Nice review, enjoyed it start to finish. Man, I remember this album when it came out. Didn't pay attention to the band, until I heard "The Widow." I was just mesmerized by that song, as well as L'Via did. Sad that I never picked up this album. Hopefully I can find a copy somewhere :roll: Great review again!
Hello everyone! Sorry I've been so busy. But I refuse to forget Gamespot! The people here are awesome, and it's great to see such a strong community. I'm still around the site, reading reviews and such.
Anywho, I decided to write a review of one of my favorite music albums of all time. I know, it's a music review, but I want to be able to write reviews about many things, especially things that are more difficult to review like music. Music doesn't have specific components to review like games do. Games have "gameplay," "presentation," and "replay value," but music is harder because the pieces are harder to specify. Well, I'm practicing, and my first music review that I wish to show you all is below. Hope you enjoy it!
The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
With the release of De-Loused in the Comatorium, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (formerly of the post-hardcore band At the Drive-In) tore prog-rock a new one by forming The Mars Volta, a band whose vision wasn't just to make awesome rock songs, but to tell stories and create musical art that cannot be duplicated. If you weren't losing yourself in the fantastic storyline of Cerpin Taxt (the protagonist of De-Loused), you were rocking out to the extensive, instrumentally-driven songs that brought hard rock headbangers along for the ride. The sophomore album, Frances the Mute, is the 2005 thunderstorm from The Mars Volta, and without a doubt, it sets the bar high for both the band and progressive rock in general.
Frances the Mute is a collection of five songs, but the final two "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and "Cassandra Geminni" are split into sub-sections. The initial song is an extensive thirteen minutes, "Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus," a massive epic of a song whose acoustic opening is a critical red herring, where the explosive intro blasts into a bilingual cornucopia of lyrics, courtesy of Bixler-Zavala's wail. Patient listeners will no doubt get lost in the maddening gatlings that Rodriguez-Lopez tears through his guitar. The rapid-fire guitar taps run rampant throughout the first part of "Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus." The tempo changes significantly, but Rodriguez-Lopez's guitars are near constant. You'll no doubt wonder how many fingers this guy has, because the solos are downright phenomenal. Do not try these solos at home: Mr. Rodriguez-Lopez is a trained professional. Even better, he knows how to rock.
After the trek of the first track (and its multiple distortion effects), things slow down to the band's most accessible (and most popular) single, "The Widow." The song starts slow and relatively softly, but the chorus once again explodes onto the scene as Bixler-Zavala's tenor climbs to a tremendous height. Rodriguez-Lopez once again runs rampant throughout "The Widow," despite it being a prog-rock equivalent to a hard rock ballad. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers makes a guest appearance on trumpet, adding in a morose tone to the song. It's much more approachable than the thirteen minute monster of "Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus," while still having enough hard rock strength behind it to stand alongside its bigger, prog-rock brothers on the album.
Then comes "L'Via L'Viaquez," most likely known as "one of the songs from Guitar Hero: World Tour that's not in English." Yes, it's bilingual, but it's a mad mix of latin, jazz, hard rock, and metal that brews into one of the band's best jams. Once that first riff hits, the intensity of The Mars Volta is in full, unchained effect. John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays through a couple of solos for the song, while leaving plenty of room for Rodriguez-Lopez to show off his skills on the strings. Bixler-Zavala's range is astonishingly vast, as his voice belts out note after note of pure mountainous fury. "L'Via L'Viaquez" is a blast to listen to, even once the distortion effects move the song to its conclusion.
The other two songs "Miranda This Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and "Cassandra Geminni" are extremely lengthy and are broken up into smaller tracks on the commercial CD. Much like "Cicatriz ESP" from De-Loused, these demand patience to reach some of the strongest moments. The in-your-face blast of "Miranda's" 'Pour Another Icepick's' initial note trails with Bixler-Zavala's exasperated gasps, riding into more guitar endurance challenges, courtesy of Rodriguez-Lopez. "Cassandra's" 'Tarantism' shows some of the album's best guitar sounds, as Rodriguez-Lopez shows a marathon of axe sounds, following an atmospheric and generally metronomic pace. The instrumentals are some of the best in modern progressive music and unleash colossal musical experiments that will keep the listeners asking, "how can they do that?"
If there's one thing that Frances the Mute seems to miss, the one part that will more than likely refute its place in the mainstream lineup of must-haves, is that the instrumentals are too long and result in a general lack of accessibility. While patient listeners and general prog-rock veterans will love the lengthy moments throughout "Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus" and "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore," not everyone will. Unlike thrash metal and punk rock bands, The Mars Volta songs take a long time to reach their epitome, and it's those moments of "mindless" buildup that really alienate The Mars Volta from being the kings of modern hard rock.
Despite their eccentricities, The Mars Volta have reached a new peak in progressive rock, providing intense hard rock explosions and instrumental marathons that would challenge even the strongest of axemen. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez mixes the best from guitarists like Hendrix and Santana, while adding a furious endurance and a heart-pounding, punk attitude to the prog-rock circuit. Cedric Bixler-Zavala's voice moves from a triumphant wail to a suffocating whisper to a seemingly-unstoppable fist-to-face intensity. It takes patience to listen to The Mars Volta's music. Some will be turned off by the lengthy instrumentals or more oddly, the bilingual vocals, and it's a real shame. Everything in Frances the Mute is pulled off with unbroken gusto and fury, and could well be The Mars Volta's most triumphant of accomplishments. It's intimidating at first, but undeniably rewarding. The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute album doesn't just prove to be PROGRESSIVE rock: it always remembers that it is progressive ROCK, and once Rodriguez-Lopez finishes his maddeningly-fast guitar sessions or Bixler-Zavala ends his wails with his extensive vocal range, that's what matters most. The Mars Volta have cornered that wild beast called rock, and instead of taming it, they feel like provoking it, and Frances the Mute is the result.
Overall Score: 9.0/10
"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: Pour Another Icepick"
"Cassandra Geminni: Faminepulse"
That's awesome. I'd read a book by you! :D I've always liked writing too. I've even tried writing a few stories, too, but I don't have the attention span to do it :| That's why I do photography instead. I can still be really creative, and I get instant results. But maybe one of these days I'll be able to actually sit myself down and write something. It would be really great to finally sit down and finish what I
@Aidan129: As a matter of fact, I love writing stories. I want to write a novel someday, but I love writing reviews too. I understand that being a full-time novelist isn't the best source of income, but I want a job where I get to write things, preferably things like reviews or editorials. It's fun and I enjoy doing it. :)
I don't really know much of anything about this group or its music, but it seems pretty kewl. And the review is well-written, as always, AK. Have you ever tried writing a story? That's a tremendous challenge, but I think you could be pretty good at it.
I am not surprised your music reviews are as good as your gaming reviews! Awesome job! I have never heard any song by them, even though I do recognize the band's name, but from what you said it is pretty awesome! "The Mars Volta, a band whose vision wasn't just to make awesome rock songs, but to tell stories and create musical art that cannot be duplicated." That sentence made me quite interested in their sound.
I didn't think I'd heard any of their songs until you mentioned "one of the songs from Guitar Hero: World Tour that's not in English." Great to see someone writing a music review!