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A much-awaited prospect, the debut opus from The Mars Volta sees the ex-At The Drive-In musical guerillas and their cohorts exceeding all expectations. Live performances have ranged from inspirational to inscrutable, as the group's music veered out in every direction, magnified by 20 minute encores and vocalist Cedric Bixler's hyperactive and acrobatic stage behaviour. Undoubtedly the talent and creative chemistry was there, but as a musical entity, they seemed chaotic and undisciplined.
Few then, could have expected them to produce a record of such dazzling expertise. One of the most immediately noticeable changes are Cedric's vocals. They sound astonishing - particularly on 'Son Et Lumiere' and 'This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed'. Less abrasive than ever before, they're enhanced by an unabashed and exuberant rhythm section. Even 'Eriatarka' alone shows his full range, as he flickers between animalistic howling and a fragile whisper. As ATD-I's vocalist he was a shrill, venomous mouthpiece for the anger that formed a large part of their identity. His vocals have developed massively since then, leaping and bouncing and echoing and stretching octopus-like simultaneously in as many different directions as he can conceive.
Beware: 'Deloused In The Comatorium' is unashamedly prog. Some of the songs go on for millennia. Interwoven with instrumental tangents that try every possible combination of sounds, india-rubber guitar strings are tangled with flickering, fibre-optic strands of electronica. It's complex, but organic and it's enthralled with a definite sense of joyous emotion. Life pulsates from within, making it sound more yearning and hopeful than anything previously heard from the (usually vitriolic) duo of Cedric & ex-ATD-I guitarist Omar Rodriguez. It's a musical tapestry woven from eloquent expression rather than volume. In places, it's an aural jungle; teeming with electronic wildlife, squealing, carnivorous guitars and shimmering words of prey that, under Cedric's command, evade capture or comprehension.
Its only real flaw is that it exists as one complete listening experience rather than a collection of songs and it's easy to lose track of where they begin and end. The variety in each song is such that it cancels out the variety in the record as a whole. This doesn't detract wholly from the album, although it makes the emotional accompaniment far more memorable than the sounds themselves. However, it's a minor fault in a majorly impressive record. For the most part, 'Deloused In The Comatorium' is truly exquisite and well worth the wait.
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