Editor's Note: We weren't in a particular hurry to review this when it came out, and at the time, we didn't think anyone had sent us one. Then we stumbled across a copy wedged in the bottom of our review-CD-hopper...so here you go.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala were At the Drive-In's breakout stars. When ATDI hit the big time, relatively speaking, you couldn't turn around without one of their mics, guitars or afros hitting you in the mug. Likewise, when the band called it a day, speculation ran wild as to what the future would hold for the world's hairiest brothers-in-arms.
A frustrating-but-promising EP on GSL briefly mollified fans thirsting for something more than Sparta's ATDI-lite assault, but everyone who heard it knew damn well that the Mars Volta were capable of much more. All the right ingredients were in the pot -- Rodriguez-Lopez's frantic guitar squalls, Bixler's brassy tenor, a crack rhythm section helmed by drummer Jon Theodore, and the final two pieces of the puzzle, keyboardist extraordinaire Isaiah "Ickey" Owens and sound manipulator Jeremy Ward. Would they deliver on their promise, or fail?
The answer was delivering in rousing fashion: De-Loused in the Comatorium hit unsuspecting listeners like an atom bomb, a devastating barrage of prog-rock bluster, sparkling psychedelia and art house aggression amplified by a decidedly punk rock ethos. These weren't merely songs, they were epic soundscapes dredged from a sonic abyss at the end of the Earth. "Roulette Dares (the haunt of)" or "Eritarka" testify to gods that nobody's ever heard of, and the pillaging "Son et Lumiere"/"Interniac ESP" transforms three decades worth of licks, kicks and venom into seven minutes of chameleon-like art-punk. As you get lost in the titanic splay of album centerpiece "Cicatriz ESP", you'll wonder how a band of such stellar components became even bigger than the sum of its parts.
The Mars Volta have not only revived prog-rock as a viable commodity; they've injected it with an electric vigor that the lumbering dinosaur hasn't witnessed in ages.