The Mars Volta do not write albums for the timid. Those who seek feel good, pop songs about love and happiness that can easily fit into a radio station’s play list are advised to look elsewhere. Yet, for those bold enough to listen, the Mars Volta provide a thrilling, complex and, above all else, loud redefinition of what rock music can be on the album Frances the Mute.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, known to fans as “that guy with the afro,” and Cedric Bixler are the rock scientists behind this bold new creation known as Frances the Mute. The two are no strangers to progressive rock opera albums. Their last album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, dealt with their friend’s suicide, while Frances the Mute deals with another tragedy, the death of their drummer Jeremy Ward in 2003. Thus, the album is a mix of several different musical genres and emotions. The typical music store employee could have a fit at trying to adequately place the album in the proper genre section. Likewise, you’ll have to keep an eye on your track listing to determine when one song has ended and a new song has begun.

The end result, however, is infinitely rewarding. Lopez and Bixler treat us to a simultaneously harrowing and soothing experience. The first track, “Cyngus…Vismund Cyngus,” starts off with a murmur, builds into a crescendo and then knocks the listener flat on his or her ass wondering what the hell just happened. Before you know it, Lopez is screaming in Spanish and Bixler is shredding the guitar like an ’80s glam metal hero. Other tracks like “L’ Via l’Viaquez” present us with a salsa vibe accompanied by trumpets and guitars from Flea and John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame.

Where will the Mars Volta take us next? Metal guitar variations of polka tunes, perhaps? We can only hope.
[Brad Vargyas eats babies.]