Review Summary: We'll be lucky if we eat tonight
Interestingly enough, slower, creepy, melancholic and more straightforward pop flavoured Octahedron
got released a year and a half after heavy, loud, and unrelentingly unpleasant The Bedlam in Goliath
. If you were to listen to one after the other, you'd think that the band were leading us on with a double album of sorts- one heavy with absolutely zero restraint whatsoever and the other being softer and lighter yet still with an air of darkness. And in a way, you'd kind of guess right. Until 2009, the band had a style of recording and releasing they'd record and write very quickly, in a way giving us new releases every year. They immediately followed up Frances the Mute
, arguably their best work, a year later, leaving us a year before [i]Bedlam[/] came out.
I've always had a love and hate relationship with their way of doing this. In a way, like I said above, it's like we get a new album every year. On the other hand, however, I wasn't a fan of Bedlam
at all- sounded rushed, sloppy and messy. So I went into this album with that warning in mind, even ignoring the band's claims that this was their "acoustic" album. And I came away pleasantly surprised.
marked the beginning of a new era for the band. They got less proggy and more pop rock. I wouldn't really call any of the songs on this album prog to begin with- maybe "Desperate Graves" and "Luciforms", which ultimately are the closest album gets to sounding like old Volta. The songs are more straightforward song verse/chorus/verse/chorus type song structures, and gone are the dizzying scales typically found in the band's music.
So, are you an old Volta fan who wants De-Loused all the time who has been scared away by that last paragraph I wrote? If not, continue reading this review.
Just like an octahedron has 8 sides, this octahedron has 8 songs. All of the songs are beautiful and surreal nightmares that are lovely yet scary. All the songs will make you feel as if you're stranded in the middle of the desert, with the sky a vibrant red and the threat of a UFO about to fly over your head and kidnap you for experimenting. This is also without a doubt the band's most focused work to date. In place of the craziness for the sake of craziness are more focused riffs and sections of songs as well.
No doubt that "Teflon" will ultimately thrill you with it's groovy beat and the singalong chorus of "Let the wheels burn, let the wheels burn/Stack the tires to the neck/with the body inside
" will have many raising their voices at concerts. The song does sound like traditional Mars Volta with a twist, and the 70s keyboards add even more atmosphere. "Copernicus" is a late highlight on the album, which is all soft guitar chords with sprinkles of keyboards, and harmonized vocals by Cedric. At just over 7 minutes, the song is haunting and beautiful and will definitely go down as one of the band's best ballads. Hell, it's even creepy in places.
"Since We Were Wrong" is the softest possible song you'll ever hear opening a Mars Volta album- the first two minutes is a synth note, before it segues into a lovely ballad that sums up the album perfectly- a beautiful nightmare. And "Desperate Graves" is the song on the album that will remind you of De-Loused era tunes, simply an excellent nostalgia trip.
The only real gripe I have about this album is that "Cotopaxi" feels rather out of place on the album. It's a great song indeed and is a nice 4 minute anthemic jolt of energy, but since this is essentially the band's acoustic pop album, it does feel like it would be better placed on Bedlam
. And aside from a few bad choices in a few other songs, Octahedron
is still an album I recommend very much to a pedestrian listener, as it's easily their most accessible yet. There's enough to appeal to the longtime fans, but there's also lots to appeal to even the most pedestrian of listeners, and hopefully this album can serve as a great gateway for new fans, even if they haven't heard De-Loused in the Comatorium