Never Heard a Man Speak Like This Man Before
So... I just now started to write my own review of this album, but then something occurred to me. Writing extensive record reviews is tedious. Well, especially if you have a lot of little things you want to point out and discuss. This album has so many little things going on, so many informing influences (from, say, contemporary arabian dance pop to classic Rush, at least to my ear), so many little moments of brilliance, that to encapsulate them all would take longer than it takes to listen to the album.
So just a couple things...
There's still plenty of latin influence on this record. Not in Spanish lyrics or Santana-esque solos, as Brad has noted -- but in rhythm and percussion the influence is pervasive. And wonderful. I mean, the latinesque beats of certain parts of Metatron, or Ilyena, or Ourobouros, are dynamic and gripping.
It's true that Cedric doesn't have a soulful vocal showcase piece on this album a la "The Widow" or "Televators." The requisite 'mellow track' turns out to be the rather lame and forgettable "Tourniquet Man." (I never said the album was perfect.) But his singing is just fine -- and occasionally exquisite, as it is throughout "Ilyena."
I don't get what Brad's complaining about when he calls the album "prog for prog's sake" or refers to the "songs, if you can call them songs." I find all of the songs on the album to be tightly crafted and coherent. (And hell, it was always a strange criticism anyway, coming from a self-professed fan of Colors by Between the Buried and Me, the most "throw as many riffs in the pot as we can" album that I've ever heard). The aforementioned "Ilyena" is as tight and catchy as a pop song, albeit with far more challenging tonalities. "Wax Simulacra" rocks as hard as anything I've ever heard, and is over in 2 1/2 minutes. "Goliath" is extensive, but moves through 2 distinct phases (the deep funk phase and the speedy bluesy latin-drum-driven phase), each of which basically conforms to a classic and accessible verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus arrangement. Even the most experiment songs on the album -- e.g., "Cavalletas" (with its weird trail-off-and-reignite dynamic during the middle section) & "Askepios" (with its unprecedentedly dissonant/cinematic opening sequences leading into another bout of deep funk grooving) -- have an internal coherence that makes perfect sense and sounds delicious.
And damnit, it looks like I just wrote one of those tedious album reviews in spite of myself. So apologies to those who don't like to read the long-winded, and kudos to all who give this album a chance to grow on you. It is a marvel... to my mind, probably The Mars Volta's best album to date.
So well informed I don't know where the truth begins.