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The Mars Volta:: “Amputechture” (Album Review)

This is the first of the iconoclastic L.A. band’s three albums that doesn’t tell a unified story, though given their surreal approach, we might not know that if they hadn’t told us. It doesn’t really matter too much, because it’s best to treat the lyrics as one impressionistic element of the work rather than text to be parsed.

Visceral power and mournful, disquieting atmosphere are the heart of the Mars Volta experience. Singer Cedric Bixler Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have set themselves up as popularity-be-damned visionaries, pursuing their muse into a resurgent blend of progressive rock and jazz fusion.

Their independence — and their virtuosity — has brought them their own kind of popularity, and “Amputechture” will disappoint only those fans who were hoping to see them head into deep space. It mainly restates their agenda, in impressive fashion.

The punishing nature of the fusion furiosity is relieved by more soothing vocal sections. There’s something of the oracle in Bixler’s steely, high-pitched voice. He can make you care about even the most frag-mented fever-dream imagery, as Rodriguez-Lopez, with help from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist John Frusciante, leads the band once again into parts unknown.
Review by: Richard Cromelin (L.A.)