“Octahedron” – The Mars Volta (Joint Review)

I’m a Mars Volta fan and they’re one of my favourite bands, so obviously I was eagerly awaiting this album. The band had already said it was going to be their “acoustic album”, but they also said it wasn’t exactly acoustic, to quote Cedric Bixler-Zavala, “We know how people can be so linear in their way of thinking, so when they hear the new album, they’re going to say, ‘This is not an acoustic album! There’s electricity throughout it!’ But it’s our version. That’s what our band does — celebrate mutations. It’s our version of what we consider an acoustic album..

Their last album, ‘The Bedlam In Goliath’ was heavy and chaotic, and when you really think about it, it seems logical that the album following was going to be a bit “softer”.

The Mars Volta - "Octahedron"

The Mars Volta - "Octahedron"

‘Octahedron’ is the 28th album that lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has contributed to in the past 6 years, in short that’s amazing and it really shows that he’s one of the best musical minds in the world. This new Mars Volta album shows a new side of Rodriguez-Lopez and it’s really interesting.

The Mars Volta have always tried to make music that pushes the boundaries, but even the most knowledgeable Mars Volta fan could not anticipate the direction they’ve taken with their new album. If ‘Bedlam In Goliath’ was about chaos, ‘Octahedron’ is about holding back. In fact, apart from the lead single ‘Cotopaxi’ (which sounds like a song that was written during the ‘Bedlam In Goliath’ sessions), the songs are totally different in style to anything they’ve ever done. There’s no unnecessary notes and every instrument is only used when needed.

The record starts with the song ‘Since We’ve Been Wrong’, it has a 2 minute lead up that’s only just loud enough for someone to hear. It’s really clever, because it does just enough to allow you to listen, and this “minimalism” of sorts is a theme that resonates throughout the rest of the album.

The album then takes a turn and ‘Teflon’ starts, it’s probably one of the louder songs on the album, but it’s still a slow song. It slowly starts to get more disjointed until the end when it’s just about to reach the point at which the song is totally disjointed. Again, this shows the band being minimalistic and instead of turning the song into a ten minute jam, they hold back, just a little bit and this changes the song entirely.

I’m a bit 50-50 with the fifth track, ‘Cotopaxi’, I mean, it’s a great song, but I’m a bit unsure about whether the song fits in with rest of the album. It’s a lot louder and fast-paced than the rest of ‘Octahedron’ and it sounds like a ‘Bedlam In Goliath’ song. But in it’s defence, I didn’t really think it was out of place until after about 5 listens, so maybe my thoughts are wrong. It certainly injects a bit of energy into the album, which causes the album to be extremely easy to listen to in full, which is a characteristic of all great albums.

‘Octahedron’ is an album that compliments the Mars Volta catalogue perfectly, it’s a step away from the sound that we all know the Mars Volta can make, but it has something different, which should add something to the band’s live performances.

Overall, it’s an album that possibly doesn’t reach the heights of ‘Frances The Mute’ and ‘De-Loused In The Comatorium’, but there’s something about ‘Octahedron’ and I really like it, it’s different but it’s still unmistakeably Mars Volta. In my opinion, it one of the years best so far and I’m not sure there’ll be an album that will surprise me more.

The Mars Volta are also preparing for the release of their new live album, which will be taken from their ‘Frances The Mute’ and ‘Amputechture’ era shows, it hasn’t been given a release date yet, but expect it to come by the end of the year.

If you’re a fan of At The Drive-In then you’ll probably be jumping up and down at the moment, because there have been talks about a possible reformation of the band. I’m guessing they were approached by the people behind ‘Coachella’ and if the talks go well, then I’m sure there’ll be ensuing shows.


~ by Michael Hodder on June 21, 2009.

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