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The Mars Volta - Octahedron CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.64 | 423 ratings

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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.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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