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Music / The Mars Volta

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Yeah, kinda like that. note 

The Mars Volta is a Progressive Rock band from El Paso, Texas (at some points also based in Mexico) formed in 2001. The only constant members of the band are Omar Rodríguez-López (guitar, production, direction) and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals, lyrics); their partnership forms the core of the band, as it was created in the wake of the 2001 breakup of their previous band, At the Drive-In.

The band is known for their affinity for concept albums, energetic live shows, and Bixler-Zavala's combination of dense, surreal lyrics and passionate vocal delivery. While critically divisive in some quarters (Pitchfork infamously gave a scathing 2.0/10 review to their second album Frances the Mute, by far the lowest rating it received from any major music publication), their work, particularly their first three albums, has attracted particular acclaim from the progressive rock community, and they earned the title of Best Prog-Rock Band from Rolling Stone in 2008.

They initially entered a hiatus in late 2012, which they formally announced as a break-up on January 25, 2013. However, the band members continued to work with one another; Rodríguez-López and then-drummer Deantoni Parks went on to form a new project, Bosnian Rainbows, and Rodriguez-López and Bixler-Zavala also formed a new project entitled Antemasque in 2014 (also featuring former Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea — who, for that matter, performed on several of the Mars Volta's albums).

Despite this, the band remained officially inactive for quite some time; Rodríguez-López indicated in 2016 that he intended for a reunion to happen, but it seemed to be mainly a matter of scheduling as to when (he wished for founding members Eva Gardner and Jon Theodore to be involved). Bixler-Zavala also indicated on Twitter in February 2018 that a reunion will occur, though he later clarified that it wouldn't be immediate. In May 2019, he confirmed that the band were in the studio.

In June 2022, The Mars Volta released "Blacklight Shine", their first new track since the last album they had released, 2012's Noctourniquet. They additionally announced a tour and a new self-titled album, which eventually released on September 16, 2022. The album has been described as containing "Caribbean rhythms underpinning sophisticated, turbulent songcraft" and "Rodríguez-López's subterranean pop melodies driving Bixler-Zavala's dark sci-fi tales of the occult and malevolent governments". Joining Omar and Cedric are original bassist Eva Gardner, past synth player/percussionist Marcel Rodríguez-López, and new drummer Willy Rodriguez Quiñones.



  • Omar Rodríguez-López: guitar, production
  • Cedric Bixler-Zavala: lyrics, vocals
  • Eva Gardner: bass
  • Marcel Rodríguez-López: percussion, synthesizers
  • Willy Rodriguez Quiñones: drums


  • Juan Alderete: electric bass
  • Dave Elitch: drums
  • Blake Fleming: drums
  • John Frusciante: guitar
  • Linda Good: touring keyboardist
  • Paul Hinojos: sound technician, occasional guitar
  • Ralph Jasso: bass
  • Jason Lader: occasional bassist
  • Isaiah Ikey Owens: keyboards
  • Deantoni Parks: drums
  • Thomas Pridgen: drums
  • Lars Stalfors: sound manipulation, keyboards
  • 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
  • 2005 - Scabdates (Live Album)
  • 2006 - Amputechture
  • 2008 - The Bedlam in Goliath
  • 2009 - Octahedron
  • 2012 - Noctourniquet
  • 2022 - The Mars Volta

This band provides examples of:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Cedric does this at times, particularly with Spanish passages, to make the lyrics fit the rhythms. Doesn't make the songs any less compelling.
  • Adventures in Comaland: De-Loused in the Comatorium is definitely one of the stranger and darker examples of this. Imagine Alice in Wonderland from the perspective of a suicidal drug addict and you'll get a good idea of the album's story.
  • Album Intro Track: De-Loused in the Comatorium has "Son et lumiere", while Scabdates has "Abrasions Mount the Timpani". "Vicarious Atonement" from Amputechure has the feeling of one of these, but it's much longer than a typical example (in fact, it's long enough to qualify as Epic Rocking by itself); however, it's much more subdued in tone and style than the rest of the album (even including the concluding "El ciervo vulnerado", which is also subdued, but creepy as hell).
