Third album from ex-At the Drive-In honchos Cedric
Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (gawsh, these
guys must have extra-long signature boxes on their check books)
and crew. This one features an expanded role for Red Hot Chili
Peppers' guitarist John Frusciante - although he's
not that recognizable here, despite doing the brunt of the guitar
Amputechture isn't a huge departure from previous Mars
Volta records, being mostly mid-temp, prog-influenced hard
rock with quiet acoustic passages giving way to screaming crescendos
of atonal guitars and brass. That old prog-rock favourite, the
flute, even makes a few appearances! Many of the songs stretch
way over the 10 minute mark, which gives the band plenty of room
for experimentation but can wear a bit thin at times.
A few highlights: "Vicarious Atonement" kicks things
off slowly, with spiralling, soloing guitars and yowling vocals
that sound like a slightly softer Robert Plant. Then it's
into more typical MV territory with "Tetragrammaton"
,16 minutes of prog heaven with the twinkling electronic effects
that make many of the band's songs stand out.
After that the songs tend to pretty much blend into one another,
with no particular standouts for me until the final "El Ciervo
Vulnerado", an epic screamer with what sounds like some nice
sitar at the end.
Credit to Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez for pushing the boundaries
of production throughout - what could have turned to be a modern
update on Yes, or maybe a more experimental take on the
likes of System of a Down, is given a modern sheen with
all kinds of intriguing electronics, unexpected instrumentation
and harmonic twists.
Overall this is an arresting, individual album with many interesting
twists to distinguish it, but it could use a bit more dynamic
range. The Mars Volta could take a lesson or two from the likes
of Mogwai when it comes to building from a quiet hush to
full-on rock mayhem; Amputechture doesn't have enough middle
ground between those two extremes.
1. Vicarious Atonement
5. Asilos Magdalena
6. Viscera Eyes
7. Day of the Baphomets
8. El Ciervo Vulnerado
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