(Ooh, a relatively short review from me. Everyone rejoice, you can read this in one sitting!)
The reviewers at Pitchforkmedia are spotty, at best, but I have determined that Brent DiCrescenzo is absolutely the worst of the lot. I've already documented my distaste for his "skills" in my open letter to Pitchforkmedia (and some readers who have responded there have a problem with me taking them seriously) but I now have to say that this guy just has a chip on his shoulder about music that takes itself seriously. After reading a review of the new album from the Mars Volta, I was intrigued enough to listen to sound samples at CD Universe and found that I liked what I heard. After work, I stopped at Zia and found the album there. My drive home from there was full of modern prog-rock goodness, stuff the likes of which we rarely get to hear anymore, especially from the remnants of yell-rock band At The Drive-in. Long songs (one of which clocks in at over 12 minutes long,) intricate structures, soaring vocals - I don't know how this could possibly sell to kids these days who have eschewed anything that gives any hint of a band's talent.
There are touches of early Genesis in abundance, especially in the various odd vocal treatments of the late Jeremy Michael Ward, who passed away in May of a drug overdose. Ward performed a sort of Eno-role here, manipulating sound the way Eno did on Genesis' epic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. How this band will continue on without him is a guess, his role is much more significant than it seems without hearing his contributions.
It's definitely for those who enjoy serious prog-rock (in other words, not the type of stuff that does this in a tongue-in-cheek way) in the vein of Porcupine Tree, but a little more obscure and psychotic (with much less of the melodic touch that the Tree is known for.)
(Find more fun than you can handle at unproductivity.)