Sound — 10
The Mars Volta was created by Cedric and Omar in hopes of creating new and different music, separate from that of the regular, the norm, the mainstream. De-Loused was an incredible example of proving that they could accomplish this hefty task, along with their previous EP, Tremulant. And so on and so forth throughout the releases by The Mars Volta. Amputechture, their 6th official release (Live EP being one of the official releases), with a total of 8 tracks which hone lengths from 4 minutes to almost 17, continues this approach. On first listen, you may be wondering where TMV is going with this new record and believe me, Amputechture is a grower, you won't fully appreciate it until you've heard it over 20 times, not that it'll take that many times to like it, though. Anyways, Amputechture reaches forth with great intentions on increasing their ability to both play music, and separate themselves further from the rest of the bands out there. Rest assured, even though it uses elements from past releases, it sounds like a whole new record, brand new material. The horns/saxophone make a huge comeback, a huge comeback, included in 6 of the 8 tracks, and the two that don't include horns/saxophone are the shortest songs on the album, Vermicide (4:17) and Asilos Magdalena (6:36), which comes only to 10:53 of songs that do not carry this now necessary part of The Mars Volta. Bombastic drums are featured also, the best they've ever been on any record by them whatsoever. Some might say that they are quiet and I also thought this but listening to it clearly, it is really actually mixed incredibly well because if you were to increase the drumming volume, it'd block the ambiance and other instruments in the album. Speaking of ambiance, it is now inside of the music, not in chunks on the outside found on Frances the Mute. The whole album is music, something De-Loused in the Comatorium fans will enjoy. Guitar is as intricate as ever on this record with John Frusciante included on the album as rhythm guitarist and every song, he really does add a nice texture to each of the songs. Solos are cleverly written and in Day of the Baphomets, a real treat, there's a guitar/sax solo included within the song, and it sounds amazing. Cedric's voice is top notch on this album as well, not only on the high register this time around, but he also experiments with medium-upper medium tones, it sounds good... really boasts Cedric's range showing he can sing the lower notes as well as the higher ones. The vocals are also altered quite a bit of the time on Amputechture, just as much as, say, De-Loused but used in different manners. One listen at the beginning of Day of the Baphomets and you'll also realize that Juan plays a much larger place this time around on the album, as if The Mars Volta had just realized how awesome he was at bass. Ikey, you can actually hear this time around and it sounds enthralling adding a lot of emotion to the album to some of the most apocalyptic keyboards to even some of The Mars Volta's most cheerful attempts. Great improvements musically on this album indeed, being able to hear Ikey this time around, hearing Juan's bass attacks, John Frusicante on every track, Adrian on every song but two, they have really progressed. The music is more intricate than ever before, and also, to be mentioned, much, much, much more abrupt than before. No more slow transitions, it is more of a "See it? Go get it!" and less of a "I'll crawl there" type of album. That of which also adds to the insanity of this record. 01. Vicarious Atonement - the sound of a bell slides in from the right headphone and then retreats to the left side. Many will be reminded of Son Et Lumiere at the first couple of seconds of the song but that is when the comparisons will end. A guitar solos erupts from the quiet effects and continues for a while until Cedric starts singing. His voice is backed up with more guitar to alter it a bit but it remains very jazzy, bluesy even, as Cedric keeps on with his haunting voice. No drums are found on this song for artistic and atmospheric reasons and if they were in, they probably wouldn't have fit at all. Vicarious Atonement is a very mystical song, but later in the song, the music heats up for the last verse or so until the final last lines are sang over and over again. Keyboards sound marvelous on this song, and really help bring that jazz feel to the song and soon after the last line is over and done being sang, there is a sax solo which goes all the way til the last moments of the song, which create quite the build-up towards Tetragrammaton, the beast of The Mars Volta songs. 02. Tetragrammaton - a King Crimson-eque guitarplaying goes on for about a minute and a half which then quickly erodes into a softer guitar part with Cedric softly singing, "Tell me it's over" and his voice becomes more tense and then it calms down again for the verse and then after one more round of getting the energy up with faster singing, it goes into the chorus. "Glossolalia cures my skin!" Cedric shouts as vocal distortions echo beside the rampaging music. And then after the word, "Turbulance," the music is quickly distorted into the softer guitarwork, which is now the second verse. After the second chorus, the music goes reverse and the drums are pedaling faster and faster backward, and a couple seconds later, something else happens but I won't spoil it all for you. Also, everything I just described was only about the first four to five minutes of this colossal, almost seventeen minute song. To describe the song would be to say the word, Insanity, a couple hundred times. Abrupt, diverse, and just total-out strangeness. Tetragrammaton is also probably the most cheerful song on the album, let alone, any song they've ever made. The song is an absolute beast. I could easily write a 2 page essay on this song but I won't because that'd be too tiring, I'll just say that it's one of the album's best songs, but that's a matter of opinion. 