Ten fucking years.
De-Loused in the Comatorium, the debut full length album from The Mars Volta, was released on June 23rd 2003 on Universal Records and Gold Standard Labs. The amalgamation of two post-hardcore punk rockers who wanted to shed their MTV cred to reinvent Pink Floyd‘s Piper at the Gates of dawn, De-Loused made it’s way into the print version of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die before the year was over.
Eight tracks with two introductions, each of which are self-contained orphans of genre-less sparkle, somehow strengthen in gesalt as if to reflect upon their creators: singer, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who traded in his At the Drive-In yaw for a siren’s shriek and wrote lyrics that mix Jabberwocky with Frank Zappa, and guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who once stated he used effects pedals to wrestle against an instrument he hated, began to see himself as a band leader and helped produce the album.
Keyboardist, Isaiah “Ikey” Owens, who had played in the duo’s dub act, De Facto, joined the Mars Volta for their first tour in 2001, along with the ever-talented Jon Theodore on drums and childhood friend Jeremy Michael Ward on sound manipulation. Eva Gardner, the original bassist, left the band before the recording of De-Loused in the Comatorium and was substituted by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but not before recording a few demos and singles. The album was co-produced by famed Def Jam founder, Rick Rubin, with artwork by the late Storm Thorgerson.
De-Loused in the Comatorium, which tells the disjointed story of Cerpin Taxt, a man in a drug induced coma confronting the evils within himself, reflects upon the suicide of Bixler-Zavala’s close friend, Julio Venegas (who’s lifeless body is tattooed on CBZ’s arm). Unfortunately, Jeremy Michael Ward, who’s sound manipulation defined the album’s signature erratic overtures, died of a heroin overdose just one month before the release of De-Loused. His death at age 27 prompted Cedric and Omar to kick opioids, leading to over two dozen releases between the two to date.
There are countless live videos and even full concerts all over the internet and for sale in stadium parking lots. Please enjoy some of my favorites.
Track 1/2: “Son Et Lumiere” into “Inertiatic ESP”
When the Mars Volta first began touring, “Son Et Lumiere” didn’t even exist. In fact, they only had five songs for the first year or so of playing tours. Sets would often begin with an energetic “Inertiatic ESP,” which was one of the first demos the band ever recorded. Over time, “Son Et Lumiere” would expand to feature heavy pop culture sampling and jams and become a staple for show openings.
I still remember that summer when I went with my best friend Kevin and his mom to buy this CD. Our friend James was really into At the Drive-In and told us to just buy De-Loosed or whatever the hell he said. The second “Inertiatic ESP” kicked in. Christ, there was no turing back from that point. We were hooked and his mom hated it, which maybe hooked us even more.
Track 3: “Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)”
“Roulette Dares” was the second demo recorded before Eva left the band. This recording, less than four months after the release De-Loused, features an medium-sized jam and JT wearing a “Fuck Bush” shirt. Remember that guy?
Track 4/5: “Tira Me a Las Aranas” into “Drunkship of Lanterns”
Everyone knows that the Mars Volta can take a 12 minute song and make it longer than the wait for the At the Drive-In reunion show (hey-oh!). Now, what’s truly impressive and rare is to see the band in their prime compress a seven minutes song into three of the most energetic minutes of rock and roll chaos ever aired on MTV. Just listen to that fucking guitar solo.
Plus, they we’re introduced by Zac De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine who would later start a duo with TMV drummer Jon Theodore named One Day As a Lion.
Track 6: “Eriatarka”
“Eriatarka” became my favorite TMV song a full five years after the album was released. It is a perfect song, mixing slow, introspective verses with a powerful chorus, punctuated by a keyboard solo that forces you to remember to that keyboard solos can be cool. This live recording doesn’t have video, however it was mixed very well and Cedric hits every. goddamn. note.
There has never been an official live recording released of “Eriatarka” so this will have to do. If any of you ungrateful tremulants want some video you can see some here.
Track 7: “Cicatriz ESP”
The original demo for “Cicatriz” was 4 minutes long and really slow temp! That’s insane considering there are versions of this song that are over 30 minutes long. That said, there are plenty of great versions of the “Cicatriz ESP” online.
This one is probably the earliest on the net.
The Big Day Out 2004 version of the “Cicatriz ESP” was probably the first live video of the Mars Volta I ever saw. It holds a special place in my heart, even if it cuts the song short.
Track 8: “This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed”
Such a chaotic song that perfectly embodies that sense of claustrophobia during an early Mars Volta show. Watch the to hear what a Mars Volta show in 2002 sounded like without a popped eardrum.
Track 9: “Televators”
The Mars Volta played their last show without an album on May 24th, 2003 in Brooklyn, NY. Four days later, sound manipulator Jeremy Michael Ward was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Just shy of a month later, the band released their first album and began their first tour without Jeremy. On July 1st, the Mars Volta played De-Loused in the Comatorium in it’s entirety to a sold out audience in California. “Televators,” the somber ballad on album reflecting upon the death of a friend in years past, made heavy use of Ward’s talents in the studio.
Track 10: “Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt”
“Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” is that reward waiting for you at the end of the album. It’s different than everything else on the album, and yet it fits in so complacently. Even when it’s jammed out to the point you almost don’t recognize it, the flow from that bass solo to the end of the record is a bookend that matches. A perfect ending to a perfect summer. And maybe a homemade music video that almost got you kicked out of a high school video production class.
Here are some more De-Loused in the Comatorium goodies:
The Story of Cerpin Taxt as written by Cedric Bixler-Zavala.
The Summer Session Demos that became De-Loused in the Comatorium.
And this guy, who made 8-bit Nintendo version of the whole album…