The Mars Volta was a Progressive Rock
band from El Paso, Texas (curently based in Mexico) formed in 2001. Rolling Stone
magazine named them the best prog-rock band of 2008.
Rodríguez-López and Parks went on to form a new project, Bosnian Rainbows. In addition, Rodríguez-López, Bixler-Zavala, and Hinojos' previous band, At the Drive-In, has reunited, although there are no current plans to record any new material. As of January 25, 2013 The Mars Volta has officially split up. As of April 2014, Rodriguez-López and Bixler-Zavala have formed a new project entitled Antemasque
(also featuring former Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch and Red Hot Chili Peppers
bassist Flea). Whether this means a reunion for The Mars Volta, it's in the air.
- Omar Rodríguez-López: guitar, production
- Cedric Bixler-Zavala: lyrics, vocals
- Juan Alderete: electric bass
- Deantoni Parks: drums
- Marcel Rodríguez-López: percussion, synthesizers
- Lars Stalfors: sound manipulation, keyboards
- Dave Elitch: drums
- Blake Fleming: drums
- John Frusciante: guitar
- Eva Gardner: bass
- Linda Good: touring keyboardist
- Paul Hinojos: sound technician, occasional guitar
- Ralph Jasso: bass
- Jason Lader: occasional bassist
- Isaiah Ikey Owens: keyboards
- Thomas Pridgen: drums
- Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez: flute, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet.
- Jon Theodore: drums
- Jeremy Michael Ward: sound technician
- 2001 - Tremulant (EP)
- 2003 - De-Loused in the Comatorium
- 2005 - Frances the Mute
- 2006 - Amputechture
- 2008 - The Bedlam in Goliath
- 2009 - Octahedron
- 2012 - Noctourniquet
This band provides examples of:
- Album Intro Track: Deloused in the Comatorium has "Son et Lumiere."
- Arc Number: The number 25 is used a lot in Frances the Mute, namely in the song Cassandra Gemini. It's used in the lyrics, and around 10 minutes in you can hear it spoken very quietly.
- Awesome McCoolname: Try telling anyone the name Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López is dull-sounding.
- Berserk Button: Cedric tends to get vocal about his dislikes, like moshing, and cigarettes
Cedric (during the 09/13/2004 show):
Hey, listen, man, if you guys came to see us, don't throw shit on the stage. Someone over there, one of you assholes, whoever threw it - I know you’re not all assholes - I mean, what the fuck were you thinking? When I go see my favorite band, I’m not gonna throw shit at them. You go do that at, like, Three Doors Down
or fuckin’ Limp Bizkit
. I bet you guys are the ones who drive really bad too.
- Sadly later that day a girl was smothered during a moshpit and died not too long after.
- At another live show someone threw beer at Cedric and between songs he said he would fight outside after the show and that he would "kick their fucking ass"
- (Doubles as a Take That)
- Bilingual Bonus: Several songs have Spanish lyrics and one ("Asilos Magdalena") is entirely in Spanish.
- Granted, Cedric's Spanish is mostly mispronounced on purpose to fit his vocal range.
- Book Ends: The "Sarcophagi" sections on Frances the Mute opens and closes the album; a whistling kettle in the first instance is also taken off the stove in the second.
- Careful With That Axe: Towards the end of "Goliath". There's also a random scream thrown in at about 3:20 into "Cavalettas".
- Concept Album: Four of them, in fact:
- De-Loused in the Comatorium: A man named Cerpin Taxt attempts suicide via a mix of morphine and rat poison, but instead falls into a coma for a week and experiences very strange hallucinations during this time. He ultimately jumps off a bridge onto a freeway during rush hour. Very loosely based on the life and death of the band's friend, Julio Vanegas.
- Frances the Mute: Based on a diary found by the band's late audio manipulator, Jeremy Ward, in the backseat of a car in his days as a repo man. The journal described a man's search for his biological parents. The names of those who led him to his parents were altered to create the titles of the songs. In the album's story, Vismund Cygnus goes searching for his mother Frances. Turns out Cygnus and the people he spoke to were split personalities of Frances' that came about after she was raped by priests, hence every character's aversion to the church and why Frances went mute; she (or her personality Cassandra) ends up killing the priests at the end of the narrative.
- The Bedlam In Goliath: The lyrics are based on sayings and events that the band encountered while using an old ouija board they found in Jerusalem, and the string of unpleasant events that they thought were due to a curse from the board. Bixler-Zavala later said it was a commentary on how women are treated in Islamic countries.
- Noctourniquet is said to be a concept album, somehow relating to Solomon Grundy from DCU, and Hyacinthus from Greek myth.
- As for the other two albums, Amputechture didn't have a specific story but was all about organized religion and the things the band didn't like about it; while Octahedron had one or two songs being about reacting to the Republicans winning the election at the time, or the Salem witch trials.
