Release Date: Nov 10, 2014
Record label: Universal Music
It feels good to have Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez heal their wounds. Putting their differences aside is something that I honestly wouldn't ever bet on to last but at first glance, the reward seemed huge.Why? Well, because Antemasque sounded (or at least, teased a sound) like the lovechild of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Well, that's just on the surface and on the first sip.
Whether with the visceral post-hardcore of At The Drive-In or the somewhat self-indulgent prog-rock experimentation of The Mars Volta, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have always made complex music. This time around, though, it’s different. After their very public fallout in 2012, which brought about the demise of The Mars Volta, the pair have reconciled their differences and returned as Antemasque.
Guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala were the creative nucleus of frequently thrilling post-hardcore punks At the Drive-In and prog-rock experimentalists the Mars Volta. Antemasque, their third project together, backed by Flea on bass, is a more straightforward rock album – there are no bafflingly opaque, self-indulgent 32-minute jazz-metal-odyssey concept pieces here. However, for all its greater accessibility, it’s also underwhelming, perhaps because some of the passion that defined their earlier ventures is missing.
For Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López, nothing lasts forever — and that goes for both beloved bands and interpersonal animosity. The singer and guitarist buried a pretty big hatchet in 2012 by reuniting with their long-disbanded group At The Drive-In for a series of shows. That brief reformation was followed almost immediately by the breakup of the duo's ever-evolving post-ATDI prog-rock juggernaut, the Mars Volta.
Though the internet’s message boards seem intent on proving otherwise, human beings are complex animals. We are creatures of many appetites, of egos and ids, attracted to erudite pursuits as well as bursts of primal energy. We are capable of feeling bored and equally capable of feeling betrayed. This is something I am forced to remind myself when presented with polemics against rock bands that have “lost touch with their roots.” All the complexities and contradictions that we readily acknowledge in our friends and loved ones somehow don’t apply to strangers tasked with being creative for a living.
The continuation of the musical partnership between Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez should be a cause for celebration. These are, after all, the two men who helped move the post-hardcore needle forward as members of At The Drive-In and who revitalized the art of prog rock with the Mars Volta. Yet, this new project, fostered into being by famed Red Hot Chili Peppers member Flea (he plays bass on the album and let the band use his recording studio), feels strangely mannered and sedate.