Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
The Mars Volta - Octahedron CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta

Heavy Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars Okay I have only listened to four of these tracks because they were leaked, but from what I've heard, Octahedron sounds like a more calm and softer version of Bedlam in Goliath which shines a light on the direction The Mars Volta are heading in. I'm hearing a lot of acoustic guitars, more ghostly guitar perversion, and Cedric's vocals are smooth. In other words, Octahedron, to me, sounds like the lovechild between De-loused and Bedlam in Goliath. The first track starts with an elevating atmospheric which is complimented with an acoustic guitar. Already, I am thinking, "Hmmm. This is different." Even though the first track is very quite and something you wouldn't expect from The Mars Volta, it's still a great opener and somehow it still "feels" like a Mars Volta song. Like something from Amputechture. One song that I'm sure some of you Mars Volta fans have heard by now, "Cotopaxi", sounds just like it came out of Bedlam. My favorite thing about this song is its timing, how it explodes out of the previous song, "With Twilight as my Guide", right when you sink into its strange combination of Televator-ish guitar tampering with the hypnotizing keyboards playing in the background. The last track of the four, "Desperate Graves", is probably my least favorite. It's another slow song right after "Cotopaxi" that has a sounds like they mixed a bunch of songs from Bedlam like "Wax Simulacra" and "Tourniquet Man" and finish it off with a mellotron. Basically, it's something we prog rockers have already heard. Overall, I would give at least this Octahedron leak a 3/5 stars, but i gave it 4/5 instead because I am pleased to see that the Mars Volta seem to be breaking away from their crazy, slimey, icky direction they were going with Bedlam and just sort of settling down a bit, though I'm not sure how these songs will sound when performed live. I don't think we'll see a change in Cedric's insane stage behavior.
Report this review (#216522)
Posted Tuesday, May 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars A vast improvement on their last effort but still far removed from their earlier more credible works with the movement towards the mainstream as strong as ever.

The Mars Volta are a funny old beast of a band and one never knows quite what to expect from them with each successive record. That is of course with the exception of Cedric Bixler-Zavala's nonsensical lyrics, effeminate shrieking vocal delivery and angsty pop harmonies. The decline of the mars volta funnily enough was directly co-related with the increase in volume of Cedric's vocals in the mix with each succesive record. Here we see them toned down slightly from the ear piercing 'The Bedlam in Goliath' record. However the vocals are still far too loud and they simply do not fit in with the rest of the band. It's quite clear that The Mars Volta are clearly and unashamedly using the pop style of audio production and emphasising Cedrics vocals above all else in order to achieve mainstream popularity.

The music itself on this record is actually pretty good and is more refined and less 'spazzy' than on the last 2 records. The band have stated this is their 'acoustic' record and it's easy to see how this description applies as soon as opener 'Since we've been wrong' (which is admittedly a sub-par pop song in the vein of the widow) kicks in. Definitely not an acoustic album but relatively laid back by these guys' standards with more 'ballady' type tunes. It's also good to see newbie drummer Thomas Pridgen keeping things nice and sane this time around.

The truth about this album is that if it were instrumental or had a different vocalist who song 1 or 2 octaves lower this would be a 4-4.5 star album, the vocals really ruin what could have been a fantastic album. Cedric needs to keep his ego in check and turn the vocals down or effect them so they aren't as piercing. The backing band is pretty fantastic on this release and it's good to see Omar exerting some self-control as well - restraint is definitely a good descriptor in comparing Octahedron to the last 2 albums.

Definitely a step back in the right direction but for such a purportedly 'experimental' band it defies belief how they are so willing to embrace the conventions of pop music to the detriment of their overall sound.

Report this review (#219932)
Posted Friday, June 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Disappointing.

I've been a TMV fan since 2003 and I personally think that Octahedron is definately their weakest album. It is different like all TMV albums and I certainly appreciate that, they're not a formula band like most of today's mainstream scene (and actually lots of prog acts). But I really don't know, most of the songs are somewhat weak and uninspired. Several songs of the album are acoustic and despite the weakness of most of the songs, I want to say that the entirely acoustic and beautifully crafted With Twilight As My Guide is an amazing piece, and of course, a highlight. Probably the reason why I'm giving 3 stars to Octahedron is because of most of the electric songs. Teflon and Desperate Graves are definately the weakest songs here (along with the incredibly boring Copernicus). Cotopaxi is the "single" of the album and it is a very good and enjoyable hard-rocking tune similar to Wax Simulacra from The Bedlam in Goliath, surely they'll play this song a lot in their live shows. Luciforms is definately the best song of the album, an awesome prog-rock tune with a cool Omar Rodriguez trademark solo.

Despite there are very good songs in Octahedron, most of the material is very disappointing and uninspired. I certainly prefer their masterpieces De-loused in The Comatorium and Frances The Mute.

Best Songs: With Twilight as My Guide, Cotopaxi, Luciforms. Worst Songs: Copernicus, Teflon, Desperate Graves.

Report this review (#219937)
Posted Friday, June 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great surprises from Mars Volta !

The Mars Volta always bring something new in the heavy prog area, but in this case the listener feels a little disoriented by what his ears can appreciate.

What we can find is something more "song oriented", nothing about the energy and the craziness of their first two albums, neither the extreme hard passages for what they are famous and appreciated.

This doesn't mean that "Octahedron" is a bad album, the opposite!

Blixer and Lopez are always great in creativity, interpretation and feeling. The vocals and the guitar in "Copernicus" are greatly inspired.

Luckily they also have great musicians at their retinue, who can well support them.

"Octahedron" is pervaded by melancholic feeling, has more acoustic (in Mars Volta manner) passages and sometimes sounds more "pop" than the preceding works. But it's not "pop" in a bad way. It seems to be only more accessible and less aggressive to the ear

When you listen to it after the first time you can find a lot of hidden gems you can't catch at first: a strange passage, surprising bass lines, non-conventional drumming, etc.

I think that 4 stars could be too much, but 3,5 is correct

Report this review (#220323)
Posted Monday, June 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octahedron: the most straight foreword Volta yet

With each album the Volta put out something very different. And that is what is so great about this band. The first couple time i played the album i really did not know what to think! The Volta went poppy? No that wasn't the case, this album shows they can make well crafted shorter tunes. To me the stand out tracks on this album are the more slow paced songs like the Since We've been wrong and With Twilight as my Guide. This album also features the great hard rocking tune like Cotopoxi, very similar to Wax Simulacra from tbig. I also think this album features some of Cedric's best vocal performances. And the Mars Volta band is just as solid as ever with Omar leading the way. Octahedron is good album from this great band. Some may think they didn't progress with this album, but it sounds very different from the others so I think they did some good on this album. 3.5 - 4 stars for me, The Volta never let down, a very sold album.

Report this review (#220710)
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've heard all of the Mars Volta's previous four studio albums countless times and couldn't wait for the release of their fifth, OCTAHEDRON. I'll be honest, the first time I heard it I was quite disappointed. I thought: "Wow! TMV have really stripped back their approach...but it's boring as $#@& !" Well, the more I listened to OCTAHEDRON the better it got! I found myself really rocking-out to the songs "Teflon," "Halo of Nembutals," and "Desperate Graves." Highlights include the tracks mentioned above in addition to "Copernicus" which is MUCH more different than any other TMV song and is certainly my favorite *slow song* of theirs. The only real problem I have with OCTAHEDRON is "Luciforms" which is not only a bad closing number, but it also feels like Omar and Cedric hurried the song and recorded it the minute after they finished writing. Otherwise, I don't see any (immediate) issues in Omar and Cedric's songwriting on this album--I've never had a *bad* experience with Mars Volta CDs, though! :) If you are a fan of TMV, like me, you will probably enjoy many aspects of OCTAHEDRON, but if you are a newcomer or someone who hasn't liked TMV since the beginning, then OCTAHEDRON is not recommended as a good starting point and probably won't *convert* anybody to TMV fandom. GRADE: A- (89%)
Report this review (#221447)
Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first thing I did this morning was running to HMV to get my copy of Octahedron. Two hours later, I'm writing this review after two listens. After reading the reviews and critics, I was almost ready to be disapointed when I put the CD in my audio system... and no I wasn't disappointed at all. Altough this album is very different, it is really awesome. The energy of TBiG mixed with the song structure of the fisrt albums... in an « acoustic » prog rock. Yet, Teflon, Copotaxi and Copernicus are my favorites. I must admit that it's not as good as Frances the Mute (wich is my TMV favourite album), but it's just different. And it's what I like about Omar's band, their ability to renew their musical style. So I'll give it a 4 stars and recommand Octahedron to averybody, even the ones who disliked TBiG. (sorry for my poor english, I speak french)
Report this review (#222661)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Well they still haven't gotten away from the punk-laden music style that was on Bedlam and back to the good ol' Deloused and Frances the Mute but they're getting there. Omar Rodriquez- Lopez writes some very good songs and I can't see why he calls them acoustic but I like them anyway. The song Since We've Been Wrong brings back memories of the totally awesome ballad The Widow but at times you can almost hear some Televators in it. Teflon is a good track that shows some remnants of the psychedelic freak-out of Amputechture but it isn't too noticable. Halo of Nembutals is an excellent track that to me brings back memories of Deloused and With Twilight as My Guide brings back more of that Rodriquez-Lopez brand of "acoustic" music. The single, Cotopaxi is my least favorite track because it is the Volta trying too hard to have a hit single. Desparate Graves is a heavier ballad with excellent vocals by Cedric Bixler-Zavala which is a highlight of the album. Copernicus is another ballad that sounds a lot like With Twilight As My Guide but it is also a highlight. Luciforms is the most epic track on the album and ends it greatly. Not their best work but is an improvement from the Bedlam.
Report this review (#222735)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Mars Volta ? Octahedron 4 stars

The 'acoustic' album.

This album was a proving point for The Mars Volta. It is not an acoustic album by any means, but their version of one. Translated into terms we can all understand, the drums aren't as spastic, LESS electronics, LESS jamming and ONE trademark Omar solo. It's a real look on how the band can play without all the studio effects and dynamic twists, and they prove here that they can do that.

