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The Mars Volta - Octahedron CD (album) cover

OCTAHEDRON

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

3.63 | 348 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

russellk
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Octahedron' is not THE MARS VOLTA as we know it. Neither the classic, outrageous potpourri of a million ideas that was their first two albums, or the even more glorious, frenetic mess of their last two. This is TMV-lite, stripped of the searing ten-minute jams, stripped of self-indulgence, a band for popular consumption. The album is far more straightforward than anything they've done before. Two thirds the length of any of their previous albums. No extended sound effects, no padding. Each of the eight songs based around an outstanding chorus, each song constructed in a traditional classic rock fashion.

This is different. Much more of a head scratcher than a head banger.

But it is a masterpiece, of that I am certain. The band has really thought about this, addressing their tendency to disappear up their own creative fundaments. 'Since We've Been Wrong' starts it off, an acoustic ballad of the highest order that explodes into the musical stratosphere at the end of the second chorus. This is a superb song, a wonderful opener and I am sure destined to be a classic. 'Teflon' and 'Halo of Nembutals' are both relatively short rockers - sort of in the style of 'Ilyena' from TBIG - and both build on their opening sounds with - again - a superb, memorable chorus.

The next outstanding track is 'With Twilight as my Guide'. This is ominous and occultic, nailing itself to the inside of your stomach, squirming there with its doom-laden lyrics and insidious chorus. 'Cotopaxi' is perhaps the album's only mistake, a 'Wax Simulacra' wannabe, a great bass line and chorus not really exploited to the full. But 'Desperate Graves' cures this, with - once again - a great chorus. Trust me, eight songs and eight memorable choruses, this is a pop album TMV style. The only concession to excess is the ending of the last track, 'Luciforms', in which we get a short jam. Leaves me hungry for more.

This is Cedric's album, no doubt. His voice carries the power of the record, he gets all the good lines. Pridgen is conspicuously diminished, while Omar gives himself limited opportunities. There are some nice bass runs, but little room for Ikey or the others to do more than colour the songs. Nevertheless, each song gets the treatment it needs.

So, it isn't a headbanger. It's not a typical TMV album, if there is such a thing. Imagine an album made up of variations of 'Vermicide', 'The Widow', 'L'Via' and 'Televators' and you'll get the idea. But on its own terms it's an almost perfect demonstration of how to write shorter songs of aching beauty, aggressive power and menace. Every track is a triumph, the album as a whole essential.

russellk | 5/5 |

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