Universal - 2003 - 67 minutes

The implosion of At The Drive-In, early in 2001, left many nursing the biggest of aches for their brightest of hopes but has also given rise to two fascinating, yet very different, groups. Guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar formed thinking rock outfit Sparta and released one of the best albums of last year in 'Wiretap Scars'. Now it's the turn of their former bandmates Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez as The Mars Volta. With their frenetic stage moves and wilder hair, the singer and guitarist were the dual frontmen for At The Drive-In and this record takes them in to far crazier and eclectic territory than ever allowed in the past.

Inspired by the suicide of their artist friend Julio Venegas in 1996,'De-Loused…' is a concept album which turns reality around. It has Venegas trying to commit suicide, only to lapse into a coma and spend a week inside his dreams before waking up and choosing to die. But don't let the story put you off because the music is every beat as brave as all the narrative twists in front of it. Referencing everything from Fugazi to Led Zeppelin to dub and free jazz, The Mars Volta have created prog punk.

It's an album which makes as much sense as the song titles for quite a while. Cedric, Omar and their allies (including the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea on bass) jump everywhere within songs ranging from four to 12 minutes. Even starting from the beginning, over and over again, it's tough to second guess this album. Once it finally sinks in however, the sparks will fly between you and the speakers. Even when seemingly fighting a losing battle with indulgence there's a spirit here that most bands would spend a fortune on therapists/life coaches/honesty stones trying to measure up to.

It may have more for fans of Rush than the Rollins Band, but 'De-loused in the Comatorium' deserves to be approached with the same sense of adventure by both camps. Listening to it and Sparta's debut together, you can almost assemble the magic that made At The Drive-In such a prospect. They'll always be missed - this record makes the hurt a little easier to handle.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Son et Lumiere - Inertiatic Esp - Roulette Dares (The Haunt of) - Tira Me a Las Aranas - Drunkship of Lanterns - Eriatarka – Cicatriz Esp - This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed - Televators - Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt - Ambuletz