Over the Edge

Austin Chronicle | October 7, 2006
There is a delicate balance between beauty and insanity. Especially in prog. El Paso’s Mars Volta has dived head first into the abyss of self-indulgent, brain-fried, mad-tapping wankery. But this you already knew. As in 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium and last year’s Frances the Mute, third studio LP Amputechture takes a long, exhausting drive down the dusty roads of West Texas druggy boredom, this time with Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante sitting shotgun. Unlike Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s previous two concept albums, Amputechture finds the acid dabbledry taking priority over any listening enjoyment. Instead, the 17-minute “Tetragrammaton” and 11-minute “Meccamputechture” are sweaty workouts aimed at guitar supergeeks and molded around a spastic live jam. Opener “Vicarious Atonement” is a slow candlelit serenade, Bixler-Zavala crooning in Spanish/English verse and leaning heavily toward cheese. Spanish ballad “Asilos Magdalena” has a moment of loving clarity, and even the maddening “Viscera Eyes” – clocking in at only 9:27 – has singular minutes of thrash and roll, but Amputechture is more a series of events than a complete experience. It’s as though the Mars Volta is simply seeing what they can get away with. At least they’re more exciting than those other At the Drive-In hacks in Sparta.

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