The beginning number is the most representative of the 'acoustic' form which is a laidback ballad with guitar and vocal interplay, similar to the start of Amputecture. The lyrics can be absurd as ever, but still drag the listener in because Cedric hits the notes in all the right places. 'Cotopaxi' can be one of the bands most straightforward pieces but is a solid rock song, volta style, with Cedric's vocals being as poppish as possible, and it's a damn good song. The only real jam comes in at the end of 'Desperate Graves' which was cool considering a volta jam implemented into a song not even 5 minutes long.

I have to be one of the few that does not think highly of 'Halo of Nembutals' and 'With Twilight as My Guide'. These are simple songs that have the biggest acoustic feature, but it lacks anything memorable that 'Televators' and 'The Widow' were able to do.

The Mars Volta got the job done for what they intended to do. Once again, the songs that were good here fit at the top of anything they released. I hope this is a light snack compared to the next album, which is already done apparently. Cannot wait for the next release.

Report this review (#222787)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Here we have the first record from The Mars Volta which largely does not attempt to push the boundaries of music, and rather finds the Volta with a more relaxed and accessible sound . This effort focuses on production values and ambiance that bring it closer to Floyd or early Porcupine Tree in many ways. It has been said that this is TMV's attempt at commercialism which is far from accurate. Their most popular, commercial, and still well liked record has and might always be De-Loused (although far less groundbreaking musically than the 3 records that follow it). At first I was plesantly suprised by the difference of tone as the constant up tempo ruckus of their previous records was nearly becomming cliche. Now that the record has had time to sink in, it is clear that this is their weakest effort for the same reason as it's strengths. The fact that the record is a deliberate attempt to be more accessable, relaxed and mush less dense seems to have stripped away the quality that has made all their previous records groundbreaking. The album is still very good and of high quality beginning to end, but there is hardly a moment where you are astonished or feel that this is the only band who could produce or even conjure up this kind of music. The fact is that no band that lasts continues to produce masterpieces their entire career. TMV realized that they had capitalized on their sound with The Bedlam in Goliath and needed a change in direction. This change in direction causes songwriter Omar Rodriguez Lopez to leave his current comfort zone in search of something fresh and ends up not being as groundbreaking as a result. However, to continue to tread water with a Bedlam 2 would not be groundbreaking either so what we are left with is inevitability regarding musical creativity and was in actuality the only logical move TMV could make at this time.
Report this review (#222803)
Posted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Mars Volta is back with a brand new album! This is the album I would recommend to listeners not familiar with the band. It's much more easier listening than for example The Bedlam In Goliath, wich is last year's album. As for me, I think the album starts way to slow with Since We've Been Wrong and the following track, Teflon, sticks to the trend.

More ballads to come! Halo of Nembutals and Twilight as My Guide almost made me fall asleep... But this is where the ballad trend is broken! Cotopaxi finally gives us the weirdness and randomness that we are used to and Desperate Graves is also a piece of upbeat madness.

With Copernicus, we're back in the slow-mo jive and the closing track, Luciforms, is pending between really slow and more upbeat.

Hardcore TMV fans will probably put the album back in the shelf and letting it stay there, but I don't think it's a crappy album at all. Since it's not what we're used to, it will take while to get into it, but I think it's worth a shot! As I mentioned eralier, it's probably a good album to start with for a new listener, but it's still far from "radio friendly".

Good album, but not great. 3 stars!

Report this review (#222883)
Posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Light? Just a bit less

So? Bedlam was almost a waste of money, from Amputechture (some parts of it not all the disc) TMV were going into an even strange direction, from my point of view that direction was far far away from prog music: a bit too metal 'without brakes', a bit too many jam parts, a bit too Bixler-Zavala without any control. I've put my eyes on this album with some hopes to see a reprise of the 'old TMV', since I liked a lot their debut album, and even the other works (at least 'till the weak Day of the Baphomets) are sublime prog pieces fullfilled with experimentations. So? Since this Octahedron make the point of 'light' TMV it'll be considered as a poppish album, at least after 2 or 3 spins and a lot of listener will mark it as garbage (I was doing the same mistake).

Apart from this introduction, this album works as a time hourglass: at the start almost every song (maybe Cotopaxi and Desperate Graves are the exception) start quietly with Bixler-Zavala's voice (and this time the guy use his voice as an instrument, like Anderson for Yes to be more clear) that follow the music, simple in most parts or great & strong while the song flows away, like the costant growing in the first track or the costant motion of Copernicus in a crescendo of tunes and atmospheres. So? TMV learned to make 'easy' music? Yep that's all, folks! ... or not? Well ''almost'' is the right answer. Since TMV have fullfilled their trademark with the costant 'drum-noise' of Bedlam (I know too many people that know ONLY Bedlam and Amputechture and from those they dislike tracks like Vicarious Atonement in favour of more 'movimented tracks') or jam parts I think this as a strong turn in the prevoius way, maybe even a kind of change that every strong group of musicians make in their career (Gen's passage to pop music, PT's abbandon of psych and more, in the present and past). This conclusion bring us to the last point of the review: when I bought the disc I thought that a good group like TMV deserved another chance so here we are: talking about the 'light' version of TMV, playing it over and over thinking about how weak can be the difference between the pop music and the 'jammed drum-noise' for the ears of a proghead, or about a group of musicians that made wrong decisions and now in a kind of fear about their income maybe will take the same path of Dream Theater, vandalizing their own music to sellsellsellsell. I hope not.

So I've finished the words, the album worth his price, the songs are good to listen, the Bixler-Zavala/Rodriguez-Lopez duet is still there to write/sing/sell the music but they aren't the old good TMV of De-Louses, not even the ones of Amputechture. Good not more not less. Honestly for what I was expecting from them not even a star, but for the album alone they're still 3 dirty stars.

Report this review (#224241)
Posted Thursday, July 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Mars Volta is a band that I have really gotten into in the past couple years. I really enjoyed their eclectic version of prog that always keeps me on my toes. It is exciting music that hits at you non-stop, and I couldn't get enough of it. They are willing to push the boundaries of modern music and create something truly crazy and brilliant. I loved "The Bedlam in Goliath", especially the first half of the album because it is non-stop craziness that comes at you relentlessly. It is exciting and breathtaking.

And then comes, "Octahedron", their acoustic album on the completely opposite end of the spectrum. Granted, the album is not truly acoustic, there is still the trademark Mars Volta heaviness in certain tracks, but it is somewhat subdued. This is evidenced right off the bat with "Since You've Been Wrong" which starts with several seconds of silence before a slow, acoustic ballad starts up. I think this is a beautiful song and really states the purpose The Mars Volta had in mind for this record. Cedric's vocals are very tender here, not the normal shrill screaming that accompanies some of the heavier tracks from The Mars Volta. Unfortunately, the album takes a turn for the worse from here for me.

The second track is "Teflon" and I just can't seem to get into it. It meanders along without having anything special come out of it. It is somewhere in between the two extremes, which makes the track neutral. "Halo of Nembutals" is another track that just fails to grab me. Similar to the previous track, it just seems to meander and never really find its footing. "With Twilight As My Guide" is slightly better and hearkens back to the mood of the first track. It is mostly acoustic guitar and some great vocals from Cedric.

Then, finally, the album kicks in with the rocker "Cotopaxi". I love this track, it embodies all I love about The Mars Volta in just under 4 minutes. It has groove to it, it rocks hard, and it is the band going full force. I love it. The greatness continues with "Desperate Graves" which really grooves and showcases the excellent drumming of Thomas Prigden. This is why I love the Mars Volta! Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of the final two tracks. "Copernicus" is pleasant, but nothing special and it gets tiring to me after awhile. "Luciforms" is a grower, and I'm starting to appreciate it, especially the jam toward the end, but overall, the track doesn't really move me like the other great Mars Volta tracks.

In conclusion, this album is just not for me. It isn't the same Mars Volta I fell in love with. I know that Bedlam was a little too much for some people, but for me that is exactly what is so brilliant about the band. I'm not a fan of this more laid-back approach. There are a few redeeming tracks that keep this from a one-star, but I can't give it any more than two. Sorry!

Report this review (#225342)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great album! Cedric called it an "acoustic" album,though it is not acoustic as most people understand it. Of course it is softer,much softer than all previous Mars Volta albums,but still it has this "electricity" and it keeps you strained when you listen to it. Certainly it is not perfect from my point of view:sometimes it seems to be predictable and "pop-sounding". Maybe this is what they meant to be an acoustic album. After listening it leaves you hypnotized and impresses very deep. I personally liked these organ transitions between songs,they join together the whole album. Also I liked electric drums in "Copernicus" song,they sound very appropriate and emphasize special mood of the song.Vocals are (as usual) over-impressive. This album is easier to understand in comparison with the previous ones.I also noticed that approximately in the middle "Octahedron" becomes heavier and more metal-sounding. And it culminates in the end of "Luciforms".Great album,I say one more time...I rate it 4 stars.
Report this review (#226624)
Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Does anyone else here think that Cedric Bixler-Zavala is starting to sound somewhat similar to a young Geddy Lee? That, and some of the guitar/bass/drum centric songs make The mars Volta occasionally sound like an edgy, punky, Rush. "Cotopaxi" is the Rushiest (is that a word?) of all the tracks.

I enjoyed The Bedlam In Goliath more than any other Mars Volta album, and was looking forward to this release. Honestly, except for a couple of tracks, I'm not very impressed. I was prepared for a lighter album than the previous, as many reviewers called this one "acoustic". No, it's not acoustic, just slower, for the most part, than Bedlam. While not bad, I much prefer the frenetic pace of the prior album. I like the Pink Floyd style they employ, but I would have liked to have heard more bedlam mixed in as well.

Also, I have a problem with the mix of this disk. While I love Thomas Pridgen's drumming, it's mixed a bit too far out front. On my primary sound system, it sounds great, but on any others, the drums sound breaks up the other instruments.

Report this review (#226818)
Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album comes as a pleasant surprise to me. As much as I enjoyed The Bedlam In Goliath I had a feeling that the band were going round in circles and didn't really have the capacity to really progress or change. Upon hearing 'Cotopaxi' it seemed to me that I was right; and while it's a great example of an up-tempo, catchy, Mars Volta jam it is hardly represesntative of the rest of the album.

That's not to say that it's a massive departure, since it's still unmistakably a Mars Volta record. But while 'The Bedlam...' was the band's most intense album to date, barely letting up in it's 75- minute barrage of noise and screaming horns/guitars, Octahedron mostly focuses on the softer side of the band's sound. This record, however is not going to change the mind of anyone who hates the band (people either seem to love them or hate them with no middle ground...). While there is a surprising lack of shredding guitar solos Cedric Bixler-Zavalas' wailing vocals are very much present.

