The Mars Volta, the progressive rock band known for their unintelligible vocals, 20-minute guitar riffs and imaginative concepts have toned down their sound on their latest release, Amputechture.
The album opens with “Vicarious Atonement,” a mellowed out, seven-minute intro that combines the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd with the band’s signature post-punk sound. We are then shot into what appears to be both the highlight and downfall of the album, “Tetragrammaton.” This 17-minute rock ballad launches into creative speed playing, courtesy of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez paired with Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s one-of-a-kind vocals. However, it then plunges into the dark abyss of recycled, overused pomp and long-winded melodrama.
It is confusing as to why some consider this song an epic, when it feels like it is long just because it can be. Pieces of the song are choppy and incoherent, and the music occasionally stops completely and changes direction. It is difficult for the listener to follow the music when its rich melodies and guitar lines are cut short by lazy compilation.
“Vermicide” offers a break in between “Tetragrammaton” and “Meccamputechture,” a song in which the band explores a different sound, experimenting with horns and keyboards. “Asilos Magdalena” is a beautiful track in which the vocal and guitar work are top notch – a definite high point of the album.
“Viscera Eyes” reinstates the sound from their first album, De-Loused in the Comatorium before we experience “Day of the Baphomets,” another rock ballad that, unlike “Tetragrammaton,” keeps its creative sound not only with the speed playing that is signature to The Mars Volta, but with a speed bongo solo and a jazz saxophone.
The album comes to its conclusion with “El Ciervo Vulnerado,” a track that mirrors the opening song. The harsher tracks are forgotten as the eerie tones and synthesizers showcase the new sound The Mars Volta has channeled.
Many argue that the band’s first full-length album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, set a standard that is hard to beat. It was produced by guitarist Rodriguez-Lopez and Rick Rubin, who also produced for bands such as System of a Down, a group The Mars Volta are often compared to. Their second album, Frances the Mute, also produced by the band’s guitar genius, did not impress fans in the way their first album did.
Amputechture, however, is well planned out and more refined than their previous release.
Listeners should approach the eight-track album with an open mind and plenty of patience to truly enjoy its genius.