  • Animal Motifs: There's lots of bird imagery on Frances the Mute, with ravens, swans, and owls being prominently mentioned. Worms and snakes are also mentioned, in an apparently phallic context.
  • 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.
  • 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, 3 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".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Several songs have Spanish lyrics and one ("Asilos Magdalena") is entirely in Spanish. Amongst song/movement titles, "Tira me a las arañas" is slightly misspelled Spanish for "Throw Me to the Spiders"note , "Cicatriz" translates as "Scar", "Con safo" is a Chicano term that translates as "With Respect", and "Asilos Magdalena" translates as "Magdalene Asylums".note  Meanwhile, "una cavaletta" is a term for woman who constantly tries to change her lover into a fantasy she has conjured.
  • Book Ends:
    • The "Sarcophagi" sections on Frances the Mute open and close the album; a whistling kettle in the first instance is also taken off the stove in the second.
    • The opening and closing tracks of Amputechture could also count, as they're a lot more subdued than the rest of the album - though the closing track, "El ciervo vulnerado", nonetheless is also creepy enough to qualify as a Last Note Nightmare for the entire album.
  • Breather Episode: Played with in some cases. "Tira me a las arañas" on the first album has the structure of one, and it serves as an intro to "Drunkship of Lanterns", but it's also creepy as hell. The same goes for "Haruspex" and "Caviglia" on Scabdates, which serve as intros to "Concertina" and "Cicatriz" respectively. Some actual songs also serve as these, but they usually end with Last Note Nightmares: "Tourniquet Man", "Asilos Magdalena", "The Widow", even "Televators" and "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" (though the ending of the latter is something of a case of Nothing Is Scarier). "Vermicide" is practically the only example on their first four albums that plays the trope completely straight. Octahedron, meanwhile, pretty much inverts the trope (the band did refer to it as their "acoustic album", after all), and there are a few straight examples on Noctourniquet as well ("Vedamalady" in particular).
  • The Bus Came Back: Original bassist Eva Gardner's return to the band after a nearly two-decade absence.
  • Call-Back and Call-Forward: "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" features the phrase "It's not over 'til the tremulant sings", while "Eunuch Provocateur" contains the phrase "De-loused in the comatorium".
  • 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. One possible interpretation is that 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. In this interpretation, the line "Your life was just a lie" at the end of "Cassandra Gemini" means that none of these people other than Frances ever actually existed. Another is that Vismund and L'Via are separate people, Frances died after her rape, and Vismund Cygnus spends the album trying to find her, learns what occurred to her, and then visits venegeance on her rapists and murderers. In this interpretation, "Your life was just a lie" means that he has spent his entire life on a futile quest; he wanted to meet his mother, but she was already dead. Both interpretations can be supported with textual evidence from the lyrics, and they may have been deliberately written to be ambiguous. (Note that the "Frances the Mute" single ties in with the album, and it is probably impossible to discern what is going on without it.)
    • 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 ("Teflon"), or the Salem witch trials ("With Twilight as My Guide").
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cedric.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: According to an interview Cedric gave while promoting Octahedron, the story of The Bedlam in Goliath is intended to be a metaphor for the way women are treated in Islamic countries.
  • Downer Ending: Their first two albums both seem to end this way.
    • Deloused in the Comatorium ends with Cerpin Taxt awakening from his coma only to throw himself off of a highway overpass in "Televators", and seemingly permanently trapped in the Comatorium in "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt", which could be interpreted as a Dying Dream.
    • Frances the Mute is not at all clear about its events, but it definitely doesn't seem to be happy. In "Cassandra Gemini", Frances' alternate personality Cassandra apparently murders the priests that raped her in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Afterwards, she seems to lapse back into muteness, and the album ends with a very bleak reprise of the first section's chorus before reprising the intro of "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus".
    "Now there's no light, now there's no time
    You ain't got nothing, your life was just a lie"
  • Dream Land: The Comatorium is one of the more bizarre examples in fiction. Seriously, the story explaining the meaning of each song must be read to be believed.
  • 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.
  • Drone of Dread: Used frequently on Frances the Mute, notably in the intro to "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and the title track (which was released separately as a single).
  • Dying Dream: "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" can be interpreted as one.
