Published Nov 07, 2014For Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López, nothing lasts forever — and that goes for both beloved bands and interpersonal animosity. The singer and guitarist buried a pretty big hatchet in 2012 by reuniting with their long-disbanded group At The Drive-In for a series of shows. That brief reformation was followed almost immediately by the breakup of the duo's ever-evolving post-ATDI prog-rock juggernaut, the Mars Volta. The latter rift, however, seems more or less mended now that Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López have teamed up with Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch as Antemasque. Personal dramas aside, the act of shedding the Mars Volta aesthetic — a sound that had grown increasingly stale over the past couple of meandering albums — has proven a rebirth of sorts. Antemasque is all frenetic energy and sinewy riffs, a pop-forward rethinking of the ATDI formula by a band of ridiculously technical players.
Catchy as barbed-wire, the opening salvo of songs aggressively embed their hooks at every turn — check the chorus of leadoff track "4AM," the jam-packed riffs of "I Got No Remorse" and the propulsive drum workout of "In The Lurch." It's all bolstered by the bass playing of Flea, who had a significant role in the first Mars Volta album, and whose studio provided the setting for this recording. Where Antemasque stumbles, however, is in their use of clichéd lyrics ("Ride Like the Devil's Son" and "50,000 Kilowatts") and Bixler-Zavala's tendency to wail like a young Vince Neil (seriously, close your eyes during "People Forget" and try not to think of a blonde dude in a red leather codpiece). While it's impressive to hear such maximalist players working with stripped down intensity, Antemasque isn't quite the return to form that fans of ATDI and Mars Volta might be expecting. As far as fresh starts go, however, it's a promising one. (Nadie Sound)