Octahedron is not a classic, but it is a very easy and enjoyable listen. what it lacks in the scope and power of (most of) the previous albums, it makes up for in strong songwriting and great ear-grabbing melodies. 'Teflon' and 'Copernicus' in particular are up there with some of the best songs the band have written, and are as moving as 'The Widow' or 'Televators. But because of the lack of force behind the songs some tracks seem a little noncomittal and flabby. Opener 'Since We've Been Wrong' sets the tone perfectly, but doesn't do much to warrant your attention until near the end. 'Desperate Graves' is the worst track; while being more of a rock song it sounds like a castoff from 'Amputechture' (easily the worst MV album). 'With Twilight As My Guide' is a nice mood piece but doesn't really grab me unless I'm really concentrating on the album.

While it's nice that the band have written albums showcasing their different sides, what I would personally like to see in the future is a an album that combines songwriting finesse with their more psyvhadelic heavy rock sound. Octahedron is a strong showing but will not be remembered as one of their greats.

Report this review (#227073)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Acoustic?

When Mars Volta recorded this album shortly after the release of Bedlam In Goliath in August of 2008 they told fans and the press that this was to be their 'acoustic' album. That's a believable statement, but it seems that the boys have no idea what true acoustic is! No complaints, of course, because Mars Volta is best known by fans and critics alike to create wild and bizarre music out of anything electric that they can possibly get their hands on. This album is less acoustic than the band would have you believe, but more 'decaffe', so to speak. The entire album is fairly mellow, and even the more rocking songs (of which there are many) are more midpaced, and certainly more melodic than anything the band has done before. When it all comes down to it, this is the Mars Volta album for people who don't like Mars Volta - fans will have to decide for themselves whether they like the change of pace or not.

Although the album starts out with a slow song to kick everything off (and a minute and a half of silence on top of that before things actually get started) the entire thing has a very nice flow to it. And to the surprise of many, there's no improvised noise segments that so many people find oh so vexing about the band. The album really gets started, however, with the excellent Teflon, a midpaced songs that will easily become known as a classic by the band. It's got a killer beat and fantastic pace along with a memorable chorus (something Volta never ever does) but manages to stray from becoming poppy at any point. Other heavier songs (but never to the frantic chaos of the band's other albums) are also standouts. Halo Of Nembutals is a particularly evil sounding song with it's shouting parts and Cotopaxi remains as the soul song on the album that sounds like it could have come from any of the band's prior efforts. Luciforms is the most typically ''progressive'' song on the album thanks to it's length and speed changes, and makes for a nice end to the album.

It's the newer style songs that really make this album unique in the Volta catalog. With Twilight As My Guide is a slow and emotive song that makes the best of Cedric's vocals and shows range to his voice that was never truly showcased before. The opening track, Since We've Been Wrong is another such song that keeps things slow but active with it's more delicate melodies.

Overall, this has to be the most accessible Mars Volta album to date, and that's a good thing. Instead of simply bashing the audience over the head with music they've created something that's enjoyable to listen to from front to back on many occasions and not just if you're in the mood for some wild and crazy music. Hopefully they see this change of pace as a good one and model future albums after it. As a final note, it's interesting to read reactions to the album by fans so far, as some feel the album betrays them and others think that it's an interesting interlude in their discography. But regardless of what people think it's refreshing to see an artist that is actually challenging their fans to think without just blindly obeying them and giving them ''what they want'', because let's be honest, do fans know what they want? Hell no.

Kudos to Mars Volta on making a stellar effort that is bound to be seen as one of the best this year. This is certainly an excellent addition to any progressive library and worthy of 4.5 stars out of 5. So very close to a masterpiece, and if the next album takes elements of this album and progresses on them they will no doubt have a masterpiece on their hands.

Report this review (#227647)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#227708)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's not an acoustic album - epecially the ones most associated with MTV's unplugged so to speak.

Consider it adding progressive rock acoustic e.g. Strawbs mentality, not a folk e.g. Peter Paul and Mary mentality.

It still contains the same heavy Mars Volta instrumental and singing everyone expects - no turning into a pop band as many a prog band did in the late 1970's/early 1980's)

Hopefully they will continue to go in this direction because, as someone who was getting tired of Mars Volta recordings becoming like Tool or Ozric Tentacles recordings (basically sounding the same from cd to cd).

The acoustic element forced them change in a positive more musically variety direction that tends bring out the best of their estabished instrumental and vocal passages.

Hopefully this will lead to the masterpiece rating in future recordings, but still deserving an excellent rating

Report this review (#227797)
Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great songs, good album...

Blah blah blah pop...yadda yadda thing is certain, this sounds like a B-sides album. Not a bad thing at all, just a curious mix of some very good songs from a very good group. The Mars Volta do a fantastic job keeping you guessing with every release, and this should be expected by now. Most of the tracks on Octahedron are simpler and catchier than much of their earlier works, but none lack the overall mood I've grown to love. They seem keen on changing the style and/or tempo of their sound from record to record, but they do have a constant (perhaps to their own chagrin), which is mood. Every song this group produces has the same creepy-yet- strangely-beautiful vibe, and whether fast or slow, complex or simple, they continue this pattern with their 5th album. Fewer instruments, less progression, softer material, whatever! The boys from El Paso continue to hold my attention.

The Mars Volta have a rather critical fan base, as I'm sure many bands through time have had, but I believe they will win in the end. Years from now they will surely have cemented their footprints in music history, for they have adopted many styles to meld their own. And they have done that with vigor. Octahedron consists of 8 songs: 3 of a softer acoustic nature (Since We've Been Wrong/With Twighlight As My Guide/Copernicus), 3 catchy pop/rock songs with TMV flair (Teflon/Halo Of Nembutals/Derperate Graves), and 2 curveballs (Cotopaxi/Luciforms). Cotopaxi has the agressive feel of their previous album, The Bedlam In Goliath, but with different lyrical material, while Luciforms is more reminiscent of an Omar solo work. Some soft organ intertwines many of the songs, and the subtle piano throughout is beyond charming. All 8 songs have me hooked.

In comparison to the rest of the Volta's catalogue, Octahedron has one great bonus and one major flaw: BONUS- this is the only Volta album that is a good casual listen. What I mean to say is that it isn't off-putting to people not used to 15 minute epics of complex change-ups and spazzy guitar. Basically, it requires little endurance to enjoy, regardless of how one might absorb the musical experience. FLAW- The 4 albums leading to this have one fundamental I've become accustomed to and feel robbed of: EPIC PROPORTION. Octahedron is a mere 49 minutes, which by Volta standards is puny. To make matters worse, there is about 6 min. of filler. I accept that it is unfair to expect 75+ min. of music on a single album(even though the previous 3 were longer), and filler can be appropriate in longer albums, but this is simply not enough. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez supposedly has enough material in his music vault to fill another 10 albums, so how 'bout throwing your true fans a bone here?!? Make the album worthy of purchase, not theft.

By general standards this is a great album. By Volta standards it is quite underwhelming. I like very much that they try to approach each album differently, unlike many bands who make sad attempts to re-create their most popular album, but Octahedron leaves me there should be more. That being said, all of the songs are very good, Desperate Graves being one of my favorite songs by the group. In its entirety, however, this is the first and only album by The Mars Volta that hasn't blown my mind.

Songs alone get a 4.5. Album gets a 3.5. Avg to a 4

Report this review (#227802)
Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Decaffeinated is a great adjective I have heard to describe this album. So The Mars Volta previously created an album of almost nonstop thrash noise and craziness- now they have created an album of "Televators," so to speak- subdued, quieter pieces- and that's just fine by me. Each song is memorable and excellent in its own way. Conspicuously absent from this release is the bandleader's frenetic creativity with his guitar, but this album certainly would have suffered from that ingredient- this is the coffee house album. The Mars Volta has shown itself to be a perplexing monster that can morph into many different creatures, and yet retain the same sonic bloodline.

"Since We've Been Wrong" It takes about ninety seconds for anything remarkable to happen, but that near-silence sets the tone for this sedated album. The gentle acoustic guitar serves as a graceful backdrop to Cedric Bixler-Zavala's gentlest singing ever, but still retains Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's stark electric guitar lead. The band doesn't enter until five minutes has expired, but the wait is worth it. The simple chord progression does not mean dullness in the least- in fact, I was humming this tune after only the first time I heard its preview.

"Teflon" Heavy drums begin this outstanding track. Bixler-Zavala alternates singing in a low range (strange for him) to singing in his usual high one. The low chorus is quite catchy, same as before.

"Halo of Nembutals" After a dark and soft section, the memorable chorus ensues, and kicks off another great piece. As before, Bixler-Zavala uses a strange deep voice and juxtaposes it with his usual higher register. Some bizarre piano fills in during the instrumental interlude, but it is overpowered by almost clipping drums. The song ends abruptly as it leads into the next track.

"With Twilight as My Guide" Gentle acoustic guitar and excellent vocals fill out this lengthier track, with some subtle, guitar laced with effects and a straightforward organ underneath. The dull ending drags out a long time, however, perhaps to make the listener jump when the next track begins. Overall, this is a hauntingly beautiful piece, one I lamentably always forget about until it begins.

"Cotopaxi" The one wake up call of the album is a mere three-and-a-half minutes, and even then isn't full of the thrust and energy of the previous album. In it's context, it is still quite an amazing track, again with an outstanding chorus.

"Desperate Graves" Despite fairly soft verses, the chorus to this great song is somehow reminiscent of the band's debut album, albeit not as thick sounding. I love the snare technique the drummer uses, and his work just propels the piece along. That vocal bridge is another wonderful part (this album seems to be full of those regardless of its restrained nature).

"Copernicus" Perhaps my favorite on the album is the most muted thing The Mars Volta has ever done. Not only is everything quiet, but the singing is performed almost as a neurotic lullaby. The electronic drums in the middle section add another tasteful layer to this brilliant piece, as do the electric guitar fills. A soft piano ushers the track to a synthetic conclusion.

"Luciforms" Atmospheric sounds begin this final song, and the vocals are shrouded in not only odd effects, but also in that unfamiliar low register. The bass and drums stand out on this one more so than on any other tracks, and as usual, the chorus is what sticks out most. The guitar sounds like an ogre getting ready to vomit initially, before the reserved guitarist lets it rip with a wild solo, as though he had been holding back and could be caged no further. Weird piano runs and noises bring this placid yet somehow grotesque album to a close.