  • Ennio Morricone Pastiche: Most of "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is one by Omar's own admission. The second movement of "Frances the Mute" ("Nineteen Sank, While Six Could Swim", which features the disturbing lyrical passage that arguably frames the entire album) also arguably qualifies.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Depends on your definition of "epic", but "Frances the Mute" features four and a half minutes of metallic percussion and eerie ambient sound before the band comes in. Notably, the percussion part seems to be tapping out an SOS in Morse code, which carries disturbing implications in the context of the album.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • They have many very lengthy songs, but their longest studio track by far is "Cassandra Gemini" from Frances the Mute, which runs for 32:32 in its intended single-track format. (Many digital releases Re-Cut it into eight tracks — the band lists five movements for it in the album booklet, although it's not actually clear where these are intended to begin and end.)
      • From their core studio discography, also topping the 10-minute mark are "Cicatriz ESP" (12:29), "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus" (13:02), "L'Via L'Viaquez" (12:21), "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" (13:09), "Frances the Mute" (14:36), "Tetragrammaton" (16:41), "Meccamputechture" (11:03), "Day of the Baphomets" (11:57), and "Blacklight Shine" (11:11, at least on YouTube; there's a shorter edit on some other platforms). During their original run, they dialled this back a bit with time; none of their last three albums have any tracks above ten minutes in length, although each album has at least a few tracks that still qualify for this trope (six minutes or longer), and arguably the first two songs on The Bedlam in Goliath qualify as a single fourteen-minute composition.
    • As lengthy as some of their studio compositions get, they're possibly even more known for doing this in their live performances.
      • Notably, many of the musical themes of "Cassandra Gemini" were taken from live jams done in the middle of "Cicatriz ESP" (their longest pre-Frances studio recording), which could extend its length from 12:29 on the album (buffered by an ambient section in the middle) to as much as 40 minutes (all music). A live version of one of these performances is available on Scabdates, although it also has eight minutes of Mind Screw-inducing ambience (and snippets of several other Mars Volta songs) inserted into the middle for some reason.
      • A few other musical themes from "Cassandra" (and a few other tracks) can be found in the unreleased song "Obelisk" (performed at Maida Vale in 2003), which went on for nearly 36 (and, in the Maida Vale performance, also was part of a seamless suite consisting of a 10-minute "Eriatarka", "Obelisk", and a 25-minute "Cicatriz ESP" - in other words, nearly 70 minutes of continuous music). Most of the themes from "Obelisk" were never reused, though.
      • This isn't all, by the way - perhaps most notably, "Drunkship of Lanterns" was known to reach as long as 34 minutes in live performances (e.g., the May 1, 2005, performance in Philadelphia).
      • And that's not even getting into the song they improvised at the KROQ Weenie Roast in 2005, "Abortion: The Other White Meat", which ran for some 50 minutes.
  • Erudite Stoner: Cedric has said he was smoking $1,000 worth of weed per week at one point, but the vocabulary of his lyrics is frequently collegiate-level or higher. Before Jeremy Michael Ward's death from a heroin overdose, the band had also apparently been using quite a lot of hard drugs, including opiates, but Bixler-Zavala indicated, "One day, we were all getting high, and Jeremy asked me if I could see he had worms in his head. I never touched the stuff again. His passing was the final nail in the coffin. We never went back."
  • Fading into the Next Song: Every transition on Frances the Mute (except possibly the last one, which could be argued to be a case of Siamese Twin Songs instead, given how sudden it is).
    • All but a few song transitions on most of their albums qualify, really. A particularly noteworthy one is "Aberinkula" into "Metatron", which borders on Siamese Twin Songs - you might have to be listening for it to notice it.
  • Female Rockers Play Bass: Gardner is the only woman in the current lineup, although keyboardist Linda Good (cofounder of alternative pop band The Twigs) also performed with them for a few months.
  • Freud Was Right: Seemingly invoked on Frances the Mute with the gigantic amount of phallic (and, to a lesser extent, yonic) imagery throughout the album (for instance, any reference to an icepick or stabbing, plus the examples mentioned above under Animal Motifs). There's so much that it has to have been deliberate.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Rather than the traditional "Extrasensory perception", "ESP" in the song titles on De-Loused means "Ectopic Shapeshifting Penance-propulsion".
