When At The Drive-In broke up in 2001 after their magnum opus ‘Relationship of Command’, fans knew that vocalist Cedric-Bixler Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López were not finished. Their distinctive musical assets and tendency to experiment left an expectancy to continue and The Mars Volta is the culmination of their contained chaos.
After their stellar EP ‘Tremulant’, the band look set to push progressive rock into new frontiers, mixing funk, salsa, jazz, noise to create a more thoughtful and experimental experience than At The Drive-In offered. Cedric had improved his falsetto vocals, complimenting the instruments, yet he has kept his seemingly meaningless but fitting lyrics, whilst Omar let out his internal emotions in his soft and loud contrasts. Esteemed producer Rick Rubin (known for making chaotic albums that much more tight) even brought Red Hot Chilli Peppers members Flea and John Frusciante to benefit their sound.
But there is a genuine passion to be found in the band’s music, and this tied with their incredible ability creates a recognisable sound, distinguishable from anything else in the progressive scene. The only thing that hampers this LP is the abundance of musical ideas experimentation. Certain moments in tracks like Cicatriz ESP only be described as “soundscapes” – intended to help with the conceptual part of the album.This is a concept album in the loosest sense of the term – the story of the self-inflicted death of the band’s friend Julio Venegas can only be interpreted through the panic and fear of the instrumentation and energy of the group as a whole and not the manic lyrics of Zavala.
However, it is the music that takes a forefront, with shifting tempos and intensity – the opening of Son et Lumière leading into Inertiatic ESP is the first of many shocks in this album. The tracks Cicatriz ESP and Inertiatic ESP, while appearing related, are in fact vastly opposite; the former being a slow, echoey track and the latter being a thumping, fast paced thrill ride. The track’s motifs and hooks push the album forward though the lack of coherence between tracks (and even within them) keeps ideas feeling fresh.
De-Loused is an album that still continues to amaze, and even though The Mars Volta have split up there is no question that Omar and Cedric will continue to be exciting in their musical endeavours The piercing outro of Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt leaves us with the end of an album that encapsulates the essence of the band’s rugged experimentalism and abrasiveness. Although At The Drive-In are long dead, Cedric and Omar refused to dance on the corpse’s ashes.(Pixel art created by Brampf: http://brampf.tumblr.com/)