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The Mars Volta - Octahedron (Cover Artwork)

The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta: OctahedronOctahedron (2009)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
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What about the voice of Geddy Leeâ?¦
How did it get so high?
I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy (?)
I know him, and he does"
- Pavement, 1997

What about the voice of Cedric Bixler-Zavalaâ?¦
How did it get so high?
I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy (?)
I've heard him, and he kind of does"
- GlassPipeMurder, 2009

It's been just a year since the Mars Volta's Grammy-winning The Bedlam in Goliath dropped, but everyone's favorite pair of afroed Texicans are already back with a new set of spacey riffs, vexing time signatures and hallucinogenic lyrics comprising the eight songs of Octahedron.

While comparing this post-hardcore/prog-rock/Latin-influenced jam factory to Rush is both a lazy description and an erroneous one, it's harder to avoid on Octahedron than in the past. While this may be due in part to not promoting the album with a free Circle Jerks cover, and the album itself somewhat lacking the frequency of spastic freakouts found on Goliath, it's also by design the band's "acoustic" album, drawing much less from punk dynamism and even more on ambience, minimalism and metamorphosing musical transitions. However, even though the band refers to it as their acoustic album, there are enough chaotic outbursts and rollicking rhythms to satisfy those still riding the train from the At the Drive-In days.

"Since We've Been Wrong," the album's North American single, will probably not satisfy said fans, though. Drifting calmly, it wanes more than it waxes, but does serve as a new, more relaxed direction for the mercilessly progressive act. Europe's first single "Cotopaxi" is much more in the vein of what one would expect from the Mars Volta. With a fuzzy groove and hastened tempo complementing Bixler-Zavala's soaring vocals, it makes for the album's best track while completely putting to rest any literal interpretations of this as an acoustic album. The album is thus rescued from tedium alongside such other notables as "Teflon," which helps reiterate the mastery of guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's production skills, and "Desperate Graves," a startlingly straightforward number structurally and lyrically as Cedric promises creepily, "When I turn the dial and leave the gas on / I'm the matchstick that you'll never lose."

Some of the tracks demand more patience than they may be worth to many listeners, such as the seven-and-a-half minute "Copernicus" that follows a crawling guitar pattern up and down the scale, flanking the seemingly effortless crooning that deviates only to reach for excessively high stretches. "With Twilight as My Guide" reaches nearly eight minutes, rooted in an atmospheric foundation aided by former Sublime and LBDAS confidant (and seemingly Mars Volta lifer) Ikey Owens. It's an interesting number, but it never takes off and passes by rather unassumingly.

Then there are those on Octahedron that do a magnificent balancing act between the minimalism of the "acoustic" direction and the convulsive Mars Volta that wows listeners around the world. "Halo of Nembutals" erupts in a series of crashes and staccato flairs after glowing softly for a minute and a half, while album closer "Luciforms" captures a quiet intensity offset with paroxysmal whirling and some of the best guitar soloing in the band's catalog.

Octahedron is certainly not going to win over any critics or skeptics of the inexorably experimental ensemble. To them, this is probably more of the same weird clamor of the last seven years, just with a different title. And while that may be true to an extent, followers of the band will find a more controlled, meditative effort here that still manages to impress the same level of musical ingenuity.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Mars Volta - Bedlam in GoliathThe Gaslight Anthem - HandwrittenThe Mars Volta - De-Loused In The ComatoriumThe Mars Volta - Frances The MuteMastodon - The HunterThe Mars Volta - AmputechtureThe Mountain Goats - All Eternals DeckAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
thedude (July 13, 2009)

i haven't learned high school words if i'm in fifth grade, ya dick!

name (July 13, 2009)

"Oh look, more crazy words no real person has ever seen or read before. Yawn.

Are you talking about the record or the review? I think it could be said for both. Metamorphosing? Inexorably? Paroxysmal???
Put down the thesaurus and just tell us how you feel at a fifth grade level of education, please."

i think he's talking about the album title. if so, "octahedron" might be too big for a fifth grader, but a high school geometry student would be able to break it down.

blip (July 13, 2009)

those are words you should have learned in high school, ya twat!

thedude (July 13, 2009)

Oh look, more crazy words no real person has ever seen or read before. Yawn.

