Picking up the pieces from At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez formed the Mars Volta and wasted little time branching out into elements of hardcore, psychedelic rock, and free jazz that expanded on the boundaries of their previous work. Although their previous band's demise ultimately arrived before they were able to truly capitalize on their mounting commercial triumphs, the Mars Volta immediately impressed with their willingness to eschew conventional logic and push themselves into new artistic directions instead of opting for the more marketable sounds. (Interestingly, their progressive yet streamlined approach gave them the early lead among critics against their former bandmates in Sparta, the more emo-leaning of the bands resulting from the split.) Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez enlisted friends Ikie Owens (also of the Long Beach Dub Allstars) and Jeremy Michael Ward, and the Mars Volta debuted with the EP Tremulant in 2002. Still, as much of their reputation was built on the strength of their live show, their highly energetic performances resulted in a wave of word-of-mouth hype that elevated the band to near-mythic proportions because so little of their recorded material was available to the public. Sadly, Ward passed away May 25, 2003 at the age of 27 from an apparent drug overdose. The Mars Volta had recently returned from an European tour supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers, where they introduced brand-new tracks from the full-length De-Loused in the Comatorium, which was released via Universal the following June.