Words About Music
Early last year, there was an announcement that progressive rock’s busiest same-sex marriage had gone through a divorce. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have worked together in countless bands, most famously post-hardcore icons At the Drive-In and polarizing prog-metal collective The Mars Volta. Collectively, the duo has collaborated dozens of times in several different bands, creating music of nearly ever conceivable genre. But with Omar’s especially busy schedule (at least one solo album per year plus new side projects always emerging), Cedric began to feel jealous. The Mars Volta split less than a year after the release of their decent final studio album “Noctourniquet.” Things ended on a sour note. I had a feeling the two would never work together ever again. I was wrong.
Enter ANTEMASQUE. After releasing music with new groups like Bosnian Rainbows and Kimono Kult—both collaborations with Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender—it seems as though Omar and Cedric reconciled for a new project. That new project is a more indie rock leaning group with former Mars Volta members Flea and Dave Elitch on the rhythm section. ANTEMASQUE sounds like if At the Drive-In stripped down their sound for a final album after “Relationship of Command.” This debut album is toned down, showing that Cedric and Omar are capable of making music that isn’t ballistically insane. It’s surprisingly decent.
As a fan of ATDI and TMV, it’s a bit disappointing to hear the two toned down. Sure, it makes sense in the duo’s evolution. They’ve both been slowing it down since “The Bedlam in Goliath.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I’m just a sucker for the psychedelic insanity that kicks off albums like “De-Loused in the Comatorium.” Hearing the slowed down sounds of ANTEMASQUE almost feels like I’m listening to Cedric and Omar get old, even though their collective musical and vocal skill has not dipped at all. Cedric’s voice is still in great shape. Omar is still a great songwriter and guitar player. That’s not the problem.
The problem lies in the production. The musicality could be so much more dynamic and exciting on this album. You have to really listen close to hear all the parts of this album that are great. There’s some catchy choruses and interesting lyrics that almost go unnoticed because it feels so bland. Say what you will about Cedric and Omar, they certainly have a way with words and musical delivery. It just doesn’t feel exciting on “ANTEMASQUE,” though. The songs on here are pretty decent, but they don’t feel the way the first time around. They take time to appreciate, and even then it’s a lot of work to appreciate songs that aren’t anywhere near the best Cedric and Omar have ever created together. Is ANTEMASQUE a terrible project? No. There’s promise in the 10 songs here. It’s decent, but I’d prefer another Mars Volta album.
SCORE – 6.1
BEST TRACKS – 4AM, I Got No Remorse, Ride Like the Devil’s Son, Momento Mori, Rome Armed to the Teeth