  • Genre-Busting: Their genre is hard to define, and has elements of Prog, Post-hardcore, Latin, and Electronic, amongst others. They are most frequently classified as Progressive Rock, but even though this trope is frequently considered a necessary component of prog, it doesn't feel like an adequate descriptor.
  • Gratuitous French: "Son et lumière" translates as "Sound and Light".
  • Gratuitous Greek: "Tetragrammaton" (Τετραγράμματον) literally translates as "four-letter word". When used in English, it's almost always a reference to YHWH (יהוה), the name of God in Judaism and Christianity's Old Testament; some traditions of Judaism have a proscription against speaking this name or transliterations of it such as Yahweh and Jehovah.
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • The song movement "Facilis descenus Averni" translates as "The Descent into Hell Is Easy" (or, more literally, "Easy Is the Descent into Avernus", although it is slightly misspelled; the correct spelling is "Facilis descensus Averno").
    • "Vade mecum" means "Go with Me", and is also used in English as a term for a pocket reference book or other useful object carried on one's person.
    • "In absentia" is a legal term taken from Latin meaning "in absence" or "while absent".
  • Gratuitous Russian: "Lapochka" ("Лапочка") is a term of affection that roughly resembles the English colloquialisms "honey", "sweetie", "darling", "dear", "cutie pie", etc. It's a feminine form, so it's usually directed towards women, and it also tends not to be used for persons older than the speaker.
  • 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.
  • I Am the Band: Cedric and Omar are a two-person variant. They are the principal songwriters and usually the only members to appear in the band's promotional images. The band of musicians of musicians that perform the songs is referred as The Mars Volta Group.
  • Improv: A lot more than is typical for a progressive rock band - you'd expect this level of improvisation more from a jam band or a jazz ensemble.
    • Improv was a central component of their live show. They would extend existing compositions with jam segments that were heavily improvised. Moreover, some live tracks, such as "Abortion: The Other White Meat" and "Obelisk", were apparently entirely improvised.
    • Even employed in the studio to some extent - parts of "Cassandra Gemini" (although not the entire song) were apparently improvised, for example. Beyond that, they also had a habit of taking their favourite improv segments and writing new songs out of them (and "Cassandra Gemini" is an example of this: segments of it appear in the performance of "Cicatriz ESP" on Scabdates, which is far from the only performance of "Cicatriz" to contain these segments).
    • Cedric also was known to improvise lyrics, and though he often rewrote them, he sometimes used his first take on the lyrics because he felt his first reaction to the music was the most honest - which explains some of the Word Salad Lyrics (and Word-Salad Horror) found in their songs.
  • Large Ham: Cedric Bixler Zavala is one of the hammiest vocalists in progressive rock, a genre full of large hams - not that anyone's complaining. If a song has an epic chorus, it's probably because Cedric is chewing the scenery throughout it.
  • 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).
    • Also "El ciervo vulnerado", which is one of the creepiest songs they ever wrote, and which closes off Amputechture.
  • 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.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Facilis descenus Averni" is a slight misspelling of a quotation from Virgil's The Aeneid; the correct spelling is "Facilis descensus Averno" (or "Facilis dēscensus Avernō"). It appears in Book VI, Line 126.
  • Live Album: Scabdates is a characteristically bizarre take on the trope, since it's actually mixed from several different performances ("Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" is spliced from two performances, and the seemingly seamless "Caviglia" and "Concertina" are also spliced from two performances), and its longest song contains some very trippy ambience mixed after-the-fact into its lengthy instrumental break. The band's Live EP is a more conventional example; there are a few other examples with varying degrees of official status. However, since the band actively encouraged tape trading, lack of official status may not be a problem.
  • 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. Overall, the albums with the worst mastering are De-Loused (no surprise there as it was a Rick Rubin production) and Noctourniquet, while Octahedron is less terrible about this than the others, but none of them are mastered well.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Used at least occasionally. "Vicarious Atonement" sounds quite peaceful on its surface, but it has some surprisingly bloody lyrics. This and "Tetragrammaton" are both about an extremely disturbing incident in Romania where a congregation evidently believed a woman to be possessed, stuck a sock in her mouth, hanged her on a cross, and found her dead the next day. "It's 2005 and we still have Salem in some parts of the world," Cedric remarked.
