Recreate You, Amputate You
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, primary members/songwriters of The Mars Volta, have taken the prog-rock leanings of their last album Frances the Mute to another level. Although without anything drawn-out like last album’s thirty-three minute opus “Cassandra Gemini,” Amputechture further challenges a listener’s patience with multiple time changes, extended solos and nonstop guitar scales.For this album Rodriguez-Lopez opted to focus on crafting the effort in a “musical director” role, writing all the parts and teaching the majority of the guitar to participant John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) to handle instead. And while undeniably impressive, the extra work bogs down the sixteen-plus minute “Tetragrammaton,” as the latter half almost foregoes melody in favor of a never-ending modulating scale.
“Vicarious Atonement” employs simpler guitar, mirroring Bixler-Zavala’s heartfelt vocals instead of fighting them while the band slowly builds tension through phaser-ridden effects.
Amputechture‘s three strongest songs all happen in succession. Juan Alderete sets excellent pace with a three-note bassline march on “Meccamputechture” until keyboardist Isaiah “Ikey” Owen’s blasting organ takes lead amidst spine-tingling horns. This song (like many on the album) abruptly ends, as if cropped for room, so that “Asilos Magdalena” can begin. Singing entirely in Spanish, Cedric coos angelically “en mi vida / el oscuro me mantiene,” while his partner plucks a tempo-fluctuating acoustic rhythm. Once a flurry of feedback subsides TMV drops their heaviest song yet, “Viscera Eyes,” a rambunctious blend of latin-dance-metal driven by former member Jon Theodore’s rolling drum snaps.
After the excitement created by those three, the band reverts to near-noodling with “Day of the Baphomets.” Amputechture is the type of prog sure to delight uber-musicians, but possibly frustrate the average music fan. Ultimately, does it make for a bad album? No. Have they gone a little too far? Yes.