The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In frontman Omar Rodríguez-López will be releasing 12 solo albums on Ipecac Records over the next six months. One of these twelve is Arañas en La Sombra. It features the original Mars Volta lineup: Eva Gardner, Jon Theodore, Ikey Owens and John Frusciante. The material was released on August 26th and dates back to 2012.
Spanning 12 tracks, Arañas en La Sombra is the fourth in the 12-part series and the only Spanish one to date. The introduction to the album – a cacophony of what sounds like tropical birdcalls – brings us to a weirdly natural, raw place before the album begins. It’s a strange sensation, and one that doesn’t depart with the start of “Arcos Del Amor,” an energetic, punk-y track that if the name didn’t translate into “Arches of Love” would come across as a little angry. Perhaps it’s just that there is a ton of movement; the guitars, effects and vocals are all heavy and rushed; the same can be said for “El Vacio,” the third song.
“El Vacio” is really where the album becomes a joy. The combination of such a beautiful language, the minor arpeggios, heavy distortion and frantic percussion all culminate to form a unique and very complicated track that’s almost overwhelming to listen to. However it is a joy that’s not to be missed. The next song, “Pojos Histericos” is unfortunately more of the same. It’s simply not executed in the same way – as though it is desperately asserting its own importance. The lack of urgency lets the track fall a little flat.
The following song – the melancholy, rolling “Un Mar Amargo,” is a work of art that could honestly be released as a stand-alone track. It’s calming, almost whispered vocal line and arpeggiating theme is absolutely captivating and a treat for an attentive listener. “Un Mar Amargo” bleeds into the next track, “Metamorfosis.” It’s like an extended outro that is strangely appropriate, though it could have been a huge misstep like his forest-y intro.
“Extravagants Dientes” is a reverb-full, quiet, brooding track. The noisy percussion and effects that come in after an ethereal intro are a shock to the listener, but they’re not entirely unwelcome. They are what we’ve come to associate this album with and if anything, they make this track more interesting. They mark a return to the rushed, panicked fervor of Rodríguez-López’s most interesting music. “Primitivo y Barbaro” is another example, as is “Arañas El la Sombra.”
“Semillas De Hez” and “Voluntad De Los Ciegos” do nothing but stand out. They are the anomalies of the album. The former begins as we would expect, but devolves into glitchy effects and electronic innovation. It’s incredibly jarring considering the organic-ness the intro to the album led us to expect. The latter track is an epic ballad. It’s not bleeding-heart Juanes material, but for Rodríguez-López it’s uncharacteristically overblown. The last track is, of course, the birdcalls from the introductory number. It is a variation on, but a very clear callback to the surprising choice made for “No Hey Inteligencia” (track one). Including the bird calls here is comforting, because now we see they serve a purpose: they give a listener the sensation of finally stepping out of a rain forest– one in which they’ve been willingly trapped. “Presencia” (the twelfth and final track) is the perfect cap for Arañas en La Sombra.