The Mars Volta
Octahedron


4.5
superb

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
June 8th, 2011 | 58 replies | 4,474 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If 'restraint' and 'improvement' somehow shared a synonym, it would be 'Octahedron'.

The Mars Volta. Immediately what should come to mind is that of a frantic musical nature, a fairly illogical one. We can take a glimpse at the song “Day of the Baphomets”, a varietal masterpiece off Amputechture, and it's visible that although it's outright impressive and fun for the way it sheds its skin about eleven times, in the end, the whole metamorphosis didn't make that much sense in the first place.

This idea describes The Mars Volta rather well; they seem to pride themselves on doing the unexpected, say, placing a catchy percussion interlude where a blistering guitar riff would perhaps have fit a little better. Their fourth full-length release, The Bedlam in Goliath, portrayed this concept best, for the introduction of Thomas Pridgen seemed to give way to a percussive rebirth of the band. Thomas Pridgen is my biggest influence behind the drums, but even I confess that it was too much for the album. One begins to lose respect for an amazing instrumental talent when it's the pinnacle of the music, and attempts to pull together songs that just are boring (Here's to you, Soothsayer...). If The Bedlam in Goliath was considered a puzzle that the band had completed together, it was one glued and taped together, accomplished earnestly but in the messiest of ways.

Going by this analogy, Octahedron was elaborately put together, delicately planned and constructed as only perfectionists would have it. Dull moments are quite scarce on the album, as the band taps their potential by restraining. These guys restraining? It's an odd concept, but what's even a stranger fact is that the boys haven't ever created something this uniformly consistent. There's at least one part in every song that is genuinely breath-taking, maybe sometimes from a technical perspective but mostly for the musicality aspect of it all. The opener, “Since We've Been Wrong” functions about as smoothly as the band has ever experienced, as a powerful ballad introducing the listener to the emotion of the band, which is the pendulum of the album. Octahedron is the most emotional music the band has created ever since the lovely second half of “Viscera Eyes” awhile back, and they're the better off for it, tapping into enormous reserves of potential unseen in the last few albums. The Mars Volta held back their tendency to shred in the most irrelevant musical ways, and the end result is much worth it- it's perhaps most visible from the drums. The highlight of the powerful track “Halo of Nembutals” is the outro, where the drums pick up quite a bit of steam, whilst maintaining a sense of direction. Also, “Teflon” showcases the new Thomas Pridgen, a man playing the same industrious beats but at a much slower tempo, moving to the song's heartbeat over all else.

One other unique attribute of this album is its songs that are entirely lacking of Pridgen- about a third of the album is acoustic. “With Twilight As My Guide” is certainly the first song by the band that can be called genuinely pretty, and “Copernicus” similarly reflects this, especially in its chorus. This is surely a sign of what we can expect more of from the band in the future, unfortunately for devout France the Mute fans.

The only downside of the album is the track “Desperate Graves”, which just struggles to find its footing until about halfway through, and then shortly after still meanders quite a bit. It isn't a bad song, but definitely is one that loses an unfortunate amount of luster over time; as it does depend of a bit of instrumental proficiency to fuel its musicality, the feat ultimately proves unsuccessful. However, the other tracks more than make up for the blemish, as Octahedron is still much more cohesive than the band's other albums.

If this is an idea of where the band will be heading next, then what a promising sign this is. Whatever the band heads next, we can only hope that it's as much of a step forward as Octahedron was; after all, that's what progressive music is all about, right?



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Comments:Add a Comment 
EverythingEvil2113
June 8th 2011



1279 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I love this album, they couldn't keep going in the direction they were on Bedlam and they totally reinvented themselves here with much more focused song writing. Good review, I agree with pretty everything you said.

G3N3R1C
June 8th 2011



1945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Very nice review, and i agree. Have a pos.

taxidermist
June 8th 2011



7195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love that you love With Twilight as my Guide. That song is great. This is also a good review. Short and to the point. Have a pos my friend.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

^_^ thank you all!

People rag on this album being not crazy enough, but if you want songs like Tetragrammaton, just go and listen to them.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Indeed.

BigHans
June 8th 2011



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

good review band is the worst ever though

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
June 8th 2011



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

didn't read the review but I really like that summary

acorncheese
June 8th 2011



7119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice. album is solid but easily volta's weakest.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

i appreciate it! Aids, I'm glad. I had another one that was more bland, and changed it up at the last minute, although I was unsure if it was the right move..

And acorncheese, I have a feeling I don't need to tell you my stance on that point ;)

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

And BigHans, i can understand why others wouldn't like them for sure. I don't love them to death, unlike so many; they're hit-or-miss for me (except for this album, obviously)

taxidermist
June 8th 2011



7195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love them to death :p

Satellite
June 8th 2011



20676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cotopaxi and desperate graves are the only songs from this that i still listen to. the initial live version of with twilight as my guide was so much better than the one that ended up on here.

the new songs sound awesome, though, so i'm excited for their next effort.

Digging: Dikembe - Mediumship

taxidermist
June 8th 2011



7195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

New songs?

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

I listen to particular songs a lot, but really don't like others. and everyone loved their debut album... i gave it a 3 i think, just didn't get tons of enjoyment out of it. They just have a tendency to write a mediocre song for every enjoyable one in my opinion.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011



5908 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is excellence in terms of both simplicity and efficacy.

Digging: Essence Beyond - Carnivalism

Taxt
June 8th 2011



609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Taxidermist: These guys did a tour in March-April and were billed as the "Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group"
and Cedric was listed as a special guest, but I would bet my left nut that the majority of the stuff
they played was new TMV.

Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM0XZ2x0bNs
The same user has a bunch of videos from that SF show that are fuckin ill

Pridgen's out, Deantoni's in, and Cedric sounds better than he has since '06

Good review btw

botb
June 8th 2011



9523 Comments


that sounds pretty sweet ^

Ire
June 8th 2011



41746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

dunno if the new album is gonna be any good honestly

psykonaut
June 8th 2011



3913 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the single that leaked was pretty meh iirc

Ire
June 8th 2011



41746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm just going by omars recent albums

they're so fucking boring AND I LIKE OMAR RODRIGUEZ

Tychozorente and on is just meh



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