Album Review – The Mars Volta – Octahedron

It’s that time again, I have a few new albums on my plate at the moment and I’ll try to review as many as I can, firstly, Mars Volta.

This band’s always been a head trip, they quickly became one of my favourites back in the days of “De-Loused in the Comatorium” and continue to put out mind-bending pieces worthy of Psychadelic, Prog heaven (or hell).  Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics are still largely a mystery to me, he seems to string sentences together about the most abstract concepts and imagery fathomable, and there are plenty of songs from their back catalogue that I still struggle to compehend. Not that I can’t understand what he’s saying, just that I don’t understand what he means when he’s saying it.  I wanna ask him about that actually if I ever get the chance to meet the guy.  “Do your songs always have meanings or is it just whatever comes to mind when your laying it down?” Who knows.

The Volta are back again, constipated with backed up albums, their latest effort is Octahedron. Apparently their “acoustic” album, it holds plenty of electricity.  It is, however, anchored on a couple ballady acoustic tracks “Since We’ve Been Wrong” and “With Twilight As My Guide”.  The former being my personal favourite cut from the record.  The opening track has a strong hook and the lyrics actually seem to make sense! Amazing! But I’m just poking fun.  The record ebbs and flows, after the opening track it picks up pace with “Teflon” and continues that momentum until “With Twilight As My Guide”, which brings the listener back down to the level of dynamic established by the opener.  Just as you’re about to dose off into slumberland, BAM! “Cotopaxi” kicks in, the lead single, with the same venom that “Wax Simulacra” had on their previous release “the Bedlam in Goliath”.  Another strong track follows in the form of “Desperate Graves”, this song has more of a traditional rock feel to it but still maintains Volta’s delicious mix of Waltzy grooves and Melodic breakdowns.  The album slowly descends from here, “Copernicus” is a slow-paced, delicate track which comes off very cerebral, and has a similar dynamic to the previous ballads.  The album then finishes up with “Luciforms”, containing an extended ambient intro going into a more upbeat but still slower-tempo’d waltz rhythm throughout the verses, a fitting end to the record.

All in all it’s a fairly typical Volta record, probably on par with Amputechture in my books.  It contains a few gems and is a journey not unlike any of their albums.  Those with patience will be able to get through this, whereas the casual listener will pick their favourites and be done with it.  Omar, Cedric and co. seem to have albums coming out of the Wazoo and I’m sure by this time next year (or maybe sooner) we’ll have another Mars Volta record to ponder over.  This one definitely has repeat value just based on the intricacy of the sounds and the technical playing alone, I don’t imagine this will reach the peaks of “De-Loused” but continues to make it’s mark on their legacy.



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