The Mars Volta – Octahedron

octahedronArtist: The Mars Volta
Album: Octahedron
Genre: Rock
Label: Warner Bros.

Taking a sharp turn for the 5th record, The Mars Volta have relaxed jsut a bit. Octahedron, the group’s newest release was said to be an “acoustic record” which, given the band’s style may make people think of hippies and bongos, but it’s far from this. In fact, it’s one of the most beautifully atmospheric record we’ve heard all year and the instrumentation is anything, but simple.

After nearly a minute of near silence, “Since We’ve Been Wrong” comes subtly into your ears with spacey atmospheric tones and like guitar work. The song flows wonderfully for over 7 minutes in such way that you probably won’t even feel it’s length [not that long songs are anything new for this act]. However, it’s not until “Teflon” that we find our first song that has any real hook to it. Not saying this band or genre needs hooks by any means, but thinking in a business mindset, it’s nice to have once and awhile.

As the record moves on, it become more than obvious that whoever said this was a more laid back record was really underselling the album. “Halo of Nembutals” has the accented swagger of a 70’s sace rock song with Cedric’s voice wavering with pure genius throughout. Also, “Cotopaxi” is a straight on rock jam with nearly nothing “laid back” about it. The guitar work is frantic and the whole track just screams urgency and compels you to tune into what you’re hearing. It’s also only three and a half minutes in length which makes it seem and obvious radio song, but in no means is it generic rock or simple. In fact, the chord progression alone will confuse most, not to mention the overall structure of the parts and how they interlace.

As we reach the close of the record, we’re given two very different tracks to send us off. First off, “Copernicus” is a lengthy slow jam that emphasizes subtlety with the group’s instrumentation and carries an overall dreary feel and sound. This is in no means a bad thing as it shows a side of the group we see much less than the crazed antics of the previous releases. Secondly, “Luciforms” gives us a similar dreary sound, but with much more of the band’s signature prog rock sound. There’s a keyboard line that will no doubt be your focus throughout, but the crashing drums and swirling guitar/vocal lines also excel. Plus, we get a blazing solo which that really seals the song and the album off quite well.

Now, I would be lying if I said I was a longtime supporter of TMV. In fact, I lean more to the side that jsut wants At The Drive-In back, but I have tuned into them before just to see what all the fuss was about. However, even on my first listen to Octahedron, I knew this was something special. It’s a mellow jam record that, for the most part, is far from simple. However, it is more laid back than I think most fans are used to. If you just want to have a mellow day or simply relax with some solid expansive rock sounds, then Octahedron is right up your alley.

Score: 7.5/10

James Shotwell
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