03. Vermicide - starts out incredibly spacey, fuzzy noise from the guitar, and then Cedric's voice booms, There with them is error. They are sacrosanct. It sounds very out there until the chorus comes. Music stops and Cedric quickly sings the lines and the two loud instrumental pounds follow, the chorus lines are sang two times and then it comes to the verses again which are about the same as the first. During the bridge of the song, the sounds of instrumentation are set in the back while you hear other effects parallel to the atmospheric sounds. During the last chorus, Cedric sings incredibly high, even for his standards and then ends the way it started, with about 10-20 seconds of static. And a beep. 04. Meccamputechture - said beep you heard on Vermicide transfers over to this song which is immediately led by Cedric almost chanting, think of it as the beginning of We Will Rock You by Queen. After the first verse is over, it goes into a frenzy of music. Guitar screams as jazz (an incredibly hook) is played beside it along with rampaging drums. It stops and turns into a more industrial fix, dub, if you will, and Cedric wails in an extremely high voice next to the echoing effects in the beginning. There are several really good guitar solos in the song and not to mention, in the latter minutes of the song, there comes quite a large part that really shows how well Adrian is on the album. Besides the soloing saxophone, there are whispering effects in the back, ambiance, to be technical, that seem to rain in after each note the sax sings out. Also, Ikey really shines on this song, and he plays incredibly at the end along with Adrian and when you really listen in depth to it, you hear so many ideas and sounds going on, it seems almost too much for headphones, but it sounds amazing. Multiple layers including the industrial/dub-type feel in the verses, the sax, the keyboards, the multiple layers of ambiance, the rhythm and lead guitar, and soon it all comes at you at full speed. A siren sounding technique is added and everything gets louder, tension builds, and makes you think of what a guy hearing voices might feel, it really is that dramatic. And immediately, it stops and then there is a more structured feel to the sax and Cedric sings, It lacks a human pulse. 05. Asilos Magdalena - loud synths, almost backward-sounding guitar fill your senses when this starts and you hear about three layers of other noises in back too. Very dry, it sounds don't know how else I can explain it. At about 40 seconds into the song, the noises stop and then all you can hear is slow acoustic guitar playing by John Frusciante, written by Omar. Throughout the song, there are several tempo shifts, occurring when a verse ends and when a chorus starts, and where the bridge of the song is (which is the same tempo as the verses). Vocals sound haunting, especially in the beginning of the chorus where Ced whispers, En mi vida (In my life), just as the music start slowing down. No drums are in this song as they aren't for three songs on this album (Vicarious Atonement, this one, and El Ciervo Vulnerado), used for atmospheric and artsy reasoning. And it works. Some may thing that this is the most boring song on the album but you have to realize the ultimate progression on the song. When it comes to the bridge of the song, you can slightly hear a wind-sounding noise in the back of whenever Cedric starts singing. Said noise gets louder and louder and soon you start hearing Omar come in echoing from the back, and he does a pretty long solo too, that starts at being pretty slow for Omar's standards but generally increases in speed by time the song is over, as the ambiance gets louder and louder whereas you can hardly hear Cedric at all in the song, plainly spooky. Last guitar notes echo and then you hear a bit of mechanical drumming at the end which leads to Viscera Eyes. 06. Viscera Eyes - 40 seconds of mechanical drumming rev up the song along with subtle works of noise in the back. Out of nowhere, a cutting guitar riff rages out and goes along until you hear some of Cedric's highest voice ever. Like the other songs, the vocals are distorted well and sound almost static or fuzzy, but it helps in hearing how high he gets in this song. All the verses are in Spanish and the chorus is English along with the bridge much later in the song. I forgot to mention how catchy the song is, featuring such lines as, In your viscera eyes, cataracts close the blinds! Let me lend comfort, come cry by your side! Come on and give it to me, come on and die! just typing it makes me chant the lyrics aloud. About midway through the song, there is a pretty long instrumental where Omar shows more of his soloing skills, and I might have to listen again, but it actually sometimes sounds like John is playing also alongside him. Bit iffy to say that right now though, too many things going on. And during the instrumentation, you can hear separate effects that fly by your right and left speakers. Another thing on the instrumental side note, the horns on the song feel very natural to the song, much more