The Mars Volta - Amputechture

Amputechture, the Mars Volta's third album, is a showcase for the band's trademark fusion of progressive rock with hardcore, Latin and jazz influences. It typifies the band's experimental approach, and encompasses funky rhythms, lyrical melodies, staccato themes, falsetto Jon Anderson-esque vocals, rather harsh instrumentation, bilingual lyrics which alternate between English and Spanish, unconventional chord progressions, arpeggiated runs, virtuoso drum patterns, melting-pot song structures, and extended song structures (one track on Amputechture runs for over 15 minutes), which are all characteristics of their sound.

Continuing where the second album, Frances the Mute, left off, Amputechre has more ambient material and less rock, than on the band's debut effort Deloused in the Comatorium, which managed to strike an even balance between ambient and rock. Like Frances the Mute, Amputechture is structured around a series of song-cycles, of which there are four, and the track listing also includes an additional four tracks, two of which are semi-improvisational.

The surfeit of experimentation on Amputechture makes it quite challenging to listen to. At times, melodies unfold by twists and turns which are breathtaking, and at other times, tracks seem to grind to a halt. Some of the passages would arguably function as songs in their own right, rather than as episodes within a ten minute track (Tetragrammaton, Meccamputechture and Day of the Baphomets each run for over ten minutes).

What makes Amputechture special is the hardcore influence which is characteristic of all the band's work. This comes through in the album's rockier passages, which have a real sense of purpose, and demonstrate a unity of focus and collective effort. The rhythm section works well as a unit, particularly on tracks like Viscera Eyes, where the riffs are played with precision and total commitment. This is understandable given the band's origins, which were formed out of the ashes of hardcore band At The Drive-In (ATDI), by Cedric Bixler-Zavala (singer) and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitarist).

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