De-Loused in the Comatorium is the loudest Yes album I’ve ever heard. From the ashes of emo-punk band At The Drive-In, which crashed for the final time in 2001 after releasing three stellar full-lengths, arose the Mars Volta, the project of afro-ed duo vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez. (ATDI singer and co-founder Jim Ward, guitarist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar splintered into Sparta and released Wiretap Scars in late-2002). But don’t expect the Mars Volta’s debut full length to be a rehashed ATDI record. In fact, it’s probably best not to have any expectations about De-Loused in the Comatorium — if you’re just coming down from an emo high, there is no way you could even speculate what it’s going to sound like.
De-Loused In the Comatorium is trippy and out-there, reaching even further into hardcore, free jazz, and psychadelia than their prior band. Take some Yes melodies with Zeppelin riffs, blend in some of Pink Floyd’s early psychedelic works and add a dose of masturbatory drum solos. Combine all of those elements with Jeff Buckley’s voice filtered through effects pedals, cryptic song titles and jazz sensibilities. Let Flea (yeah, that Flea) play bass and Rick Rubin produce it. That’s a crash course in De-Loused In the Comatorium.
I know there’s a secret hidden under the shells of the songs on this disc. According to one source, it’s a concept album about a guy who falls into a coma and takes a little journey through his subconscious. Yes, this is heavy, heady stuff. With titles like "This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed," "Drunkship of Lanterns" and my personal favorite, "Eunuch Provocateur" (eunuchs are always good for a laugh), there can’t possibly be a lighter subtext. If you can get past the initial shock and even ignore the lyrics (which are difficult to understand through all the vocal effects anyway), De-Loused has the makings of a great chill-out record. Most songs are no less than five minutes long, and though the majority of the tracks do sound similar, there are layers and layers to wade through in each song.
For all its eccentricities, De-Loused has some almost earthly aural tracks, such as "Eriatarka," in which pieces of Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth and even some (dare I say) Foo Fighters are revealed. It is definitely not for the casual music listener; it takes patience to wade through the density of sound. And it is absolutely not recommended for ATDI fans, completists be damned. If you have the courage to listen to — and digest — De-Loused in the Comatorium more than once, it will no doubt stick to your ribs.