Eight years ago, At the Drive In vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, wary of ATDI’s growing popular success, exited the band in order to pursue a more varied musical approach. The duo’s Dub Reggae side project De Facto became their primary gig, which quickly morphed into the band that they had been envisioning all along: The Mars Volta.
Blending the visceral impact of Punk with the majestic bombast of Prog, The Mars Volta pummeled and dazed its fans with frenetically disjointed gigs, likely a result of the band’s voracious drug appetite. The band’s 2003 debut full length, De-Loused in the Comatorium, was a concept album, a first-person narrative detailing the inner universe of someone in a drug-induced coma. Ironically, MV vocalist Jeremy Michael Ward died of a heroin overdose a month before the release of the album, a tragedy that motivated Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez to get clean.
Since then, The Mars Volta’s albums have been widely varied while maintaining an overall concept: Frances the Mute was based on a diary Jeremy Ward found in a repossessed car, Amputechture was a shambling song cycle about quasi-religious enlightenment and The Bedlam in Goliath was inspired and nearly undone by a Ouija board the band bought in Jerusalem.
Lacking a true central theme, the band’s latest album, Octahedron, has been described by Bixler-Zavala as the Pop album they’ve threatened to make all along. Often employing a methodology where constantly rotating players are given music to play without hearing the other components of the song, The Mars Volta has grown into an astonishingly accomplished musical entity, combining elements of Metal, Pop, Punk, Indie Rock, Jazz and Funk that’s most assuredly not your father’s Prog.
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