than they did on Frances the Mute, they sound like they should be there, they fit with the music. I'll wait until I get the real album to tell my experience with the transition because like anyone who has the leak, it cuts of about 2 seconds off of each song before you can tell if they really were translated like that. 07. Day Of The Baphomets - almost tribal drumming comes on instantaneously as you press the play button. And, holy shardes, there is an amazing bass solo in the intro of the song, Juan's best playing ever. Ever. He buzzes by for about 50 seconds playing solo (not many instances in music where you actually hear a bass solo), and then the music vigorously screams dramatically changing the music. But not altering how good the bass is. During the first verse of the song, you hear Cedric singing something you've heard before, yes, lyrics to a past song, A Plague by Your Hissing, officially featured on A Missing Chromosome. Then appears the chorus which starts with Cedric singing, Ah-aye-ayeey-aheey-I've got a plan that'll make you theirs now, a beautifully written melody. The second verse also features lyrics on A Plague, which is pretty cool to say the least, that they acknowledged a previously, very underrated song by them. Like Tetragrammaton, this song also has all the bells and whistles for you all, which does equal insanity, right? Anyways, just to comment on some of them because it would be damn near impossible to do so in such a small space. There is a saxophone/guitar solo in the song that, although lasting only about 20-30 seconds, is nonetheless amazing. Fast guitar wisps by in the left speaker as the saxophone follows suit the notes of the guitar in the right speaker. Brilliant. Along with that, there is a Congo-type solo in the later part of the song, but I'm wondering if it really was soloed on Congas and not pots and pans or garbage cans previously done by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sounds very cool. Right afterward, Cedric's voice relieves the work of drumming and percussion, unaltered and sung rather high. Everything on this song is top-notch. Some of the sang lyrics on this song are chanted almost using altered vocals to sound like there is a group of people singing, and not just one. Wow, this already is a lot of writing, so I'll stop right here for this song, but let me tell you, it's all about surprises. 08. El Ciervo Vulnerado - static ambiance begins the song and soon saxophone follows, sounding very much like the Pink Panther theme song for me at least. Haha. But I liked it, adds a really nice hook to the song. More haunting vocals appear on this track, they really do sound quite frightening. Especially the deeper voice at the end that appears while Cedric sings backwards, haha, it's all good. During the beginning, though, there is a sectioned guitar solo. Some say that there's sitar in the song so I'll have to listen a bit more the next time I listen to the song. It definitely is an incredibly new approach from The Mars Volta, that definitely is for sure. Another thing to mention, it ends on the same not that Vicarious Atonement starts on, so I'm guessing the whole album is a circle another thing, it ends on the right speaker, where Vicarious Atonement starts pretty awesome. El Ciervo is an all-out atmospheric song, tons of ambiance, but none of it by itself to make the song boring in any way. Although it's not boring, it will need quite a few listens before you can gradually come to understand it's style. I have to say, I wasn't impressed at all with Frances the Mute, so this album definitely increased how much respect I held for The Mars Volta. Amputechture is an incredible feat for The Mars Volta, let alone, the music world, and definitely something for prog fans. Give it a few listens and let it all sink in. The best way I can describe it is saying that it is colder water than what you expect, meaning, rather than just putting your toes in the colder-than-usual (different) water, just jump in and get used to it. This isn't your average album.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are definitely telling a story and Shelly from the Coma has helped decipher what they mean and it really is quite the thing to read. Here's the system of how the lyrics are told in Amputechture. Songs 1-7 are the whole story of Amputechture told in extreme detail. Song 8, the last song, tells the story from start to end. As I can tell, Ced's vocabulary has been growing incredibly. Perhaps the most detailed lyrics he's ever written but he manages to keep it sounding poetic. The lyrics have always been good, and this just maintains that.
Overall Impression — 10
To other albums, this is something brilliantly crafted. Most albums around 75 minutes actually sound like they're 75 minutes but this sounds like a 30 minute record. Song progression goes through at rapid speeds and sometimes it feels I've only been listening to the album for 10 minutes and I'm already at Viscera Eyes. There are just so many "WOW" moments on the album, like the expression of time flying by when you're having fun. I mean, The Dark Side of the Moon (40 some minutes) actually seems longer than this record, yet it's 30 minutes shorter. I love the progression on the album. The way it sounds so precariously odd but has the vibe The Mars Volta generally always shows. The album is just full of excitement and sounds like it was a lot of fun to record, and maybe even more fun to listen to. I hate how quickly it seems to end, haha. Definitely get a new one.