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Something Different At The Key: Mars Volta, System Of A Down

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  • Something Different At The Key: Mars Volta, System Of A Down

    By Travis Hay

    Seattle Post Intelligencer , WA
    Oct 6 2005

    Special To The Post-Intelligencer

    It was a bill that could only be described as Armenian-metal and
    prog-rock heaven Wednesday night at KeyArena with two of rock's most
    volatile and exciting acts, The Mars Volta and System of a Down,
    playing powerful and entertaining sets.

    MUSIC REVIEW System of a Down and The Mars Volta WHERE: KeyArena WHEN:
    Wednesday night

    Armenian quartet System of a Down -- vocalist Serj Tankian, guitarist
    Daron Malakian, drummer John Dolmayan and bassist Shavo Odadjian --
    headlined with two hours of aggressive, intelligent and intense metal,
    most of which came from its latest record "Mesmerize."

    Opening with "Soldier Side" and following with the politically
    chastising "B.Y.O.B.," the band kicked it into fifth gear from the
    start and didn't stop until its set was finished.

    Odadjian's braided beard spun through the air as he thrashed his
    head from side-to-side and waved his arms in the air as if he were
    conducting the mosh pit from the stage during "Psycho." Tankian made
    devilish clown faces while singing and his playfully demonic vocals
    were spot on the entire night, especially during the band's hits
    "Chop Suey!," "Toxicicty" and "Aerials." As much fun as those two
    were to watch, it was Malakian who was the most enjoyable to pay
    attention to. His animated gestures, short stature and greasy hair
    made him look like a heavy metal Squiggy.

    Eight-piece experimental-progressive metal group The Mars Volta played
    an awe-inspiring five-song set that lasted an hour. The closest thing
    to a modern-day Pink Floyd, the group's Latin-tinged music is tough
    to describe. However, with an extreme assortment of instruments and
    a charismatic singer whose vocals come in the form of a forceful
    falsetto, the band is perhaps the most promising act in rock.

    What holds back The Mars Volta are its quasi-conceptual records,
    bilingual lyrics and loosely structured songs, many without hooks;
    they're a band you either get or don't. Besides the standard drums,
    bass and guitar, the instrumentation included maracas, cow bell,
    saxophones, keyboards and a flute. Not since Jethro Tull's heyday
    has a flute rocked so hard onstage.

    Singer Cedric Bixler let his body move wherever the music took
    him, showcasing perhaps the best dance moves in rock while his
    partner-in-crime, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, led seamless
    transitions between songs. The set was part jazz, part progressive
    rock and part indescribable and it nearly stole the show.