Are you talking about the record or the review? I think it could be said for both. Metamorphosing? Inexorably? Paroxysmal???
Put down the thesaurus and just tell us how you feel at a fifth grade level of education, please.

i-type-poorly (July 12, 2009)

I felt the same way with Bedlam. So much chaos, it all just because static. Maybe I was a little bit annoyed that they redid "Rapid Fire Tollbooth" and took all the mellow groove out of it. But after this album (which does nothing for me at all) I'm looking back at Bedlam and enjoying it in pieces. Don't think I can yet sit through the entire thing though...

Amputecthure is still my favorite. All the slow jam parts had great melodies that I didn't want to end. Perfect mix of chilled out rhythms and panic.

Coldwaraaron (July 12, 2009)

Yeah I'm not saying Im not down for spazzouts or long periods of white noise; Francis the mute was my favorite album before octahedron came out. But with bedlam in Goliath, it was just such a crazy assault on the ears, as awesome as it was, was kinda hard for me to listen to all the way through in one setting. Amazing yes, flowing not as much. I'm just appreciative that they made a stripped down, melodic record, and I think people should give this one a chance if they've found the past couple of Volta records too "out there" to enjoy.

i-type-poorly (July 12, 2009)

I've never done drugs in my life. Never even lit a cigarette. I'm a nerd, don't hang out with cool people, i didn't desire to, got picked on in high school, etc...

I just like this band. I like listening to spaz outs. I find it enjoyable. People get too wrapped up in the perception of fans, what people will think about you if you listen to this, and all sorts of ulterior motives for liking music.

Also, can we let the "cricket chirping" shit go already? They put in some filler in between songs for Frances The Mute, that can be easily removed when you rip the CD to your computer, and people still take this as if it's their shtick they do all the time. Deloused had a spacey moment right smack in the middle of one of their songs (one at the end of another as well) and I never heard anyone complain.

Coldwaraaron (July 12, 2009)

As a drummer, I know personally that using drugs did enhance my creativity, but it also fucked up my performance aspect of playing. I have immense respect for the Volta as musicians, regardless of their drug use or not. They happen to write interesting music that showcases their musical talents, and this album is actually listenable due to the fact that for the most part, the songs don't involve spazzouts, or 5 min stretches of crickets chirping. The songs are just songs, and tasty ones at that. Big props the those guys for making an album that's about the songs, rather than acid noise trips through altered soundscapes.

name (July 12, 2009)

TheMike:

its my experience that are often bands like the mars volta being praised for their "psychadelic" qualities whose supporters often adopt this superior tone regarding how they "get" the bands "sprawling landscapes" or "uninhibited creativity" and, if you don't get it yourself, it's probably just cause you're not lighting up with the cool kids in the parking lot enough. i know that is a gross over simplification and probably glosses over the legitimate praise-worthy elements of the mars volta's music, but i think a lot of the worship they get is indicative of a more general desire to use drugs as a supposed source of mental/personal superiority.

then again, what the fuck do i know, right?

defianceohioequalslove (July 11, 2009)

"name" hit the nail on the fucking head. Scores for that comment, I can't agree enough.

TheMike (July 11, 2009)

"...but i dont think they offer a free pass as far as creativity goes."

What exactly do you mean by this?

SydBarrett420 (July 11, 2009)

As far as "prog" release go this year

New Dear Hunter > New Mars Volta

The Tank is an absolutely sick song. Casey Crescenzo once again proves that he has a lot of talent.

the_other_scott (July 10, 2009)

"im always weary of the "its not pretentious, its psychadelic" line. drugs can do terrific things to your perception of the world around you, but i dont think they offer a free pass as far as creativity goes. then it becomes way too easy to pull out the "you're just not cool enough to get it" crap."

i don't know if that was in reference to my comment below, but i never said it was creative or there was anything to get. i still think they haven't done anything great since Deloused, but regardless i don't consider it pretentious.

name (July 10, 2009)

im always weary of the "its not pretentious, its psychadelic" line. drugs can do terrific things to your perception of the world around you, but i dont think they offer a free pass as far as creativity goes. then it becomes way too easy to pull out the "you're just not cool enough to get it" crap.

