You want them to fire up like a diesel blaze, spit like pork crackling, and snort like a raging bull.

If you're playing in•ter a•li•a - the terribly titled new record by Californian hardcore punk-rockers At the Drive-In - you don't just want them to affect you like the first time you heard Relationship of Command. You need them to.

It's the only possible way that this works. Otherwise, it's just another lame nostalgia trip.

That's a big ask: it's been 17 years and five sprawling albums by spin-off prog-punkers The Mars Volta since Relationship of Command's blitzkrieg racket was released, and recreating that album's lightning bolt urgency can't be easy in any shape or form.


Mostly, thankfully, this return of the reformed riot-starters does exactly that.

"There's no wolf like the present," snarls Cedric Bixler-Zavala on the album's frantic opener, a song that proves he's in typically manic form. "They own your history / Scrap it for parts." Yes, he's still screaming every line like it has several exclamation points after it.

But that's not all that At the Drive-In nail on their fourth album. For one, that frenetic, restless spirit is constantly at play: check out Continuum's constant time-shifting, the pure headrush of Holtzclaw, or Call Broken Arrow, which has so many killer riffs delivered by Omar Rodríguez-Lopez that lesser bands could use them to build an entire album.

But it's Hostage Stamps, the album's bruising closer, that really seals the deal. "Drunk on the piss of semaphore embers," rants Bixler-Zavala. "The hospice waltz of corpus flowers / Leaves pinko fumes from turret guns."

What does it all mean? It's impossible to tell. Shit, it sounds good though. It's almost enough to make you forget The Mars Volta even happened.

At The Drive In - in•ter a•li•a
Label: Rise
Stars: Four
Verdict: As good as before; very possibly better