- Cover Version: Six cover versions of songs by some of their favorite bands were recorded for use as bonus tracks on various versions of the Bedlam In Goliath release.
- Driven to Suicide: Cerpin Taxt. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion since he's based on a real life friend of the band, Julio Venegas, who committed suicide.
- Epic Rocking: They have some pretty lengthy songs, but topping them all is the 32-minute "Cassandra Gemini" from Frances the Mute. Also notable because many of its musical themes were taken from live jams done in the middle of their previous longest song from De-Loused in the Comatorium, "Cicatriz ESP", which would extend its length from 12 minutes (buffered by an ambient section in the middle) to 40+ minutes (all music).
- Hostage Situation: While Octahedron lacks a coherent story, the lyrics frequently allude to a deadly capturing scenario, in which the singer partook with some else. They are now estranged somehow.
- Last Note Nightmare: The band love this trope. "Asilos Magdalena" might be the most obvious example, but "Televators," "The Widow," "L'Via L'Viaquez" and a number of other songs also qualify.
- Most notably, however, is probably "Tourniquet Man". Being the only quiet spot on the otherwise cacophonic The Bedlam In Goliath, however, this was probably to be expected. Starting off slow but ominous, the vocals suddenly become horribly distorted halfway through, the backing synths slow down and slur, the drumming grows erratic, and the saxophone keeps on playing as if nothing had happened (though to be fair, Omar has a proud tradition of giving each musician their part and not letting them hear everyone else's part until the end of recording, so for all Adrian knew, nothing had happened).
- Leave the Camera Running: this is used throughout Frances the Mute with the endings of songs, most likely for an ambient effect. The most prominent example may be "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", which opens with four minutes of coqui frogs singing.
- Loudness War: Every single album has clipping, which in many cases is audible. Noctourniquet was so bad that even the mastering engineer criticised it, claiming she was forced (by either the label or the band; it's not clear which) to master it that way. At least some of the vinyl editions also have clipping. Luckily there are programs that can be used to remedy this.
- Mind Screw: Most of their lyrics and quite a bit of their music.
- Mind Screwdriver: The story the band wrote to explain the plot of De-Loused in the Comatorium.
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus"
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Their genre is hard to define, and has elements of Prog, Post-hardcore, Latin, and Electronic, amongst others.
- One of Us: Both Omar and Cedric have admitted to being Doctor Who fans, which is evident when they used to use The Axons as props on stage and appeared in publicity photos with Daleks.
- Portmanteau: At least three album titles bear one, let alone their song names.
- Rape and Revenge: The story of Frances the Mute.
- Religion Rant Song: Several songs on Amputechture are apparently examples, although it's sometimes difficult to tell with the Word Salad Lyrics. There is a pretty anti-religious theme to the concept of Frances the Mute as well.
- Revolving Door Band: Cedric and Omar are the only constant members of a line-up that has changed countless times over the years. Most notably, the band has had three drummers since Jon Theodore left in 2006.
- Surreal Horror
- Textless Album Cover: Thus far, none of their full-length studio albums have had the band name or album title on the front, although the packaging will typically include a sticker with that information on it. Most of their singles or EPs do have a title and artist name on the front, as does the Live Album Scab Dates.
- Uncommon Time: As they're a Prog Rock group, appearances of this trope in their work are pretty much mandatory. For example, on The Bedlam in Goliath, "Metatron" (5/4), "Wax Simulacra" (11/8 or [6+ 5]/8), and "Cavalettas" (11/8 or [5+ 6]/8) are a few examples, but there are usually at least a few per album.
- "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" from Frances the Mute features a 6/8 intro, a 4/4 main setcion, a guitar solo and buildup in 29/16, followed by an explosive outro in 10/4.
- "Tetragrammaton" from Amputechture rotates through 11 different time signatures (including two areas with no time signature), and manages to count some uncommon times in multiple ways (one section in 12/8 is counted [5+ 5+ 2/]/8 every first measure and [4+ 4+ 4]/8 every second measure.) A full breakdown can be found here.
- What Could Have Been: This◊ was very nearly the artwork for Amputechture.
- Word of God: The song "Frances the Mute" is a "decoder ring" for the album of the same name. Fan analysis of the song responsible for the spoiler-marked section under Concept Album above.
- Word Salad Lyrics. It's very expressive word salad though. Their Spanish lyrics are usually quite a bit less word salad-y.
- Word Salad Title (their name)
- It's apparently supposed to be indicative of them being something "revolutionary", as per a quote by Federico Fellini where he defines his personal meaning of the world "volta" as a new turn of events. They just added in the "mars" because... well, it sounds cool.
And with every body that I find, and with every claymore that they mine, i won’t forget who I’m looking for, OH MOTHER HELP ME IM LOOKING FOR!