If you thought the Mars Volta's studio records were over-the-top, dig this live album, a seventy-four-minute behemoth boasting slashing hard rock, electronic mindscapes and snippets of your worst free-jazz nightmares, not to mention song suites of three and five parts, respectively. Recorded during the past three years and featuring only a handful of previously released cuts, Scabdates is as exhilarating as it is confounding, with Cedric Bixler-Zavala working some cracked-throat angst into his Geddy Lee wail as his five mates pound keyboards and pit bloodthirsty guitar squalls against zigzagging rhythms. Warped barnburners such as "Concertina" and "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt: And Ghosted Pouts" get by on their ability to fuse dense instrumental mayhem and mysterioso Sixties-burnout aura into oceanic jams. Hard-core devotees and prog-rock scholars are likely the only folks who will be able to get through Scabdates in one sitting, but the Mars Volta have created a fairly unique beast: a balls-out concert record made for headphones.
(Posted: Nov 17, 2005)