New Soundbites: The Mars Volta – Octahedron – Album of the Week

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The mood may have changed but the song remains the same.



The Mars Volta: OctahedronAlbum of the Week
Mercury/Universal
For a band that are seemingly limitless in their ambition and virtuosity, The Mars Volta have never been able to escape their own template of sound.
From their peerless progressive debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium, to the epic operatic suite of Frances the Mute, the fragmented funk noize of Amputechture and back to 2008’s conceptual rockout of Bedlam In Goliath, they’ve successfully remained vital and brimming with ideas, yet, whether it was their intention or not, they’ve rarely exhibited anything that doesn’t sound like an extension of their original sonic touchdown.
With the release of their fifth outing, Octahedron, much talk concerned a shift towards acoustic-flavoured treatments and a complete U-Turn on their progrock mindfucks.
This is not the case at all. Instead, Octahedron is the Volta’s most concise, perhaps most reflective piece to date, but essentially a continuation of a blueprint HUGE in bombast and technical creativity but in essence a Mars Volta-sounding record nonetheless.
If there’s anything to distinguish it clearly from it’s predecessors, Octahedron is heavy in the balladic quota.
After the 90 seconds of near silence, opener Since We’ve Been Wrong begins a 24-minute quartet of tracks laden in hardrock balladry pioneered by the likes of Zeppelin with Since I’ve Been Loving You. It’s the kind of transcendental, ghostwatch haunt they’ve perfected since Televators, with only second track in, Teflon, exhibiting flashes of the rare pummelled riffery we associate with Omar Rodriguez and drummer Thomas Pridgen.

Mars Volta: Televators.
Acting as clear break is Cotopaxi, the kind of track only the Volta are capable of – like a two-tonne warhammer to your little finger, it doesn’t just inflict damage, it brings instantaneous ruination. It’s the fastest, hardest three and a half minutes of 2009. It is unstoppably amazing.
A dip is almost inevitable and the somewhat inconsequential Desperate Graves is followed by rescuer Copernicus; it too one of the Volta’s finest tracks in years – a seven minute beautifully restrained lament which bizarrely finds Rodriguez in Peter Buck mood, upstrocking his guitar gloriously.
Finale, and Octahedron‘s longest track, the eight minute Luciforms is a tad lost between previous Volta forms – all fuzzing feedback, wah-heavy drones and noodly electronic beeps – and the slower pitch permeating throughout thus rendering it slightly below par.
But while Octahedron is unlikely to draw in a raft of new fans, you can rest assured for a band hardly redefining their own sound, they’re content to continue ploughing a furrow few can barely dream to dare.
7.5/10
For fans of: Angel dust, snake venom, accidental death.

Cotopaxi
Since We've Been Wrong

Since We’ve Been Wrong

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