Report this review (#227904)
Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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 ½ stars.

Report this review (#228150)
Posted Friday, July 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars So I am one huge Mars Volta fan, I absolutely adored all of their other releases, and YES! that includes the so controversial "The Bedlam In Goliath", so when Octahedron was announced to be an acoustic album I was really looking forward to it, not that songs like "Televators" or "The Widow" are my favorites, but I like them very much and I am always happy to see bands try something different. So this album still contains fantastic moments, "Since We've Been Wrong" and "With Twilight As My Guide" are absolutely beautiful, so you can see that the problem here for me is not the acoustic pop thing! Because THAT was what I expected this album to be! If only all the songs were as astonishing as "Twilight" this would've been a great achievement for The Mars Volta. But then you have songs like "Teflon", and it is so terrible! "Teflon" is a completely uninspired song with bad hooks and bad melodies, annoying really, it is not intense, it is not tense, it isn't anything at all! Then we get "Luciforms", first of all, the silence at the beginning (just as in "Since We've Been Wrong" and "Halo Of Nembutals) is absolutely useless, then the voice melody is barely a melody but just like mumbling, this is also found in "Halo Of Nembutals", the better of the bad songs, due to its good chorus. I don't feel the need to talk about every song, I think I summed it up well, Cotopaxi is fantastic, though.
Report this review (#228348)
Posted Saturday, July 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars What happened to the freak that is The Mars Volta?

It's like the freak dressed up in the prettiest fashionable clothes and is pretending to be like everyone else.

This album is really boring. It is predictable. It is straight. It's missing all of the Latin groove influence. The intensity, power and fury that was shown in Bedlam is missing. Cotopaxi comes close but it is a long way from the brilliant Ilyena from Bedlam.

I don't mind laid back music. I like Televators and even The Widow and Miranda are okay but I don't listen to The Mars Volta for something laid back. Even when The Mars Volta does chilled, it is still a freak. The words are not deep. They are occasionally poetic, but mostly it is just weird.

I hope the freak comes back with the next album and I hope it isn't ashamed of being a freak.

Report this review (#228861)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Their best since "De-loused".

I know I was saying the same thing about "The Bedlam in Goliath", but even quick comparing of these albums makes me think of "Octahedron" as better one. A lot of acoustic stuff, obvious blues influence (so much prominent for the first time!) and SONGS, songs, my fellas, not 20-min long pseudoexperimental wackery! Such a rare case when a Prog band ables to write GOOD SONGS after too many pretentious material and staying Prog at the same time.

"Desperate Graves" alone makes this album worthy of buying, but other tracks are amazing too - acoustic blueses like "With Twilight As My Guide" and "Since We'Ve Been Wrong", electric blueses like "Halo of Nembutals" (what a chorus!) and "Luciforms", even usual VOLTA song like "Cotopaxi" would make you feel that you're listening to their best album for last 6 years! And yes, it's also perfect in length and song quality, no filler this time at all, pure music. Highly recommended, especially for those, who hated everything TMV has released after their debut ;)

Report this review (#231329)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a clear step down in speed and complexity from Mars Volta, enough to make this album very diffrent from any album they did before. At first that comes as a shock, but after only a few listens, its a pleassent surprice. Not that this is the Mars Volta i prefer from everything else they did, but in the way that change is great, and after 4 full lengt albums of 120% complexity, a bit of simplicity is nice. Mars Volta have shown on every recording that they can write a melody of a quality that very few band can. On this record that is excatly what they are doing, over and over.

The opening track "Since We've Been Wrong" a slow ballad, based on a beautiful accustic guitar melody, with a lead guitar hanging under the vocal. Full band kicking in after about 5 min., the kind of song you will find yourself singing in the bathroom.

After that "Teflon" with more tempo, Bass/Drum driven Rock, but still not as complicated as we are used to with Mars Volta. Anyway a heavier track, Cedric hitting a higher pich, and more "acid" keyb., again a very strong melody. "Halo of Nembutals" is the track that reminds most of early Mars Volta, melodi is not the main thing here, and the arrangement is more complicated, with the drummer at hard work for the entire 5,30 min, need to mention an underlying jazz'y piano at the end, reminding me of Crimsons Cat Food.

"With Twilight as My Guide" another supreeme melody, slow ballad speed, again with a very beautiful acc. guitar base, and a beautiful emotional keyboard, combined with Rodríguez Giutar "sounds" giving the track a space-rock feel, that you would find on early Floyd.

"Cotopaxi" is the albums Heavy upspeed track, with odd times, sudden breaks, and Drumm/Bass/Guitar driven Rock riffs. Only about 3,30 min, but clearly a HIT in my book.

"Desperate Graves" Again a track that remind of Mars Volta in their early days. But somehow not the track that stands out.

"Copernicus" the slow track that i love the most atm., the melodi is so strong it make me [&*!#] my pants every time . Songwriting of the highest level. Would be a 6 stars out of 5, if they had not used electronic drums in the middle of the track. Something that i simply dont understand on a song like this one . That said still a wonderfull song !!!! Great accustic piano sound at the second half.

"Luciforms" the ending track. Stands out, with a more freeform rock, the tracks got a "jam- session" feel to it, even though its clearly not. Solo's are more evident than on other tracks. Vocal more an instrument than a melodi, and there is a clear build up over the "sesion".

In my opinion a great album, that i would hate to have missed. A Bedlam II might have turned me of from Mars Volta, i need change, but with this realease i just cant wait for more.

I would like to give it 5 stars, but i know they can do even better, so i'll keep the last star for the next one d:)

4,5 rounded down

Report this review (#241518)
Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars "How much do you make in that death factory"?

After the wild intensity of "The Bedlam in Goliath", the Mars Volta have turned down all the dials, chilled out and produced a very nice album. They said it was their "acoustic album" - umm, well, it's a good site more acoustic than previous, but for most bands if they said this was "acoustic" I think they might be sued - but this is the Mars Volta - and they - unlike the most commercially successful bands - CAN DO WHAT THEY LIKE. If we like it or hate it then that's up to us, and they don't care...!

Personally, I DO like it - just not quite as much as their others. I love the wild crazy journeys the other albums take you on, and this isn't crazy enough for me. Never mind, it's given them at least some more building blocks/ alternative routes that can be added together with everything that's gone before to result ultimately in their greatest album (which I predict by the way to be their 8th - they are still really exploring at the moment - not running out of steam as some mistakenly think). And at least it isn't cursed this time!!!

When I heard it was acoustic, I thought there would be some immense extreme-twiddly highly skilled acoustic guitar playing that I totally love - Hmmm, I think Omar failed to deliver for me on that count - but as I said it certainly isn't for me to tell them what to do - or to expect them to do - as I said they do what they like and don't care what the listener thinks.

I disagree with many that this is an approachable album for new (and less wild-hearted listeners) - I don't think it's approachable (I know for sure my wife wouldn't like this). Play them whast the MV truly are with one of the previous albums.

Nevertheless, there is some really great stuff here that's worth listening to time and again, because it does grow on you.

The whole album seems to be dominated through-out by a single organ chord reprising each song - which is pretty cool actually and soothes the listener into a relaxed mood and thus to enjoy the music as he/she is supposed to - a very neat trick, although one I would not expect of the Mars Volta - one for Pink Floyd (Shine on you Crazy Diamond for example) or a band like "Nosound". I like this aspect - they put you in the right mood for the correct form of listening - in this (and in previous album) here lies their great skill - and in this they DO actually care about the listener.

...and the beauty is that they then take you by complete surprise in an utterly unexpected burst of wildness - in this it is the immense pulsating rhythm of "Cotopaxi" - in doing this they deliver the best moment of the album - brilliant! (they did the same with the introduction of "Cygnus.. Vismund Cygnus" in Frances the Mute - a fantastic storming moment.

If this is what they did throughout the album then this (like before) would be a masterpiece no doubt. For me, though there are a few errors - "Halo of Nembutals" and "Desperate Graves" represent my least favourite style of their music - these 2 songs have some good bits (the rhythms mostly) but they smell of past failures and have an "At the Drive-in" feel.

On the good side (I have already said Cotopaxi is awesome), the actual "acoustic" songs - "SInce We've Been Wrong", "With Twilight as my Guide" and "Copernicus" are truly excellent - and I DO really like these. The former is the closest the band have got to making a gentler song as good as "The Widow" and is certainly in the same vein. "With Twilight.." is in the same haunting mood as "Miranda that Ghost isn't holy anymore" - I was hoping that they would produce another song as good as that - and here they have certainly delivered - even to the point of unexpectedly bursting into "Cotopaxi" at the end - rather like they did when they bust into "Cassandra Gemini" before.

"Copernicus" is their gentlest song to date, and is actually well superb - great one here, MV.

"Teflon" has a great beating rhythm - the only song to seem to have been left out of "Bedlam in Goliath".

And the album finishes with a bang, in the immensely good "Luciforms" - which at last (for this album) includes one of Omar's incredible "dicing with discordance" solos. A truly haunting piece, building in power - possibly the best of the album.

So you see I like 6 of the Octahedron - so you may wander why only 3 stars? (3 and a half really) Well, as I said it's not quite wild enough for me - and I think they are rushing it a little in putting music together rather like Enid Blyton. I remember reading an interview with the former drummer Jon Theodore in which he said they practised intensely for a whole year to get "Deloused in the Comatorium" right. Well, what I'm hoping is that they will take all these new ideas and directions, put it all together, then put the same (or more) amount of effort that they did with "Deloused" - in such a way if they do they will come out with the greatest album of all time - as I said it will be their 8th!!! (Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's 8th - remember they did stuff like "Ummagumma" and "Atom Heart Mother" on the way - I mean - what were they about???).

Here's hoping....

Still, an album that I would certainly recommend. 3.5 stars (rounded down to 3)


Report this review (#244085)
Posted Sunday, October 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars TMV's fifth studio album doesn't see much change in terms of musical directions, especially after their previous (and best so far) Amputecture and (less successful) Bedlamù In Goliath. Obviously the group has now definitely done with Hypgnosis-style artwork, preferring drawn freaky animals and world of Jeff Jordan. The duo of Cedric and Omar is now at its best, while the "group" seems to relatively stable. But what is now-confirmed is that TMV chooses shorter format songs. The previous Bedlam had no songs above 10 minutes and only two above 9, but with the present one, only one track is over 8. Quite a change compared to Amputecture's three above or France's all above 10-mins and one of 32-minutes.. Personally I think it helps the group being a bit more concise and not having total mayhem on the discs.

