Review Summary: A solid effort from the Volta, although not perfect. It has some parts which are not so memorable. Still, it's very different than what people expected would be their "acoustic album" - different in a good way.
I was originally introduced to The Mars Volta through a friend of mine. It was a slow adjustment - at first, the group was very unusual; a sort of alien territory in music for me. But after a while, the music grew on me, and I soon learned to appreciate things such as Cedric's high-pitched vocals, the spastic freak-outs, and the long interludes. Octahedron is their most recent effort, and the first album I have been around for to witness be released.
I will start by saying that Octahedron, by no means, is a below-effort work by The Volta. There are some great pieces of work on this, and many soft spots, which feel so refreshing after the nonstop onslaught of Bedlam. The album begins with a very long (actually, too long, a thing which can happen with this band from time to time), serene chord. The opener, Since We've Been Wrong, is an unusual track in that it is more radio-friendly, the lyrics more relatable, than just about anything the band has written before. But this is not saying much, as you would never expect to hear a song like this on the radio, especially when it comes in at over seven minutes in length.
The problem with Octahedron is remembrance. Some of the songs, personally, I never really was able to relate to. They simply faded away, while other tracks stood out to me. These tracks are buried somewhere in my mind. I would recognize the names, but if someone sang the melody, it wouldn't have real meaning to me. I find that mainly With Twilight as My Guide and Luciforms are guilty of this. Luckily, there are plenty of tracks to balance out the lacking feeling I got with these - Teflon is a dense and solid rock tune, with a buzzing guitar line in the chorus and a technical drum beat which makes the mind ponder how Pridgen does what he does. On another note, Pridgen's seems on a leash on this album. He does not freak out as much as he had on Bedlam, except in Cotopaxi, which feels like it was a lost track from that album.
Copernicus has a nice electronic beat partway through, on one of the album highlights to me, and Desperate Graves has possibly the best chorus on the album. Both songs are very strong, and show that The Mars Volta can make catchy pop (I use that word with a cringing face) songs as well as their usual stuff. Some people I know say that The Volta sold out on this album, and they hate it, but I really disagree. Total prog-heads sometimes need to breathe and see that a band can appeal to a different audience here and there, maybe get a song on the radio, just one, and not sell out. The next release will likely prove this, as i expect it to return to the old things.
This album is one that should not be overlooked, although not the "acoustic album" The Volta spoke of. It may turn off heavy prog-heads, but that is okay. This album touches on lighter matter, and is refreshing after the craziness of bedlam. In a way, it returns to the tone of De-Loused, although it cannot match their mastery there. Octahedron is a very solid album, and although slightly flawed, is a fantastic journey that should grace your CD player for a while.