    I suspect
    You've been carrying a pack of wolves
    I regret
    Not killing you while I had the chance
    Maybe I will always haunt you
    Mark the somnolence with truth
    Better hang your dead palace
    Than have a living home to lose
    In the River Ganges, God damns my name
  • Mind Screw: Most of their lyrics and quite a bit of their music. Especially "Tetragrammaton", between the fact that it seems to become a completely different song every 3 minutes and is only bound together by the riff that Book Ends the track, and whatever you can make of this:
"Sulking drained the fall of my pale will swarming by your steps
Licking the ankles of blasphemer guilts
It only meant to drape a plastic over the stuck pig scalp of head
To cover the sock where the flatline had spread
She says my map is home again but torn face down
I have only but a million blemishes to tell you all about"
  • Mind Screwdriver: The story the band wrote to explain the plot of De-Loused in the Comatorium.
  • Musical Pastiche: The segment between "They tied a rope around her legs and let her hang for seven days" and "This never happened" in the song "Frances the Mute" sounds like it belongs on one of the first two Mahavishnu Orchestra albums (which are an acknowledged influence on the band). Other portions of the song sound like they were dropped in from a Spaghetti Western soundtrack (and arguably qualify as an Ennio Morricone Pastiche).
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus"
  • New Sound Album: Even taking all the Genre-Busting elements of their sound into account, each of their releases do have distinct, unique FEELS to them and a primary genre inspiration that comes through more than the rest.
    • Tremulant, their first release, definitely sounds like it, its style being closer to At The Drive-In's Post-Hardcore, but with a clear free jazz and Krautrock influence.
    • De-Loused In The Comatorium has a more psychedelic rock and space rock focused sound, as well as seemingly having a bit more inspiration from Rush than their other albums.
    • Frances The Mute has a strong latin jazz and mariachi influence, as well as heavier amounts of Drone of Dread and much longer songs overall than De-Loused. And trumpets.
    • Amputechture maintains the longer songs, with only one song under 6 minutes, but drops some of the latin jazz influence for a more general influence from jazz fusion.
    • The Bedlam In Goliath is their heaviest album, with more post-hardcore and noise rock influence, to the point that its heaviest tracks could easily classify as Progressive Metal, as well as having some much mathier songs.
    • Octahedron, in contrast, is MUCH lighter in general than their previous records. As stated below, half the songs could qualify as surprisingly gentle songs, and the album has a much more chilled-out sound than the rest. Songs are shorter and tighter, as well as being less complex.
    • Noctourniquet continues the trend of Octahedron, with more influence from Electronic Music and Game Music, and even more self-contained, straightforward compositions. The drumming is also much more straightforward, with the drummer on the album frequently being called a "human drum machine", in comparison to the previous drummer's balls to the walls style.
    • Their 2022 Self-Titled Album is in turn significantly lighter than even Noctourniquet, featuring a sound that is heavily influenced by Caribbean music and is arguably far more jazz than Progressive Rock. This was a conscious decision by the band, calling it their "Style Council moment" to take their sound in a more soulful, chilled-out direction.
  • No Ending: Subverted with "Cassandra Gemini", where the penultimate movement builds to a climax and suddenly cuts off, only to reprise "Sarcophagi" from the start of the album. A couple of other songs at least border this trope due to how abruptly they end, but they're inextricably linked with other songs due to Fading into the Next Song and/or Siamese Twin Songs. Examples include "Aberinkula", "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", "Tetragrammaton", "Day of the Baphomets", and especially "Vicarious Atonement". The clearest straight example in the band's discography is "El ciervo vulnerado", which, after backmasked (and, in one case, half-speed) vocal samples from earlier in the song, crescendos and then cuts off abruptly.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Their ambient interludes like the ones on "Cicatriz ESP" and various segments of Frances the Mute (particularly the title track) can definitely have this effect, as can the entirety of "El ciervo vulnerado", the final song on Amputechture.
    • Frances the Mute basically runs on this. Everything about it, from the oblique story to the ambient soundscapes to the visual design of the cover, is designed to be subtly disturbing. The album cover, along with the single covers for the title track and "The Widow" exemplify this as well.
