Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Mars Volta - Octahedron

The Mars Volta
Mercury Records 2009

Having been a big Mars Volta fan since their 2003 debut "De-loused In The Comatorium", I am always excited to hear what the ex At the Drive-in members have to offer next. Having been a little disappointed by the last 2 albums, I wished for a return to form on this record.
The band seems to have taken a new direction with Octahedron. There is more focus on the songwriting structured in (dare I say) a more traditional rock way demonstrated through a more obvious 1970's prog-rock influence (think Pink Floyd and King Crimson). Big choruses on Tracks like Teflon and the single Cotopaxi stick with you in a way that brings you back to the days of At the Drive-in. These are accompanied by quirky hooks and great riffs with the trademark TMV de-tuned guitar effects.
It is interesting to see that Cedric sings in English all through the album which is mirrored in the music, which has much less of a Latin influence than some of their previous work, emphasizing the more traditional prog/psych rock feel of the record.
Octahedron opens with the unexpected ballad "Since We've Been Wrong" with a lovely clean picked riff and harmonized chorus. It's a slow builder with a verse - chorus - bridge structure and drums kicking in at only 5:10!
We continue with Teflon, a stand out track driven by a spastic syncopated break beat and fuzz bass line giving the song a phat space funk feel. It's nice to see that the band have cut down on their long weird ambient links between songs, opting for less dragged out slightly more distinct lead-ins (although there still a few slightly lengthy synth drones).
Halo Of Nembutals and With Twilight As My Guide demonstrate classic TMV work with a more laid back, acoustic feel.
The single Cotopaxi is a much heavier number full of strange grooves and time signature changes with a great riff.
On Desperate Graves, Cedric demonstrates his amazing vocal abilities, jumping the octaves between lines and displaying his characteristic twisted psychedelic imagery in his lyrics.

"Dressed in the slurs of bovine engines
to feast upon the carcass of your mother"

The slow Copernicus sees the unexpected use of glitchy programmed drums which could perhaps have been put to better use on a different track but displays the bands continued interest in experimentation.
Octahedron closes with Luciforms which begins with another Pink Floydesque bass line and develops to uncover a blinding performance both on drums and lead guitar.
All in all, Octahedron is the return to form I was hoping for. It’s not repeating what was done on the first two records but demonstrating the bands more rocky influences and adding a personal touch to them without being too self indulgent. Arguably there best work since Frances the Mute.

Here is the video for the single Cotopaxi:


1.Since We’ve Been Wrong
3.Halo Of Nembutals
4.With Twilight As My Guide
6.Desperate Graves

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