A Bard’s Eye View: Artist Profile – The Mars Volta


Artist Profile

The Mars Volta

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Country of origin: United States
Genres: Progressive rock, experimental rock, jazz-rock, psychedelic rock, post-hardcore, musique concrete, jazz fusion, noise rock, math rock,
Years active: 2001-2012
Current members: None
Number of albums: 6
Number of concerts attended: 0
Notable cameos on artist’s records: Flea

The Mars Volta is probably the most technical non-metal band I have heard in my life.  It is to my regret that I was unable to see them perform before they broke up.  They gained notoreity early on as two of the members from At the Drive In formed this band in the aftermath.  Some of the noise rock and post-hardcore stuck around but The Mars Volta is much more psychedelic and progressive, which were elements that I cae to particularly enjoy.

“De-Loused in the Comatorium” was released in 2003 and is largely inspired by a friend of the band who overdosed on heroin.  The album pearked at #39 on the Billboard 200.  The throwback to the ’70s Led Zeppelin/King Crimson styles are extremely evident but they are done in a way that makes a modern sound complement it really well.  There are also a number of Latin influences that pervade into the future albums that I feel give their music a unique zest.  Flea filled the role of the bass guitar on most of this album.

I would say that “France the Mute” is probably The Mars Volta album that I am the least familiar with.  The 2005 album is based on a diary that the audio artist had found in the back of a car that he was repossessing and the similarities between his life and the life of the person in the diary.  Flea also contributed to a few tracks on this album as well. This album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 123,000 copies in it first week.  “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore” is a phenomenal song and if you have time, “Cassandra Gemini” is a 32 minute masterpiece.

 

“Amputechure” is one of my absolute favorite albums of all time.  It is not a concept album, but still enjoyed a large amount of success, peaking at #9 on the Billboard 200 and selling 59,000 copies in its first week.  To me, there seems to be a much larger influence of Latin music in this album and in an interview on MTV they mentioned that immigration marches were happening around the time of the album’s release in 2006.  “Tetragrammaton” is a favorite of mine.  I often pick this song when I want to tie up a bunch of time at the jukebox in bars and drive some of the people crazy.

 

 

In 2008, “The Bedlam in Goliath” was released.  Most of the theme of this album is related to bad luck and an ouija board that the band swears was keeping them from getting anything done.  The album peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200, which is their most successful release of all time.  “Wax Simulacra” won the 2009 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

“Octahedron” in 2009 did not perform as well as the previous albums, peaking at 112 on the Billboard 200.  It is a much more stripped down and mellow kind of album and the reception of the album was not as strong as their previous albums.  “With Twilight As My Guide” is probably my favorite song on the album.

 

Their final album, “Noctourniquet”, was released in 2012.  Most of this album was inspired by the Greek myth of “Hyacinthus”.  This album peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200.  The ultimate demise of the band is credited to the speed of contributions between the guitarist and singer.  The guitarist was ready to record and the singer was unable to come up with lyrics to fit for two and a half years.  A lot of the psychedelia present in the first three albums was not present, but the progressive elements are still as strong as ever.

 

That’s the short history of The Mars Volta.  I definitely encourage you to check out their work if you have any interest because they were some extremely talented individuals.  I’m seeing Watsky this week so you’ll be getting an update on that.  I’ll catch you next week!

-Ryan

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