The Mars Volta: Recapping an unforgettable prog rock band's legacy

The Mars Volta bend genres any which way they choose...and people love it!
2023 Shaky Knees Festival
2023 Shaky Knees Festival / Scott Legato/GettyImages

The Mars Volta is an American progressive rock band formed in 2001 by members of the post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López. The band is known for its complex and experimental approach to rock music, incorporating elements of post-hardcore, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, jazz fusion ("jazz-rock"), and Latin influences into their sound. They gained a reputation for their intricate and lengthy compositions, as well as their energetic and captivating live performances.

The Mars Volta discography

The Mars Volta released their debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, in 2003 (earlier in 2023, the album celebrated its 20-year anniversary!). The album was a concept album based on a story inspired by their late friend Julio Venegas, detailing the struggles of a character named "Cerpin Taxt" as he slips into a coma and embarks on a surreal journey. De-Loused in the Comatorium received critical acclaim for its innovative sound and vague yet oddly relatable narrative structure.

The band's subsequent albums, including Frances the Mute (2005) and Amputechture (2006), continued to showcase their unique musical style, blending various genres and pushing the boundaries of traditional rock music. Their other albums include The Bedlam in Goliath
(2008), Octahedron (2009), Noctourniquet (2011), and The Mars Volta (2022), all released to a significantly favorable response.

More on the music of The Mars Volta

The music of The Mars Volta often features intricate guitar work, complex rhythms, and the distinctive vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala. However, The Mars Volta's music is also characterized
by its dense and challenging nature, which could be polarizing for some listeners (though it's not like they never write catchy hooks). The band's dedication to artistic experimentation has sometimes led to extended song lengths and unconventional song structures that demand active engagement from the audience.

The Mars Volta broke up...for a while

The Mars Volta disbanded in 2013, largely due to creative differences between its core members, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López. "I can't sit here and pretend any more..." Bixler-Zavala said at the time. "We're all doing different things..." After the breakup, both musicians pursued various solo projects and collaborations before reuniting in 2019.

Still, even if they had not reunited as a band, The Mars Volta would have already left a significant impact on the progressive rock and alternative music scenes. Their albums remain well-regarded among fans of experimental and progressive music, and their influence can be heard in the work of
many contemporary artists (Metallica has expressed appreciation for the band, and so has Tool.) Then again, you don't need the approval of big-name artists to appreciate a band like this. Go ahead and appreciate them for your own reasons!