Apeman_on_the_Moon (July 10, 2009)

Oh look, more crazy words no real person has ever seen or read before. Yawn.

I think they should call their next record Mecipulture. Might as well just make up words now.

mikexdude (July 10, 2009)

mikexdude you going to Fest?

No, not this year. But I can give you a big hug another day!

GlassPipeMurder (July 10, 2009)

no time to respond to all the hate below, just wanted to say...

inb4 Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is Puerto Rican. that is all.

SydBarrett420 (July 10, 2009)

mikexdude you going to Fest?

TheMike (July 10, 2009)

I'm disappointed this hasn't received more love. It's different, but very good after a few listens.

Archangel (July 10, 2009)

Sorry, I love Pavement, and that song, but that is a god fucking awful way to begin a review.

thegreatestmanalive (July 10, 2009)

gregorb wins for confirming my supsicions

mikexdude (July 10, 2009)


Score is for the prententious review


You fail.

groundcontrolmag (July 10, 2009)

hey defianceohioequalslove, the only album of theirs that i would recommend is De-Loused in the Comatorium, which was produced by Rick Rubin. Since then, Omar has been producing the own albums and it's always missing that certain cohesiveness. Rubin was able to take incredible talent and contain it, whereas the albums since then have been like kids in a playground hopped up on Red Bull. This album is definitely better, but De-Loused is really top-notch in so many areas, and still remains in my top 10 for the decade.

SydBarrett420 (July 10, 2009)

I'll never wrap my head around why people enjoy this band, or At the Drive In. Changing time signatures and spazzing the fuck out at the drop of a hat doesn't make for anything even approaching entertaining for my ears.

The fact that the songs are essentially meaningless from what I gather (well, I'm not sure about the first two records, I know Deloused has a high concept though) it just makes it even harder for me to care about this kind of music.

I suppose I need to be enlightened.


You just need to listen to Rolodex Propaganda and relax.

Score is for the prententious review

Problematiclogic (July 10, 2009)

I've not listened to this much yet, but Cotopaxi is great.

slackMFr (July 10, 2009)

This band just keeps getting worse & worse.

R3vengeTherapy (July 10, 2009)

I'll never wrap my head around why people enjoy this band, or At the Drive In. Changing time signatures and spazzing the fuck out at the drop of a hat doesn't make for anything even approaching entertaining for my ears.

The fact that the songs are essentially meaningless from what I gather (well, I'm not sure about the first two records, I know Deloused has a high concept though) it just makes it even harder for me to care about this kind of music.

I suppose I need to be enlightened.

greg0rb (July 10, 2009)

I'm sorry... "What about the voice of Atom G?," rather.

greg0rb (July 10, 2009)

"What happened to the voice of Atom G?"

the_other_scott (July 10, 2009)

i always find it funny that The Mars Volta are considered pretentious. Whenever I think of "pretentious" I think of either minimalist Velvet Underground rip offs or some artsy for the sake of artsy stuff.

to me these guys just sound like they do (did?) too many drugs.

i-type-poorly (July 10, 2009)

I've loved this band since day one, but this album is straight up boring.

Coldwaraaron (July 10, 2009)

Cotopaxi is my favorite on this album, I think it best represents the energy and sounds they bring. Give that a listen.

eazyd2 (July 10, 2009)

i used to hate this band but now i like them. the first single sounds pretty cool. album should be arriving in the mail tomorrow!

name (July 10, 2009)

i just cannot get into this band. i understand musical ambition, in fact i admire it, but everything ive heard from them so far just sounds so fucking pretentious. i feel the same way about at the drive in, though, so maybe im just hopeless.

defianceohioequalslove (July 10, 2009)

Somebody please recommend a song by these guys. Something that rocks, not an absurdly long clip of crickets chirping, because it's things like that, that make this band come off as soooo damn pretentious. But hey, I'll give them another shot if I get some song recommendations. Why not.

0hh and t3h firstz0rz

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