  • Portmanteau: At least three album titles bear one (Scabdates, Amputechture, Noctourniquet), let alone their song names. And then there are their lyrics (see Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness below).
    • Pun-Based Title: In a lot of cases, the portmanteau titles also qualify as these. Good examples include "Luciforms" ("Lucifer"/"cruciforms") and "Dyslexicon" ("dyslexia"/"lexicon").
  • Rape and Revenge: The story of Frances the Mute.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Cerpin Taxt is based on a real-life friend of the band, Julio Venegas. Because Venegas committed suicide, so does Taxt.
    • The story of Frances the Mute is apparently inspired by a diary the band's late sound engineer, Jeremy Michael Ward, found while working as a repo man.
    • The story of The Bedlam in Goliath is inspired by trouble the band experienced during the recording sessions of the album after they started using a ouija board.
    • "Concertina" is another example, discussed under Take That!.
    • As mentioned above under Concept Album, one of the songs on Octahedron was a response to the Republicans' victory in the 2010 Congressional elections.
    • Octahedron has several songs that refer to kidnappings and ransoms, which Cedric has said occur commonly in Latin cultures. The band had two friends from Texas who disappeared without explanation, and they never knew "whether they simply took off or if they met with foul play".
  • Re-Cut: "Cassandra Gemini" was intended to be included on Frances the Mute as one 32-minute track, but as the album had five tracks, this meant they'd only be paid an EP's wages. Disputes with their record label resulted in the track being modified for the CD version of the album, being arbitrarily split into eight tracks — with no heed to the song's five movements — to push the track total to 12. While the track's original full-length form was respected on digital music platforms for some time, it was reverted to its split form in early 2021.
  • Rearrange the Song: All the freaking time, due to their heavy reliance on improvisation when performing live; a large number of songs emerged in part or in whole out of jams they routinely played live in the midst of other songs. Essentially, they had a habit of taking their favourite jam sections and then writing new songs out of them. A few examples:
    • A segment in the midst of a massive vamp they performed in the midst of "Cicatriz ESP" (which could stretch to as many as 40 minutes; see Scabdates for one example, although this performance has eight extra minutes of Mind Screw-inducing ambience inserted in the middle for some reason) contained several riffs that became central parts of "Cassandra Gemini".
    • A segment often performed in the midst of "Drunkship of Lanterns" (as on the Live EP) became the underlying riff of "Facilis descenus Averni" in "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus".
    • Cedric sang what would become the chorus of "Conjugal Burns" in some performances of "Eriatarka", such as the August 2003 Maida Vale performance. (He also sings the word "Amputechture" at one point of this performance.)
  • 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 strongly anti-religious theme to the concept of Frances the Mute, too, and evidently Noctorniquet has a bit of this 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. That said, since Amputechture Cedric and Omar have been considered the only members of the Mars Volta proper; the other musicians are considered to belong to "The Mars Volta Group", for whatever that's worth.
  • Running Gag: Cedric had a habit of announcing that they were some other band at the beginning or end of a performance, including Mötley Crüe, Mudvayne, Razorlight, and others.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their upcoming seventh album.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Freaking everywhere, often augmented by ubiquitous portmanteaus as well. Anyone who understands all the words they use without looking any of them up probably deserves some kind of award. Just look at the first two stanzas of "Cut That City", the first song on their first EP:
    Neonecropopulace has no reflection
    Neocaeczaristic phallic ruins
    Just east of the rival denial the techs are breathing
    Welcome to this neotokyo

    Gridlocks will warn the cromlech alarm
    Bouquet of cuticles
    Landscape tantrums
    Tramontane torching the tramontane
    I've heard the mumbling of citadels shifting on the Richter scale
  • Shout-Out: There are several in the Mind Screwdriver story to De-Loused, such as:
    • «Yo ya me voy, y nadien me recordará» (“I’m already leaving, and nobody will remember me”) is a reference to Alejandro Jodorowsky's film Fando y Lis, in which Lis sings an almost identical line, «Yo moriré, y nadie se acordará de mi» (“I will die, and nobody will remember me”). Omar and Cedric are on record as admirers of Jodorowsky’s films.
    • “Do what thou wilt” is a reference to Aleister Crowley and the central law of Thelema (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will”). This phrase also appears in “Askpeios”.
