At The Drive-In - El Gran Orgo (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

At The Drive-In

El Gran Orgo (1997)

Off Time Records

El Gran Orgo represents the definitive start of At The Drive In. Many would peg Acrobatic Tenement as where their formative identity took roots but with Jim Ward absent on this album, Omar Rodriguez shifted from bass and began working guitar wonders that would eventually touch musicals acts like The Mars Volta and Antemasque. It was fate because after this, Omar's guitars painted so much magic and helped complement Jim, vocal-wise as well as with the band's harsh melodies (which would no doubt pattern Sparta's future on ATDI's split). Of course, Cedric Bixler Zavala was as energetic as usual, but here this album truly felt like Omar's statement to be brought from the back, not because he wanted attention, but because he knew how loud and just where they needed to shout to.

"Fahrenheit" and "Picket Fence Cartels" are the songs I usually direct people to if they want ATDI summed up in a nutshell. You could tell that this was the direction they wanted to go in, and which they felt most comfortable with, even off older songs like "Initiation". Cedric felt freer with Omar's riffs and licks acting as the wind for his vocals to float on. Paul Hinijos on bass then added a backdrop that I'd personally follow to Sparta and back again with ATDI's reunion record. Tony Hajjar on drums also came off like a man on fire. These songs weren't just about post-hardcore or screamo, but they were embedded in an EP that found the band recharged -- fighting politics in the musical world as an underdog, but also with Off Time Records who they warned fans were ripping them off. 

This EP boasted just seven tracks but as "Honest to a Fault" indicates, it was direct, restless and a revolution in a time where the commercial side of music fed like sharks. ATDI here dodged each bite while dropping blood in the water. After all, they knew they were well on their way to refining a sound to glory. It set the stage for In/Casino/Out to shine through the likes of "Hourglass" and eventually steered the ship towards Relationship of Command. This EP here was ATDI telling us that they'd take the mainstream bait, but only when they felt the time was right.