Starting on a super-low and slow intro, Cedric gives us some of the most gentle singing he's done so far over the superb Rodriguez (or is it Frusciante from the great RHCP?) guitar, and then once the track reaches cruising speed some (fake?) mellotrons and drums come in. A little further down, the album, Halo Of Nembutals is a clear winner as well. The almost 8-mins Twilight As My Guide is however very Yes-inclined with a steel lap and tweer-than-usual vocals, but it certainly brings some fnesse and clam before the Cotopaxi tropical storm. Again a bit further down Desperate Graves is another mellotron-induced track and another very strong track. Copernicus is another quiet track and the closing Luciforms leaves the impression that TMV's latest album is not only their most relaxed so far, but also the most mature

Definitely an album that grows on you easier than their earlier works, which took some "getting used" to them, Octahedron is most likely their shortest album by far, clocking around a normal 70's album, and it makes it that much more enjoyable if you don't mind saying so. Albums above 60 minutes are generally not welcome with me, and when they were above the 75 mins, they not only provide boredom and confusion?. They tire the listener very easily . As with GG's Octopus, MV's 8 tracks were induced by the title

Report this review (#246009)
Posted Saturday, October 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars Restraint, mood, and an edgy feeling of peril rules the day with this solid Mars Volta release which is a much improved package than its predecessor thanks to a more comphrensible tone and genuine class in song writing.

Taken as a whole, "Octahedron" slinks its way through the ears at slow tempos and extended passages of negative space. The song's heavy moments (of which there many) are much less frantic or intense than anything they have yet recorded, the band playing big, full compositions with fewer dexterity-based embellishments than usual. There is a good mixture of dynamics, with the more mellow passages standing out to me as the album's highlights. The loud stuff is somewhat bland, but still powerful; there are few things in noisier songs which catch one's attention-- especially when compared to their past works. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it takes "Octahedron" places the group hasn't yet fully explored, but it does not as easily engender itself to the listener as in, say "Deloused". Fans of the band will certainly appreciate the change in this album's tone.

Cedric's strong singing is very listenable as well, sounding almost like a croon. Gone is the castrati-falsetto of "Bedlam" in favor of some honest-to-goodness seranades, like in the excellent "Twilight as my Guide". His lyrical content is characteristic, sending off a fun mix of sinister undertones hidden behind strangely beautiful combinations of words. Omar's stellar guitar work is largely tonal, with only one real solo which closes the album on a powerful note. There is some nice riffing in the heavy songs, but don't expect to be dazzled.

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable Mars Volta entry; far from the monolithic success of their previous works but standing tall despite expectations.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#248198)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I have been baffled at my own attitude about THE MARS VOLTA for a while now. I disliked 3 of their 4 previous albums, I never really enjoyed anything they did after "De-loused in the Comatorium", yet I have all their albums, and continue to get their new releases every time they appear in the store bin. I guess there's a little part of me that still believes this band can achieve greatness, the one they hinted at with their debut album.

"Octahedron", while still not a favorite of mine, is a step in the right direction and quite an improvement over both the boring "Amputechture" and the hyperactive "Bedlam in Goliath". In this most recent album, THE MARS VOLTA finally seems to have decided to restraint their drummer, who doesn't seem like he's trying to steal the spotlight away from the entire band anymore, and who plays like a regular, skilled musician. The over-emotional vocals by Bixler-Zavala are also more rational this time around, and there's less jamming/experimentation/waste-of-time on this record.

There seems to be a much higher focus put on creating actual songs this time around, and the best evidence strikes us right from the start: "Since we've been wrong" is one of the most melodic, best songs the band has ever released, actually (and incredibly so) catchy, memorable, without losing credibility or atmosphere. Never since their debut album did the band manage to make me want to press "replay" in my player, but with this song I had to do it. Tracks like "Cotopaxi" (named after a volcano in my country, who would imagine) signal a shift in priorities, which nowadays would appear to be more in the making good songs and music side of things. The band fails to deliver another fantastic song after the end of the first one, but it nevertheless accomplishes the unthinkable for me: it made my sitting through the entire album an smooth, satisfying experience. Less emphasis in feedback and distortion and more in melody seems to have helped matters.

A good album that is in no way a masterpiece or even an excellent record but that signals better things to come. 3 stars is the perfect rating in my view.

Report this review (#248446)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I believe that The Mars Volta is one of most interesting modern heavy prog band. I love their two first albums. And I love Cedric's voice and their chaotic noisy beauty in music as well ( I know there are many of people who hate Cedric's voice, but for them there are plenty of classic voices all around!).

Octahedron is not a usual TMV album. Not really "acoustic" as was advertised, it less complex, less chaotic and most pop-friendly album they recorded till now. I think, many newcomers will be happy with it, for sure it is most accessible. ( I am sorry about Cedric voice, he sings there as usual, so his voice haters wouldn't be happy with this album).

More ballads, more acoustic moments, less spacy synth sounds, not so shocking sound mixing. But it still TMV at all their best and worth. In many moments you can catch their usual melodies and constructions, a bit more polished for that release. Not too many new ideas, not too many experiments, but still sound fresh and interesting.

I feel that TMV trying to find a new direction for their music. After two first masterpieces, they just searching all around for new directions. This album is more transition than the new way.

It will be really interesting, what will be their next album/sound.

Report this review (#250100)
Posted Thursday, November 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars It definitely isn't the same sound as in case of their first. Because when I about year ago tried it, I fled in fear, as first track here is, well, it's repelling. It can scare newcomers like me away easily. And so I've tried it again and again, unsuccessfully (OK, I could skip this track and move further and I'll probably do it one day, but you know, it's not the right way).

Here, I was wondering what's going on for first 1:40 minutes, because I didn't hear a sound from my headphones (as I'm listening music not so loud, even normally it's enough). Then, something that pleased me. Acoustic TMV ? I say yes, big and complete yes, because that's you don't have to be heavy, scary and unpleasant to impress people. Definitely not in first track. And if this album managed to get me into TMV, first track was screaming all over place: "Take it easy, we have a lot to offer (I already knew it) and we are presenting it in better (for me) form". And second track, little bit departing from style of first one, but that's my point. Little bit, slowly, not suddenly and unexpectedly, because one (especially me) have to feel confident a little bit. It's all this "home" matter, you need to have one to feel good, that you have place where you're welcomed, where you can return and which you know very well.

And according to Snobb's two ideas, I quite a love Cedric's voice. He sings good, but I understand that some may hate it. I don't see anything bad what I would hate about him. And second thing, as I said, it's accessible. Being the most accessible is big OK for me, as I want to use this album as a leap point and jump from it to others, because I'll feel more familiar with their music. Not their most heavy caliber, even to my ear, it sounds quite heavy.

4(+), but now, I know that I'll not think about TMV in bad way so much anymore.

Report this review (#253275)
Posted Saturday, November 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This first encounter of mine with renowned US otfit The Mars Volta turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

What strikes me most about this album are the strong tinges of psychedelic rock and to some extent space rock that are constantly a part of the soundscape, whether it is echoing sounds, cold futuristic synths or vintage sounding guitar effects with the 70's and freaked out experiences written all over them.

The vocals of Bixler is another distinct feature - light in a love or loathe manner I haven't encountered since Geddy Lee's younger days, and used highly effectively to add dramatics to the proceedings.

The compositions themselves are quirky affairs, and while the main structural parts may not be that complex numerous minor details adds at times massive shifts in sound and overall expression - a multitude of times in the most sophisticated ventures.

Excellent mix and production add the spit and polish needed to lift this album from the realms of the very good to the superior plane. That is, if you tolerate the lead vocals and you appreciate adventureous progressive music with a fair share of contemporary musical tinges mixed with some of the sounds of yesteryear. An impressive effort as far as I'm concerned.

Report this review (#254015)
Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octahedron. (I need to review an album every once in a while...).

Following The Bedlam In Goliath, I had a bit of skepticism about this one. I'm no longer able to absorb a non-stop sonic barrage, so the talk of an 'acoustic' album was of great interest to me.

The opener, Since We've Been Wrong, is one of the finest latter-day King Crimson-derived songs I've ever heard. In fact they probably at this point are more capable of playing early KC than KC themselves. If you like Lizard era KC, this song is for you, only lacking the signature KC tritones. Droning synths fade to backing acoustic and shimmering electric guitars that ride over the vocals, with nary a drum nor bass in earshot. The dynamics are blessed relief from Bedlam. But then in true KC fashion, the song explodes into mellotron- driven beauty and pounding bottom end of bass/drums. Never overbearing sonically, this is simply a great song.

I'm not so enamored of Teflon; it's a bit too close to Bedlam. No, I don't want an album of lullabies, but compared with the opening cut this one lacks a bit dynamically. No complaints about the overall melodies here however, some of which are reminiscent of The Beatles 'round 'bout The White Album. Still, this one doesn't do a lot for me.

Organ segues to Halo of Nembutals. Good lord, where do they come up with these melodies that just suck me in? There's still those shimmering, wavering guitars in the background underpinning the lyric, and as the song progresses a bit more mellotron seeps in, laying low in the mix.

With Twilight As My Guide is a good mess of slide guitars riding over the acoustics, great melodies, and the band is not afraid to throw in a bit of noisy synth here and there, especially toward the end, just like back in the good old days of their early albums, with Pink Floyd being the obvious reference point.

Cotopaxi is a bit more Teflon. Same approach. I heard all this stuff on the last album.

Church organ segue.

Desperate Graves. Leslie-guitar and mellotron over a driving beat. TMV do know and pay appropriate homage to their sources. The song is for me is another weak one. Again it's not bad, there is just not a lot of melodic or rhythmic interest here, especially given what has come before.

Copernicus. Good lord, where do they come up with these melodies? What I said about Halo of Nembutals goes double here. It's all so simple: a few little guitar arpeggios, played slowly, given time to let the notes ring a bit, some bass and cymbal and synth in the mix, again shimmering, ice reflecting the sun on a frigid day. A beautiful vocal. Then layer after layer of sound added, but never obtrusively. Really, sometimes it sounds almost as if they could crank out song after song like this.

