Review Summary: While I believe that change is good, The Mars Volta should just stick to what they do best.Octahedron
, the so called "acoustic album", really translates to a much more laid-back type of band. While the album isn't completely acoustic, it also isn't a sequel to De-Loused in the Comatorium
. Instead, The Mars Volta have found a middle ground where there are both acoustic pieces and prog-epics.
really differs from other Mars Volta albums is the lack of Adrián Terrazas-González. This comes as a disappointment, considering Terrazas-González gives The Mars Volta that unique jazz/latin sound that is found on Frances the Mute
, and The Bedlam in Goliath
. The lack of this important sound plays with the acoustic idea. Instead of the tenor sax or bass clarinet, you are treated to a synthesizer. Here's where it gets annoying. Although the synth has some important moments on the album, the majority of the time it is held down to create a constant organ-like sound, which serves as the interlude and outro to almost half the songs on the album. Although an interesting move on the bands part, the effect gets repetitive, and really does no justice at all.
As for the rest of the band, it's really more of the same. This isn't bad by any means; You still have Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's quirky and epic guitar riffs, Thomas Pridgen's brilliant technical drumming (which comes out as much more controlled than on Bedlam
), Juan Alderete's masterful bass, and Isiah "Ikey" Owens...who, as usual, is barely heard through the course of the album. Cedric Bixler-Zavala is definitely worth mentioning here. It seems like he has made an improvement on every album, and, Octahedron
is no step back. You can really tell his range is improving even more, and if there is one high praise I have for this album, it's the absolutely fantastic vocals delivered by Bixler-Zavala.
Looking at the tracklist, there really are two different types of songs on Octahedron
. "Since We've Been Wrong", "With Twilight As My Guide" and "Copernicus" are the slower acoustic songs which calmly drone on in slight ascension. On the other side, "Cotopaxi" and "Luciforms" show the bands normal chaotic side. Ironically enough, those are probably the two most enjoyable songs on the album.
Here's the deal: I am not hating on the whole acoustic approach. I really don't mind "Since We've Been Wrong" and "With Twilight As My Guide"; however, when I am listening to The Mars Volta, I expect my head to explode at various moments during the albums play through. The overarching problem with Octahedron
is that some parts are, well, boring. Yeah, as ridiculous as it sounds, I find a band that relies on strobe lights and feverish breakdowns boring. When you put an up-tempo song like "Cotopaxi" next to a dreary bore like "Copernicus", the difference is largely noticeable. On one hand, you have classic Mars Volta. Fast paced drums, soaring vocals, and superb guitar work. On the other hand, you have a 7 minute long acoustic guitar piece that climaxes during 10 seconds of last-minute tacked on electronic drums.
is the answer to the much thought about question, whether or not The Mars Volta would be able to play a different style of music and still manage to create top quality music. The answer is, mostly no. Let me explain; While Octahedron
isn't a bad album by any means, it does have long stretches of dull acoustic moments. In the end, instead of enjoying the album thoroughly, I found myself anticipating the climactic moments more than anything. Instead of taking the album for what it was, a stab at a different type of sound, I tried to make the older Mars Volta out of it. There are still some great moments to this album, and while there are some boring stretches, there are entertaining moments that certainly contradict lesser ones. In short, Octahedron
serves as an album that will sit on your computer and will amass a handful of listens; However, when it comes down to it, it can't really compare to the band's previous works.