The Mars Volta Frances the Mute

The Mars Volta Frances the Mute
Talk about epic. The second full-length from this At the Drive-In offshoot clocks in at around 80 minutes and contains just five tracks. If there was ever any doubt that TMV were positioning themselves to be the new Yes, they should be laid to rest with this work. The album is equal parts prog-rock landscapes, Latino mambo rhythms, orchestral manoeuvring and protracted jams. Based on a diary kept by late band mate Jeremy Ward (whose death shortly after the recording of 2003’s De-Loused in Comatorium obviously still haunts them), each track is named for a character in the book. And some of them are broken up into subsections. With guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez in the producer’s chair this time, the band has been left to their own devices and being the first record made with the touring line-up, instead of a bunch of celebrity guest players, the comfort and cohesion level is high. And nowhere is that more obvious than on "L’via Lviaquez,” which bumps and grinds between Cuban bump and hustle and chugging old-school metal — kind of like Led Zeppelin jamming with Tito Puente. There are still appearances by friends like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea (who plays guest trumpet this time), but the basic tracks are by the band. Add to that string sections, horns, ten-minute instrumental jam sessions and random sound effects and you get a spacey, sprawling, challenging magnum opus of disparately-influenced rock. (Universal)