Synth segue.

Luciforms. This one follows to the form of most of the album. Synths droning over white noise, until the leslie guitars and vocals fade in, then explodes to buzzing guitars and pounding drums. To these ears, another fairly weak track.

The Mars Volta seem to be trapped in an interesting corner here, which is fully reflected in the songs on this album: do we go after the listeners who liked the first two albums, or do we go after those who liked the two most recent? Actually, that's probably not a fair assessment. I doubt they are going after listeners. The question would be: which muse do we follow? In the end, they apparently decided to split the difference.

When this band is on, when they are not trying to impress and overwhelm with sheer volume and avalanches of sound, they are still capable of crafting incredibly beautiful music. When they are off, they don't show me a thing.

Report this review (#255672)
Posted Friday, December 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars My first experience with the Mars Volta was their debut album, Deloused in the Comatorium. While I enjoyed the album, I found that the music was not too varied, and I wasn't sure I wanted to buy any future Mars Volta albums. They seemed to me like they would likely be more of the same.

When I heard that Mars Volta's new album was "acoustic" (by their standards), I grew interested in it. It promised that it would not sound exactly like Deloused.

My first listen through this album, I was very happy with what I had heard. Cedric's vocals now had a lot more variety to them than the screaming of Deloused; it was as if he had started where Geddy Lee started, but advanced further than Geddy ever did. His voice on this album just has so much more texture and variance than it did at the start that I can't help but love it.

The music itself has a lot more feel to it than before as well. The guitars range from actual acoustic tracks to hard rockers like Cotopaxi. There are more obvious effects than in Deloused as well, which give the music more variety than just quiet and loud.

High points for me include With Twilight As My Guide, a quiet, eerie song where Cedric's vocals really excel and the guitars and effects support the song quite nicely. Cotopaxi is another nice song, although this one (along with Desperate Graves) rocks a bit harder. Teflon is a nice track that also demonstrates Cedrics singing to great effect, with a somewhat eclectic chorus.

The rest of the album is also full of good music, but overall, no amazing heights are reached with this album. A pleasant, mostly-acoustic album that gets a solid three star rating.

Report this review (#256893)
Posted Saturday, December 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An Accoustically Plugged album ...

Long before this album by The Mars Volta was on my hands I was told by my prog-mates that this new album is basically an acoustic one from the band. Then I imagined that it's gonna be something like "12:5" of Pain Salvation or "Damnation" of Opeth. But it's not a live album and not performing the old stuffs with acoustic version. So I was curious about it - how it sounds like? I have always considered the music of TMV is in heavy fashion with electrically driven music and many distortions have been used like in "Frances The Mute" album. And..yeah! Finally I got the album with me and I got 'flat' reaction at first spin even though I was quite interested with the opening track "Since We've Been Wrong" due to its acoustic guitar, mellotron and a bit of bluesy style; and "Desperate Grave" with its unique sound and melody.

It then really grew on me with some more spins and I realized that it finally became my regular album playlist in my iPod or stereo set at home. And I don't think this is something like "12:5" of Pain of Salvation in style and approach as the materials contained here are all new ones unlike PoS' one. I may consider it like Opeth "Damnation" but not really. Why? In this album TMV still maintains its roots in "heavy" side of the music which has characterized its music from the first album with sort of abrasive style. I still find it as The Mars Volta album even though there are many acoustic sounds plugged electrically in the music. While in the case of Opeth "Damnation" I could not find "growling" vocal as main characteristic of Opeth music, and it turns like CAMEL music to my ears.

Let's comeback to Octahedron album. One single strength of this acoustically plugged album is on its cohesiveness of the music as all eight songs form a solid line like a story telling from start to end. There is no one single track that is out of track in terms of style or approach but it is not a boring one to listen to - individually each track is an excellent one to enjoy. Most of melody of the eight songs are good, the composition is basically song orientated style and make it easy to digest. Even though most of them quite straight forward but there are some complexities as well as change of styles by this album. The other great thing about this album is the nuances created from songs played by the band - all of them are really excellent! The high register notes vocal line makes it unique The Mars Volta! "Cotopaxi" sounds heavy and reminds me to to "Frances The Mute" style and the riffs are really great and it becomes my favorite as well as "With Twilight as My Guide" and "Desperate Grave". Don't get me wrong I love all tracks actually ... theay are all excellent tracks!

Highly recommended album!

Please tell your Mom that you still keep on proggin' even though you are now listening to an acoustically plugged album by a heavy prog band The Mars Volta!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - happy progressive year 2010!!!

From your prog mate in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Report this review (#258994)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars A Step In The Right Direction

My introduction to The Mars Volta was their previous album, The Bedlam In Goliath. That was one of the worst albums I've ever experienced in my entire life, and every second of it made me cringe. I was hesitant in buying the new album by The Mars Volta, but since I'd heard that Octhedron showed a softer side to their music, I figured it was worth a shot.

Let me say that I am really glad I gave this a try. This proved to me that The Mars Volta are more than just self-indulgent mindless noise. This showed me that they have a melodic side and that they have talent as songwriters - two things that are impossible to see through the unlistenable mess of The Bedlam In Goliath.

While it is true that some of this album can get boring, and some of it is bland and organic, this is a really good album. This doesn't make me an instant fan of the band, but it shows me that they are very capable musicians. I don't think that Octahedron is a great prog album, or even one of the best of 2009; but it is a solid album from beginning to end. I really like the soft acoustic sound that is played on this album, and I think the band can shine as musicians more this way. They still show their heavier side on a few songs, but this is generally a soft album.


"Since We've Been Wrong"- After an unnecessary one and a half minute period of silence, the first notes of the album enter. It shows a much different side of he band than the previous album. I really like the softer approach to this song, and I like the acoustic instrumentation in contrast to the melodic electric guitar. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I enjoy Cedric's vocals here. This is a really good song from beginning to end. The entrance of drums and mellotron near the end is excellent, and it shows great progression throughout the song. If more Volta songs were like this I would be a fan of the band. "Teflon"- After the solid opener, this opens up with a drum beat. This goes into a fairly annoying verse, but it gets better. This has some good melodies and riffs throughout. I like the overall rhythm of the song. The vocals can get a little annoying later in the song, but this is a solid composition.

"Halo of Nembutals"- The first minute of this song is just noise, but after that this is one of the best songs on the album. This is very melodic with solid riffing. The vocals fit the mood of the song perfectly. I really like the melodies on this song, and it proves how capable these guys are. This is one of the most inspired Mars Volta songs I've heard.

"With Twilight As My Guide"- I like the acoustic feel to this song, and this has really good melodies. This has an atmospheric feel to it, mostly because of the hypnotic acoustic guitar notes. Parts of this song can get a little boring, though.

"Cotopaxi"- The previous song was fairly boring, but this is fast and upbeat. I really like the fast guitar riffing. This is a high quality riff, and it makes for a high quality song. The vocals, drumming, and guitar playing are all great. This proves that all heavier Mars Volta songs aren't just mindless noise. One of my favorites from the album.

"Desperate Graves"- This is an upbeat song with a solid chorus. Not all of this song is that solid, and the verses fail to grab me. The catchy chorus is enough to make this a good song, though.

"Copernicus"- This song is 7 and a half minutes, and it gets pretty repetitive. It never really does anything new, and it can lead to some serious boredom. I like the addition of piano near the end, but the electric drums near the middle don't fit in the context of the song. Overall, this is probably my least favorite from the album.

"Luciforms"- This song is pretty irritating and never gets much accomplished. The vocals are self-indulgent and annoying. This doesn't feature any good riffs like much of the album, and this leads to a disappointing end. This has a weird feeling throughout, and it's decent. They should have ended this with one of the earlier songs, though.


Octahedron is a really good album by The Mars Volta. This doesn't have the various flaws that killed its predecessor, and this album comes recommended from me. I don't think it's really above average, but it still is an enjoyable album. I'm going to give this a 3 star rating, as I think this is really good, even if I don't consider it an excellent album. This is recommended for people looking to get into The Mars Volta, as I think it's one of their best.

3 stars.

Report this review (#259835)
Posted Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been a huge fan of the band since their first album, I never imagined they'd progress so well, especially into this quieter, stark, striped down territory. Their last two albums are actually my favorite of Mars Volta's five albums. They just keep getting better. My favorite album of the year.

You know, with regard to this band in general....The last thing I expected in the 90s was Nu Prog (I just coined that). I love how they've taken post-punk thrash sounds and shown how they can be blended with everything from free jazz to art folk to make truly progressive music. I envision them turning on all these young minds raised on regular radio "alternative" to truly innovative, progressive and artistic rock. Five excellent albums to date, and this is one of their best.

Report this review (#273571)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars I am sure I'll offend many fans of this band with my review,but I cannot stop myself to criticise and condamn this kind of music that this guys are doing!My oppinion is that THE MARS VOLTA are really pushig the boundaries of madness and imposture to an unbelieveble level,just in the name of the fact thet they pretend to be themselves ORIGINALS!I think that the guys simply took too many drugs and other happy substances,and they are permanently stoned and in this state of mind and spirit they expsess themselves...musically!It's an amalgam of hysterical musical ideas, with hysterical vocals-annoying and able to disturb the brain of any normal person,and I think that it's almost impossible for this guys to play a second time this compostions the same way like the song was initially composed?!?!Am I right? Undoubtedly,they are good - instrumentally speaking,they are performant musicians,but the final product is a mixture of crazy,twisted and tortured ideas...Zappa can be proud about this twisted mutants,and the frenzy and hallucinating music express only the tortured mind and spirit of the musicians from the band!Listening a whole MARS VOLTA album from the first to the last song is a trial of fire... a torture...a test of will exercise of mental resistance!!! Honestly...if this is the future of music..I am very worried ,dissapointed and sad!By the way...they cannot be included in any category,in my oppinion...anyway they are not prog metal at all!!!...maybee it's necessary to invent a new musical category for TMV-stupid,stoned and hysterical music?!?!Without any star...well 1 for nothing!
Report this review (#278551)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octahedron is the definition of a grower, each listen brings the album closer to your heart and rewards you with a deeper and fuller appreciation of the superb music and lyrics on offer.

The unusual thing however; is that with any other Mars Volta cd the repeated listenings unveil hidden saxophone parts, guitar licks you hadn't heard before or hidden layers of vocals that you missed while concentrating on the drums.