    • “I’ll reign blood on this city” is probably a reference to Slayer’s Reign in Blood and its sort-of Title Track “Raining Blood”, both of which get similar puns out of the homophone.
    • “Was it everybody else who had already died?” may be a Whole-Plot Reference to the Philip K. Dick novel Ubik, in which this exact question is the Driving Question of a large portion of the book.
    • A shout-out not involved in the De-Loused story is “Ilyena”, which is named for Dame Helen Mirren’s birth name (more specifically, Еле́на Ли́дия Васи́льевна Миро́нова or Ilyena Lidiya Vasilievna Mironova) - she’s Cedric’s favourite actress.
    • "Zed and Two Naughts" is named after a film from 1985 directed by Peter Greenaway, whom Cedric has also mentioned in an interview as being a fan of.
    • For some reason, "Tetragrammaton" contains a reference to Rosalynn Carter, First Lady of President Jimmy Carter.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Most of the songs on De-Loused and Amputechture. This didn't stop some of them from being released as singles.
    • Enforced with "Cassandra Gemini" on Frances the Mute. Tracks 5-12 in most releases of the album are all segments of "Cassandra Gemini" - it was broken up into parts so it would be sold as an album (and not an EP) by the label.
    • Also enforced with CD releases of Scabdates, which divide "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" into three tracks and "Cicatriz" into five. (That's not counting intros to each of the album's three actual songs, which are arguably Siamese Twin Songs as well).
  • Split Personality: The most common interpretation of Frances the Mute is that the named characters are split personalities of the title character that were created as a coping device after she was raped by priests. At the end of the album she, or her personality Cassandra, kills the priests.
    I think I've become one of the others...
  • Stop and Go: "Ilyena" seems to end suddenly, but then about five seconds later, a creepy ending segment starts that then gets overrun with a ton of noise (seriously, it's almost as though Merzbow remixed it) before fading out properly.
  • Subdued Section: Most of their long songs have one. "Cicatriz ESP" and "Frances the Mute" have especially creepy examples.
  • Subliminal Seduction: On at least two occasions they've used backmasked vocal samples, though this is more because a recording of a human throat producing vocal sounds no human throat can actually produce in real life is creepy as hell than for any of the usual pop-culture connotations of the trope.
    • "Eunuch Provocateur" has backmasked samples of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and other samples from a children's LP the band members used to play.
    • "El ciervo vulnerado" has two separate backmasked vocal samples right before it abruptly ends, both from earlier in the song, and used simultaneously. One is also slowed down to half-speed to make things even creepier.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: They have quite a few, such as "The Widow", "Televators", "Vedamalady", "Asilos magdalena", "Tourniquet Man", and probably over half of Octahedron. Often they'll subvert this with a Last Note Nightmare, however.
  • Surreal Horror: The band's music is frequently both surreal and terrifying. Their lyrics also often incorporate this.
  • Take That!: "Concertina" is rumoured to be a brutal attack on former At the Drive-In member Ben Rodriguez, whom Omar and Cedric are on record as considering to be a sociopath and held as responsible for tormenting Julio Venegas to the point of his suicide.
  • 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.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: "Cassandra Gemini" seems to end with one of these for Vismund Cygnus.
    "You ain't got nothing, your life was just a lie"
  • Uncommon Time: As they're a Progressive Rock group, appearances of this trope in their work are pretty much mandatory.
    • 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.
    • "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" from Frances the Mute features a 6/8 intro, a 4/4 main section, 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.
    • "The Whip Hand" is a subversion. While it certainly seems like it has a very weird time signature, it's really just 4/4 syncopated very oddly.note 
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: One of the most noteworthy musical examples of the Turn of the Millennium, given the overall complexity of their music, the vast variety of genres they draw from, the Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and obscure cultural references in their lyrics, and so on.
  • Word-Salad Horror: Some of their lyrics veer in this direction. It's arguably the rule with them rather than the exception, honestly. Take "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" for instance.
    "And whoever said that they would scatter
    Separating the mother from the child
    She can bat a broken eyelid
    Raining maggots from its sty
    And with the traces that she leaves
    She will skin you out alive"
  • 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

Alternative Title(s): Mars Volta