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Finnish Octahedron reviewstranslated
Posted 02 July 2009 - 06:52 PM
Reviewer: Petri Silas
It was only a matter of time when The Mars Volta and especially the guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez would make this album. After the band had played its long, sprawling songs at breakneck speed both live and in the studio, and after they had showed that they master both jazzy and openly psychedelic jamming, the focus had to switch to song writing. Itís tempting to say that The Mars Volta have made an easily approachable album, and in a way they have. But obviously only within their own frame of reference. Although Octahedron is more accessible than their previous albums, those who donít get a kick out of the experimental attitude and druggy sound of the 1970ís will drown in its abundance. To get closer to the core of the songs, Rodriguez-Lopez went as far as to make both Adrian Terrazas-Gonzales and Paul Hinojos temporarily redundant. While this is a shame, it may have been obligatory in order to stop the band from sliding back to old mannerisms. Overall, it seems that Octahedron doesnít miss its target by much. Although Iím irreversibly hooked on The Mars Volta jamming Ė both recorded and live Ė the peacefulness of the bandís fifth studio album is truly something new. And surely impossible until now. Rodriguez-Lopez had to get saturated with playing and then kind of slowly lean back in his chair. I guess I also have to point out that while the songs have become more straightforward that doesnít mean that The Mars Volta have regressed toward At the Drive-In, the previous band of Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. And frankly I canít believe that The Mars Volta will be staying on these tracks for good. But the synthesis that will be created with the upcoming albums will definitely be at least equally interesting to hear.
Reviewer: Pyry Hallamaa
Itís hardly a big surprise that the Mars Voltaís vision of an acoustic album isnít less electronic than their previous albums. But while The Mars Volta took aggressiveness, heaviness and bounciness further than ever before with last yearís The Bedlam in Goliath, Octahedron is stripped down, toned down and concentrated. Now the band keeps to the pop structure. The parts of the songs are whole, they join together seamlessly and their number is limited. Most of the songs are slow-tempoed, the album is only 50 minutes long and itís sonically more expansive than their previous albums. But this is still The Mars Volta. The voice of Cedric Bixler-Zavala is the same, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez still likes effected guitars and when needed the band still flashes quite the playing skills. Rodriguez-Lopez hardly harbours any secret pop ambitions that he wanted to unleash on Octahedron. Rather than having tried writing a commercial and simple album, it seems like heís just restrained himself wanting to make it easier than usual for the listener. Octahedron and the next The Mars Volta album have been finished and waiting to be released for over a year now. Anything may follow.
Reviewer: Kimmo K. Koskinen
The thick fog of prog heroes turns into thin upper cloud
The Bedlam in Goliath, released one and a half years ago, was a total and extremely happy surprise. Due to changing drummers, it was thought that The Mars Volta was over, and after the first couple of albums there was a stench of mould. However, the band delivered a mind blowing serving of chaotic space-Santana, that cut the wings off doubts with one strike. But what to do after a masterpiece that almost touched the limits of insanity? The previous album was as overly hilarious as one can be and thereís no point in repeating the same thing. Its head wizard Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and spell-sayer Cedric Bixler-Zavala have understood that. The other interesting name in current prog rock, Mastodon, have decided to make their sound more lucid. The Mars Volta canít quite pull this off. As pathetic it is for a listener or even a fan to hanker after old times and style, when it comes to Octahedron itís unavoidable. The enchantment of The Mars Volta has always been based on a massive firework of ideas. The stretching evolution of song structures and melodies has succeeded in keeping the onslaught somewhat intelligible. Now the attention is drawn to a strong framework, but the contents are weak. My colleague Onninen put it well: ďOmarís song writing skills seem very deficient, and now thereís no hyperactive musical messing around to hide thatĒ. Thatís exactly what this is about: when there are fireworks in the sky, the guy who set them off is in the background. But when the sparkling and cracking stop, you look at the guy. What now? The toning down in itself isnít the problem. The results could be fantastic, because Mars Volta have succeeded with quiet songs previously. It just seems that the slower songs have been self-servingly stripped of their most natural form. The best songs on the album are Cotopaxi and Halo of Nembutals, which represent the old style. The other six tracks are mostly just diluted Mars Volta. Granted, they have their moments too. Despite the complaints, Octahedron isnít a bad album. In the hands of Mars Volta even a more peaceful and lucid approach produces moderately fascinating and original music. Thereís no denying that the dynamics and palette of music have been renewed in an interesting way. In terms of composition, the songs just donít seem to be at the same level as the airily natural but yet otherworldly sound. To break free from the tried and tested and much applauded formula naturally shows admirable courage. The nature of the band is so avantgarde and capricious that bravery is exactly what is expected. Despite of its deficiencies, Octahedron may be the only right direction for Mars Volta, considering that they completely exhausted one style with the previous album. With bold regeneration there is a great danger of missing the target and thatís what seems to have happened. Oddly enough the band also grants itself a justification to continue on the road it has chosen Ė or completely on its own path.
Newspaper: Helsingin Sanomat
Texan Mars Volta, who became famous for chaotic prog rock, have slowed down the tempo, turned the volume dial anticlockwise and released their dullest album. The band may be trying to reveal a new, sensitive side with ballads. However, what Octahedron mainly shows is that intense beat and unpredictability are their strengths. The best songs on Octahedron, Cotopaxi and Luciforms, are based on a high energy level and an abundance of stimuli. Most of the songs are emotionally cold idling, highlighting the poor song writing skills of the bandís core duo Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez. Octahedron has the same fault as Nirvanaís acoustic album and Guns Ní Rosesí Lies: it shouldnít have been made.
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