With Octahedron its what you don't hear which becomes so impressive with each new listen. The focus, clarity and purity of this album is what's breath taking; The band likened it to an acoustic album not because of the instrumentation but because of the stripped down feel and intimacy that this record has.

Opener 'Since We've Been Wrong,' may feel like a ponderous Televators-alike when you first skeptically listen to the album, but the haunting vocal performance and unusually decipherable lyrics will at first challange your skepticism, impress you and finally make you fall in love. That is the perfect example of why this album is so magnificent, songs like 'With Twilight As My Guide,' and 'Halo of Nembutals,' insinuate themselves into your brain and slowly wrap themselves around the pleasure centres.

The album is however no all-ballad oddity with no power, single 'Cotapaxi,'is a frantic punky song that would fit right in on The Bedlam in Goliath and album closer 'Luciforms,' features an impressive Omar solo along with some fine complicated material that stops the album from feeling like a complete departure from tradition.

Some fans may be dismissive of this record because they wanted something brash, noisy, busy and confusing but were instead treated to the most deliberate and thoughtful Mars Volta album to date and that's the great thing about the band, you never know what to expect.

Report this review (#278837)
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars ...And finally there was music. I'm glad.

Based in what I have heard of The Mars Volta, I really dislike most of their past material, but this particular album took me with my guard down. There was music and not noises all over the place. There were fine melodies and a very mature sound, appealing and fresh.

The music is more focused, they seem to have a better idea where to take the music and the listener, and actually take them there. There's a lot of somekind of mellow moments and a lot of catchy melodies, but that doesn't mean that the music lacks of energy and strength. There's always an approximation of power and emotion that I do like a lot, so, if you are like me and don't like The Mars Volta, maybe this is your album to check. Now, if you are a usual TMV fan, maybe you get a little disappointed because is different, I don't find a better word but different.

If somebody is worry, well, the craziness of their music is there, but in less moments and in a more controlled way. If I have to point to some very weak element about this band is the singer. He became very annoying in some moments, but I have to say, with this more mature material, the vocals seem to fit better. There are good and bad moments for it, and now is like 50/50 and not as annoying as in other albums, so, I think for me is a win, not sure for the TMV fans.

A well balanced album that I think I can price with 3 stars, because it is a good album and shows that TMV can actually made not self indulgent high music, but just music, without pretentiousness. I hope they stay in this kind of projection? only time will tell.

Report this review (#281422)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Mellow Side of the Over Caffeinated Duo

I've dabbled in the Mars Volta since coming to Prog Archives, and I've always liked the band up to a point. But the recent Octahedron is the first album that I truly enjoy. I'm certain that some long time fans will find this album too soft, or think the band is losing their edge. But experience and maturity have combined with a collective exhale to allow the music to truly breathe. It's not that the band are necessarily better songwriters now, it's just that the songs actually speak for themselves rather than being an all out assault from their authors' personalities. In other words, where previous albums feel like they're all about the artists need to vent some deep seated tension, Octahedron is about the songs, the melodies, the groove. Each one has some story to tell, a different way to communicate. It's as if the band is finally reaching out to us, the audience. Their psychedelic world is established, and finally the strange creatures that are Cedric and Omar are actually ready to host some visitors.

The advance on this record was that it was going to be TMV's "Acoustic album." Well there's very little that's acoustic here, but the layers are scaled back a little, and the tonalities used are a bit less abrasive. Guitars are often not distorted (though certainly effected) and it feels like there might actually be some headroom in the mix. The lyrics are dark and cryptic as ever, with a strange murder mystery theme running through alongside she-devil images. The atmosphere is psychedelic as ever, but I think the boys may have been drawing on something very different than during the recording of the manic Goliath record.

All of the songs on this record are quite good. "With Twilight As My Guide," which truly is acoustic, is a highlight, with a superb vocal performance (both lyrics and singing.) I also like the opener "Since We've Been Wrong" which sets the stage by giving the listener something familiar to hold on to before twisting and turning into the wild ride that is every MV record. "Desperate Graves" and "Copernicus" are strong as well. The flow from song to song is good, and the length of the record is relatively economical these days as well. It's simply a very good listening experience.

In the end, this is simply my favorite Mars Volta album. Maybe that means I'm losing my edge, or that I'm not fully appreciating the band at their full blown power. But it's my listening time and this is one I like.

Report this review (#282822)
Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The acoustic album, apparently.

This is quite a lo fi album, with more acoustic material out weighing the jazz rock tunes, but If your thinking, "acoustic Mars Volta, is it possible."

Yes it is, and it works really well.

The songs are quite beautiful and the vocals are in a step in a new direction for Cedric, exploring a more lower register.

The songs are easier digestable than their previous material, and this album is far better than their last.

1. Since We've Been Wrong - Beautiful chorus with some amazing melodies and harmonies from Cedric. The accompaniment is really beautiful as well. 10/10

2. Teflon - A return to rock. This song does kick major ass and the chorus is excellent. 10/10

3. Halo Of Nembutals - Quite an odd song with even odder lyrics. Some fantastic images being made though. 8/10

4. With Twilight As My Guide - Almost like an aria, even the accompaniment is very unpercussive. Amazing vocals. 9/10

5. Cotopaxi - Another return to the rock. 8/10

6. Desperate Graves - Pretty catchy chorus. Easily could have been the single for the abum. 10r/10

7. Copernicus - Amazing arrangment and the lyrics are pretty cool, dealing with kidnapping. 10/10

8. Luciforms - Has quite a doomy quality. Amazing outro. 9/10

CONCLUSION: Alot stronger and more mature.

Report this review (#289673)
Posted Thursday, July 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Mars Volta's unplugged album is hardly that, but next to "The Bedlam in Goliath" it can certainly seem like a welcome return to Terra Firma.

Their notorious 2008 album was so dense it became practically opaque: a runaway 16- wheel juggernaut of rocket-fueled psychedelia (I continue to admire the album for its uncompromising intensity, but find it almost unlistenable for exactly the same reason). In startling contrast, the music of "Octahedron" is polished to a rare (for this band) transparency, through which the boundless creativity of a unique ensemble can once again be distinguished.

It's a fitting title for such a multi-faceted album. Having purged the fury of "Goliath" from their collective system, the band was able to dial back their usual manic energy toward a (most of the time) more manageable level. But the result is another polarizing effort from an always unpredictable group, blindsiding many fans by daring to sound halfway accessible, in songs often having a (gasp!) traditional verse-chorus-verse structure.

The change of pace is best heard in the trio of ballads here. "Copernicus" features a few moments of actual acoustic piano, in its own way more shocking than anything on the "Goliath" album. The haunting "With Twilight as My Guide" dips, in its final moments, into the same "Saucerful of Secrets" once served by PINK FLOYD. And the album opener "Since We've Been Wrong" has probably the most beautiful melody in The Mars Volta catalogue so far.

Elsewhere the album is no less powerful or loud than earlier efforts. But even during the more typically aggressive rockers ("Cotopaxi" is a classic Mars Volta adrenalin kick) the band is careful to maintain firm control over the material, rather than allowing (again, as they did on "Goliath") the music to control them.

Albums by The Mars Volta usually require a lot of time and persistent replays to be digested properly. The band's fifth studio effort is really no different, despite the more user-friendly style (which is one reason why I allowed more than a year to pass before even trying to form an opinion of it). I can't entirely dismiss the thought that it's the perfect Mars Volta album for people who don't really like The Mars Volta; one misses the arcane extremities of concept and composition that animated earlier efforts like "Frances the Mute" and "Deloused in the Comatorium". But there hasn't been a Mars Volta album yet made that didn't leave me anxiously wondering where the band would turn next, and the velvet- lined knuckleduster punch of "Octahedron" is no exception.

Report this review (#290358)
Posted Wednesday, July 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Octahedron' - The Mars Volta (7/10)

Following a pretty dissapointing bout with 'The Bedlam In Goliath,' The Mars Volta's self- proclaimed 'acoustic album' comes as a very refreshing return to quality, although failing to reach the glory of their first works. While 'Bedlam' may have been chock-full of chaos, noise and atonality, 'Octahedron' makes out to be their most conventional and 'accessible' piece of music to date. While some of the band's more hardcore fans might see this as a sign of the band slowing down, I for one am very relieved to see the band decided to recoil from the path they were on, to do something unexpected and new in their career.

Of course, the big controversy with 'Octahedron' is it's label as an 'acoustic album,' while fans everywhere swear that the music is full of electric guitar. While the music is certainly not 'acoustic' in the conventional sense, the message is very clear; the band here is trying to take a much less dense approach to their music, which helps remedy alot of the issues that the band had in albums prior. For the first time in their career, their use of psychedelic effects is becoming effective and much more polished than before, where it seemed a bit too over- indulgent. For the most part, the focus of the songs relies on the melodies of vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, whose voice is in top form for this album.

While the album does keep a cohesive string of pretty good music throughout the album, there are a few parts that recall back to 'The Bedlam In Goliath;' meanwhile other parts feel a bit too bland and mellow. While I laud The Mars Volta for developing their sound in the right direction, a little bit more balance between extremes could help the band regain even more of their past glory. In any case, while the group hasn't entirely redeemed themselves and pulled themselves out of their recession, they are certainly making progress, and I believe that their next release (provided it continues to develop the group's music) has real potential to make waves in the prog rock scene, like before.

Report this review (#299212)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Who gives a flying sexual penetration if this isn't as flawless or fresh as "...Comatorium." That's not a pinnacle a band can be expected to attain more than once. The Mars Volta hasn't sold out--maybe this is easier on the ears than their previous work, but it's still far more challenging than, say, anything Porcupine Tree has ever put to tape. This isn't radio music--other stuff that gets five stars in the Heavy Prog category here might as well be.

"With Twilight as my Guide" is the definitely high-point here for me. Sounds like something Yes might've created after being frozen in carbonite soon after creating "Relayer," only to be thawed out in 2009. My only criticism is the repetitive and ridiculous opening to Cotopaxi. Copernicus and Luciforms also leave quite a bit to be desired.

