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The Mars Volta - Octahedron CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.64 | 426 ratings

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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.

Kempokid | 3/5 |


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