'Omar from Volta' by Intertiatic

Why aren’t you listening to The Mars Volta?

The Mars Volta have been one of my favourite bands for a long time but like many great acts it’s almost impossible to like their music after your first listen.

Putting genres aside, I thought i’d have a stab at describing them to newcomers and put forward some reasons to check them out. Despite their hiatus in 2012, there’s no band quite like them.

Led back in

Two to three years later after dismissing their sound, I was led back into their work by a track called ‘Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus’, a thirteen minute rock track with some of the most ambitious guitar and drum work you’ll hear this side of being a fan of the band. Complex, full of energy and accompanied with powerful vocals and cryptic lyrics. ‘Cygnus…’ encouraged me to dive into their albums as well as related work with Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the lead guitarist and creative force behind the band.


Aside from the obscure lyrics from frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala, reminiscent at times to Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, The Mars Volta can make for torturous listening. Long, loud, dissonant improvisations and lengthy ambient noise sections sandwiched between moments of brilliance, sends you on a rollercoaster that feels likes it’s speeding up, slowing down and well and truly out of your control.


‘The Mars Volta’ by Ezg


I’ve yet to come across a band with as much ambition as TMV in terms of songwriting, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of what’s capable on guitars and drums:

Frantic, free-jazz guitar solos that scale the whole neck of the guitar, impossible rhythm changes that sound like they’ve been written on another planet and ten minute songs that dash through a maze of sections with the tightness of a band who sound like they’ve been together for a lifetime. The Deloused in the Comatorium album is testament to this, often regarded as some of the band’s finest work and after many listens is now up there as of one my favourite albums. The guitar tone and effects throughout ‘Deloused’ are infamous among guitar circles too.


Another massive part of The Mars Volta’s sound is unresolving dissonance, part of their style I now love. Rare in everyday music, unresolving dissonance is incredibly tension-building and you’ll hear it across film soundtracks to create scenes of fear, danger and suspense.

Instinctively, listeners want ‘wrong-sounding’ notes to resolve / to be followed by a familiar or ‘normal’ note and by going against this, TMV prove how much energy unresolving dissonance can create when it’s used well. Your waiting for Omar’s guitar line to resolve. It doesn’t and the offending note is played again. And again and then the music moves quickly into a new section and the rollercoaster takes another turn. All this dissonance is torturous and compelling and pretty mind-bending at times but this is just another hallmark of a weird and definitely wonderful band.

To wrap-up

For many people, The Mars Volta will certainly need more than just one listen. Probably several. Just like in my experience, they can be a very difficult act to appreciate at first. However, the more you listen the closer you can get to enjoying some quite incredible music. Here’s what other fans of the Mars Volta are saying too:

F*ck, everything they do is f*cking amazing, whenever I listen to them it’s like, “What is life?”.


I genuinely think the Mars Volta are better than hard drugs, sex and life. Combined. Times eighteen.


This album definitely takes some patience and some getting used to, but isn’t that true of all your favorite albums?


(the album) Amputechture has won me over, proving that once again Mars Volta are probably the one band on Earth who are most successful at challenging both themselves and the listener. These guys take the term “progressive” seriously.


Omar’s playing really shines here – truly original, knotty, torturous.


In a nutshell, you don’t know what to expect from the Mars Volta in any given song. They can draw you in with a simple riff or quiet melody, before launching into a screaming, frenetic jumble of Latin-prog-psychedelica-acid-jazz. It’s dizzying; the instrumentation is as wild and abstract as their dark, bizarre songwriting. Their lyrics are a bit reminiscent of Burroughs, and deliver a visceral punch even if they don’t make sense.


Listen to the band’s first album, ‘Deloused in the Comatorium’ on spotify:



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