as a whole. If you loved Tremulant, you're probably going to like this one, but don't be surprised if you think it needs more "rockin'" action.

Bottom Line: This album is awesome in every sense of the word.

9.0 / 10 — Seth

As one of the few music geeks on the planet who wasn't infatuated with At the Drive-In, I approached this record with very few expectations. I'd heard the Tremulant EP and wasn't too impressed with it, but thought it was nice enough. De-Loused in the Comatorium sounds like a logical extension of that sound, with the same mix of guitars, electronics, and epic song lengths. However, epic song lengths only work if you're writing epic songs, something that the Mars Volta attempts to do, yet sadly doesn't accomplish very often on their first full-length. The majority of these tracks are a wall of noise comprised of guitars, vocals, bass, drums, electronic, congas, and god knows what else. The guitars are pushed towards the front of the mix with the vocals, the bass rumbles, and the drums pound clear as a bell, with the electronics floating in and out of the mix. The whole thing sounds fantastic, thanks to Rick Rubin, who did a great job making sure everything was recorded perfectly, but it's a lot of style over substance. The parts are played very well and very professionally, but the songs seem to be lacking a certain "oomph" that no amount of studio trickery can cover up. There's a very large lean on electronics by a group of people who obviously haven't figured out how to effectively utilize them yet, like kids who got synthesizers for their birthdays and plugged them in without really finding out what to do with them aside from make cool noises. It's not all a complete loss, though. "Roulette Dares (the Haunt of)," with its streamlined verses and bombastic choruses hits with a hook deeper than anything At the Drive-In ever wrote. "Drunkship of Lanterns" revels in its bombast and has a little fun, being the only track on the record that doesn't almost sink under the weight of its own pretentiousness. "Inertiatic ESP"'s haunting yelps of "Now I'm lost!" during the choruses also manages to stay lodged in your head, even though the nearly non-existent verses seem like place-holders between hooks, which can also be said of the space-y prog exercise in "Eriatarka"; likewise, the three minutes of feedback lodged in the middle of "Cicatriz ESP" kill off anything that song might have had in the way of staying power. It seems like every song on the record would've benefited from having its running time chopped in half, but sadly this isn't the case. Yes, the record does rock, but it's ineffective due to a lack of any abundant memorable qualities or a strong cohesive element holding the whole affair together besides the rock element; the concept is a joke (suicide by way of a starship captain? c'mon guys!), and the music goes in so many different directions at once that the whole thing almost falls apart a lot of the time. It seems like the band wrote a bunch of choruses and decided to stick three minute long non-verses in between, almost like the record is supposed to be some kind of direct rebellion against what At the Drive-In was doing towards the end. We're left with a bunch of indie-rockers playing Santana-influenced prog-rock, who may have been better off sticking to what they were doing before. At the end of the day, yes, the record is enjoyable, although a lot of it ends up seeming ingenuine, and the last thing the world needs is another ingenuine band, especially from a bunch of musicians who should know better.

6.0 / 10 — Charlie
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Universal

2003

7.0 / 10

7.0 / 10

Reviewed by 3 writers.

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