Report this review (#318276)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album really strips away a lot of what makes the mars volta unique, but despite that I have to say that I really like it. As progressive rock listeners we sometimes tend to equate "different" with "good" and while tmv's previous album was surely different, I found it to be unlistenable. This album is more reliant on the vocals than others, so I wouldnt recommend it to someone who is turned off by the singer, but I had actually been waiting for an album where they could use the vocals like this. One of my favorite songs on De-loused (still their best album) was televators and this is a really good album for someone who liked televators. Octahedron is not a masterpiece, but it is a very solid album which listeners will find much more accessible than some of their other releases.
Report this review (#356220)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was very disappointed with this album. TMV were one of my favourite new groups of the past decade, but this is their weakest and least proggy album yet. A lot of the songs here sound like they were rejected for other albums because they weren't good enough. Before this came out it was rumoured to be the TMV 'acoustic album'. It is mellower than what came before but not extremely acoustic-oriented. I would refer to this as the 'ballad album' instead. While I usually enjoyed the ballads they did on earlier releases, the ones here are nowhere near as good.

Sustained synth links the tracks together. The two best songs here, "Teflon" and "Cotopaxi", really stand out on this album and sound the most like earlier TMV. "Halo Of Nembutals" is the only other decent song that could have been at home on other albums. "Desperate Graves" is not too bad but would have been filler on the first three albums. "Copernicus" has some interesting IDM-style drum machine programming in the middle, but otherwise this song is just boring. "Since We've Been Wrong" sounds like an attempt at something mainstream but is a very mediocre song.

I liked the previous album Bedlam more than some, but even it was a step down from the first three albums. I think the majority of what Omar has done solo in the last two years is far more interesting and enjoyable than the last two TMV albums. I sure hope their next one is a major improvement over Octahedron. I'm going to rate this a 2.5 but I'll bump it up to 3 stars because the best songs here are actually really good.

Report this review (#407122)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Something is missing here. Is it too mellow? Not weird enough? I am not sure, but no tracks on OCTAHEDRON have ever caught my complete attention. This is, by a long shot, The Mars Voltas most quiet and acoustic kind of album. There are no gripping epics that could be found on DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM or AMPUTECHTURE. Also missing are any "wild and wacky" prog songs that I enjoy so much from this group. This is probably the most assessible album for newcomers to The Mars Volta, but that also makes it the least interesting for longtime fans. Not that this is a weak or poor album, OCTAHEDRON just fails to offer anything new or innovative. 3 stars.
Report this review (#452307)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Octahedron ? 2009

10 ? Best Song: Cotopaxi

I don't know if they got the nasty message I sent to their unofficial fan-managed Myspace account under the guise of Corporal Montblanc of hatred, but I think it worked wonders. This eight-sided object is much less burdensome than that big giant thing from last year. This is nearly normal! It's night on the edge of mundane, even. 'Since We've Been Wrong' is a simple little pop song, and it might as well have been written and performed by a different group entirely, save for the retention of their oh-so shrill and unnerving vocalist. He apparently booted a couple folks out and make everything superquiet so he could study the art of not being an asshole. It takes years of training, personal growth, and it's the primary cause of monasteries. So yes, no more desperate assaults on the senses.

'Halo of Nembutals' is almost hooky, and the dulled senses allow the separate instruments to develop their own reach within the respective compositions. The most energetic they become is with 'Cotopaxi', which is hardly in tune with their jazzy roots. It's more along the lines of a typical newer hard rock song, though with more focus on brevity and getting the ideas out of the way before they collapse on themselves in a hideous husk. But save for the aesthetic repairs, little progress has been forged in the domain of strict songwriting appeal. He called this his 'pop' album, but he missed the boat on what used to make pop a worthy contender in artistry ? substance always over the form. If you confine yourself, do so only for the benefit of the composition.

Report this review (#459131)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7/10

Well, this is not a 100% acoustic album as members of The Mars Volta said, but in retrospect the discography of the band can be said that Octahedron is an "odd man out". Not only is shorter (50 minutes against the 60 ofdebut nearly 80 of other albums) but the whole album is a sign that craves change TMV.

Those who hate aggression and fury of its predecessor The Bedlam in Goliath will get excited about the music softer and less heavy found here. Still others may be disappointed with the change of direction that the band is taking. I can say that I found a middle ground, because as much as I liked the atmosphere offered in two previous albums I really like the change that is happening in the band's sound. In fact the best songs of Octahedron is the mildest, such as opening Since We've Been Wrong, the psychedelic With Twilight as My Guide and the deliciously melancholy Copernicus. In my opinion none of these songs would work if it were the Cedric´s increasingly prominent voice, which I believe is at its best. The rest of the music wanders between avant / heavy rock seen in other albums, but obviously they suggest other directions to follow.

In short, this chick is weird compared to predecessors, but I'm sure he did very well. 4 stars and I look forward to the next release of The Mars Volta.

Report this review (#569810)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars More melody, less dense, less cocaine.

Octahedron is a unique release. This is a reletively sparse, mellow, and mature TMV and their most impressive album since De-Loused. Gone is the "Everything in the kitchen sink" approach of previous releases, and what we have is something akin to Televators and it is a great step. Octahedron is much more vocal focused than before, but that's fine because Cedric is in good form. The playing is just as great as we would expect from TMV, only more focused.

From the opening track Since We've Been Wrong, I knew greatness was coming. How can a fevered high-energy band such as TMV begin a song with a 1 1/2 minute long note? A gorgeous and careful guitar picks across each vocal phrase as the song begins. Have you ever heard Cedric sound so delicate and longing as when he says "Since you've been wrong"? The song swells and calms with keys dabbling between verses. And the payoff begins as soon as the drums pound into existance. Solid start to the album.

The stand out tracks for me here are Halo of Nembutals and With Twilight as My Guide for reasons TMV usually does not impress with. Halo has a great rhythmic and ambient intro as Cedric sings a few sparsely accompanied phrases. He sounds great even without the music behind him. It is an obvious tension as you wait for the sound to slam in. The vocals and drums seem to be the lead players as they carry this song from beginning to end. Guitars and keys provide chords and twisted tones in the background. This song is vocal focused which is unusal for TMV and superb.

Next we have With Twilight as My Guide which is an 8 minute song with no drums . And its wonderful and evocative. Cedric contributes his most beautiful vocals to date. (Who knew this guy could sing beautifully?) Its is sad and soft and interesting all at the same time. Omars strums lightly under the vocals as synths provide background chords and oscillations. They did a fantastic work of engineering this song, particulary in the vocal choruses where they hit that "sweet spot".

Luciforms begins with a 1 1/2 tensioned organ-like intro as the bass comes in to bounce between octaves. Enjoyable guitar work by Omar throughout. The songs manages to catch some of the franticness of past releases while still maintaining the "sparse" feel of this album. Its a dark song and a lot of fun.

What we have is a return to grace for The Mars Volta. They have matured and grown on this album. A different, fresh, and inciteful work and their best since De-Loused. An excellent addition to any prog rock music collection, 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#1005297)
Posted Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I'm personally a massive fan of The Mars Volta, considering their first 4 albums to all be masterpieces in their own right, changing up their sound to some extent while maintaining an extremely high level of quality and consistency. I can safely say that Octahedron does the former, while occasionally including the latter as well. In terms of overall sound, the difference between this and their previous album, Bedlam in Goliath, is the complete opposite, stripping back all of the abrasive hyperactivity, instead focusing on creating pleasant ballads with an overall lack of excess. Despite this displaying further variety in their music, I also must say that this is not entirely successful and is honestly somewhat disappointing. Despite all of the elements being here, the exceptional musicality that is toned down in order to fit the tone, the great interplay between instruments, a mostly excellent sense of melody, and excellent production, the compositions themselves are a mixed bag.

Unlike what would generally be expected, I find this album works best during some of the slower songs on the album, with the more standard songs of the band honestly feeling highly lacklustre. Songs like 'Since We've Been Wrong' and 'With Twilight as My Guide' demonstrate what works about this album very well, having vocal melodies which are beautiful, using each instrument effectively to add impact to particular moments, most notably when the drums kick in near the end of 'Since We've Been Wrong'. My personal favourite song on the album is 'Desperate Graves' and is a song I truly believe can stand up to some of the more popularly favourite Mars Volta songs. I find this song to be so excellent for how everything works so perfectly, with my personal choice for best vocal melody on the album, and definitely one of the better ones by the band in general. This combined with the drumming gives the song a great groove as well, before the chorus further heightens the quality of the song, providing some power without causing it to feel out of place.

However, despite the good things that have just been said, I find the heavier, faster parts of the album to feel quite poor in comparison, the biggest offender of this being Teflon, which while it has a cool chorus and is somewhat fun, it is also incredibly repetitive and never escalates the way I feel it should. Cotopaxi provides a different issue, as it genuinely feels out of place as the only song which is so energetic, along with the fact that it simply feels very unimpressive anyway, containing nothing of interest and more or less meandering along, poorly disguising its compositional mediocrity with the sheer energy the band puts into it. However, out of the heavier cuts from the album, Luciforms stands up extremely well, fully embracing the slightly unsettling tone this album has, and using it to create something downright harrowing. This track manages to be completely different sounding from the rest of the album without feeling out of place, still using the slower pace and atmosphere of the album in order to give it some grounding, while simultaneously heavily laying on vocal effects and being excessive in classic Mars Volta fashion, with the ending jam being textbook for the band.

The songs that haven't been mentioned yet haven't simply because they are so uninteresting and generic to me that I have nothing to say about them, both feeling somewhat unnecessary and dull. Overall, I find this album to be a mixed bag, containing some absolutely incredible songs, while also having some which I consider poor. Everything sounds very restrained and stripped back here, which works well for the most part, especially with Thomas Pridgen's drumming, which still has a slightly frenetic edge to it, noticeable during drum fills, while also being much more calculated. Another issue with the album is simply that only three songs really stand up to the previous 4 albums to me, with the rest either being straight up bad to me, or simply overlong and somewhat boring. I wouldn't classify this as a failed experiment as much as simply an album that could have been worked on more in order to achieve true greatness, but even so, there is still enough great material here for me to recommend giving it a listen at least once.

Best Songs: Since We've Been Wrong, Desperate Graves, Luciforms

Weakest Songs: Halo of Nembutals, Teflon, Cotopaxi

Verdict: An album with half great songs, and half that are below average, definitely worth a listen at least once for the great songs, but otherwise nothing particularly special.

Report this review (#2079940)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2018 | Review Permalink

THE MARS VOLTA Octahedron ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of THE MARS VOLTA Octahedron

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.