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The Mars Volta - Octahedron CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.64 | 422 ratings

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3 stars The Mars Volta are not one of those bands you would usually choose to chill out to. Their busy, complex arrangements, top end/mid range heavy and shrill vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala make listening to much of their past work an exhausting experience. This is not levelled as a criticism as although I was left somewhat cold by The Bedlam In Goliath I have found much to enjoy on their first 3 albums.

Octahedron sees the band taking a change of direction. Apparently it started life as an acoustic album but over time grew into more of a full band record. The nearest we get to the acoustic Mars Volta is on opening track Since We've Been Wrong, a ballad where acoustic guitar is used but is augmented by electric and later drums, bass and keyboards. With Twilight As My Guide and Copernicus tread similar territory.

The most noticeable difference between Octahedron and past albums is the music is far less frantic, there's more space and room for it to be breathe. It's certainly makes an easier listening experience and is their most accessible work to date. For example Teflon is bass and drums driven and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's guitar playing comes across like Robert Fripp on this occasion. More powerful and solid as a consequence of keeping things simpler.

The sound is still unmistakeably Mars Volta, just slowed down and fewer notes but there's still room for some dextrous playing when needed. Witness Cotopaxi, a short riff driven song but there still seems to be more space for the instruments to cut through making it the heaviest moment here.

Octahedron is a very good album and makes a worthwhile diversion from past releases. However I'm not sure I would want the next album to be this stripped back version. I enjoy the in your face organised chaos of the likes of Amputechture and hope they haven't abandoned this approach permanently. Nevertheless, a worthy addition to their back catalogue and it'll be interesting to see where they go next. 3 stars.

Nightfly | 3/5 |


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