Review: The Mars Volta - Octahedron
Taking great liberty with the term 'acoustic album'
by Johnny Firecloud
Jun 08, 2009
After last yearís excellent Bedlam In Goliath, there was little room for ante-uppery in the kaleidoscopic punk-funk of The Mars Volta trajectory. After all, where does a band go after ďa relentless, uncompromising juggernaut of an albumĒ that earned marks of brilliance across the board?
Rather than risk ripping a hole in the space-time continuum by finding a way to somehow turn the heat even higher, the band took a sharp turn for their fifth studio album, Octahedron. It should come as no surprise that The Mars Volta, a group far outside the outer limits of whatever confines the traditional prog-rock framework might call for to begin with, have taken considerable liberty with the term ďacoustic album.Ē The album is anything but the typical acoustic imagery of a bunch of guys smoking joints, slapping bongos around a fire and trying not to sound like Sublime. Itís a celebration of mutations with familiar flare, and in understatement, the band has somehow found new strengths and fire without arriving as repetitious.
Emerging from a minuteís forty worth of silence at the onset, album opener Since Weíve Been Wrong pensively eases into play as Cedric Bixler-Zavalaís delicate melody matches phrases with Omar Rodriguez-Lopezís orchestral atmospherics, offering weighted pauses and layered harmonies that donít find full-footed accompaniment until well past the five-minute mark, when Thomas Prodgenís percussive arrival pulls the song into a somber groove. But before you know it, the songís over, and seven-and-a-half minutes have passed. Where the hell did that time just go?
As evident in the searing alien churning of album highlight Teflon and gentle supernaturals of Copernicus, Zavalaís continued melodic evolution and knack for vocal gravity has made it possible for even the slower jams in the bandís catalog to pack the kind of punch previously reserved for hook-rockers such as Wax Simulacra and Drunkship of Lanterns. Granted, the lyrics are even more ridiculously cryptic, metaphorical and nonsensical than ever - but anyone taking issue with that fact at this point is either a very late arrival or a sucker for equine-corpse abuse.
Passive listeners and Tolkien haters will likely be lulled by the sleepy, reflective With Twilight As My Guide, but the five-alarm fire that is Cotopaxi chases the sandman from the scene with a jarring lack of warning. Itís the only song on Octahedron that clocks in at under four minutes, and rightfully so - itís a break-neck body-rocker, the clear single outside of lead-in track Since Weíve Been Wrong- and, dare I say it, Zavala actually threatens to make a bit of sense in the irresistible, bug-under-the-skin breakdown:
Donít beat around the pulpit/ There is no lost and found/ Where is the devil waiting/ Trying to disguise/ Iíve seen what you used to look like/ Down here you wonít survive
The song runs gorgeously into the shimmering soft-gallop of Desperate Graves, which builds to a call-and-response chorus that serves as the only real beacon to hang on to as the song
The epic builds to dizzying crescendos have always been a staple in the bandís bag of tricks, most evidently on tracks like Cicatriz ESP from their debut, or the nightmare-trip of Meccamputechture. Thereís little of that here though, Desperate Graves aside, and somehow the album is better for it.
Octahedron may not be the best Mars Volta record, but weíre not in the ribbon-pinning game. Itís a beautiful, understated album by one of the most complex and fiercely talented bands modern music has ever seen.
CraveOnline's Rating: 8 out of 10
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Crave Online Octahedron Review8/10
Posted 08 June 2009 - 05:01 PM
Posted 08 June 2009 - 08:41 PM
i too felt desperate graves was way too sappy, though the chorus isn't bad.
Posted 09 June 2009 - 01:08 AM
this actually might be my favorite TMV review ever. the writer didn't clog his review with a bunch of wasted words trying to describe how "psychadelic" and "wailing" the music sounds. he described the movements and the feel quite well, and clearly has listened to every album on the band's roster, and understands what this new album is all about and respected the band for it.
Best review for Octa so far.
Posted 09 June 2009 - 01:14 AM
Posted 09 June 2009 - 01:22 AM
"when Thomas Prodgenís percussive arrival pulls the song into a somber groove"
"which builds to a call-and-response chorus that serves as the only real beacon to hang on to as the song..."
"Octahedron may not be the best Mars Volta record, but weíre not in the ribbon-pinning game. Itís a beautiful, understated album by one of the most complex and fiercely talented bands modern music has ever seen."
Posted 09 June 2009 - 05:33 PM
firecloud wrote that
isn't he the guy that was asking us for questions for ikey?
and also he wrote that crypto review...
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