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Mike K

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The Mars Volta: Octahedron
Octahedron (2009)

Remember the whole album cover April thing? Because it’s suddenly occurred to me that for the “wtf” week, I could have easily used any given Mars Volta album cover. The artwork to this very album especially sticks out – as one silly last.fm user once said, “look out lady! that crab wants yr onion”.

The fact that this is the shortest Mars Volta release to be classified as an “album” is sort of significant in and of itself: Their past three albums were all about 75 minutes long, while this is just barely over 50. A bigger change is that, well Omar Rodriguez Lopez has called it their “acoustic album”: This isn’t literally true, as the only song to include any acoustic guitar is “With Twilight As My Guide”* , and Cedric is never backed by acoustic guitar alone as he was for most of Amputechture’s “Asilos Magdalena”. However, there’s more emphasis on clean guitar tones, slow tempos, and Cedric harmonizing with himself than ever before.

This is not to say it’s any sort of commercial bid, just more of an extension of the kind of thing they were already doing with songs like “Televators”. There’s still four tracks that are over 7 minutes long, and surprisingly enough it’s the heaviest song that also sounds the most like it’s meant as a token radio track (“Cotopaxi”, which sort of sounds like previous single “Wax Simulcra” but with a catchier Led Zeppelin-esque guitar riff). And the emphasis on melody actually makes their prog influences stand out more in a way – the overall atmosphere and Cedric’s toned down but still theatrical singing style start to bring to mind the likes of King Crimson, Pink Floyd, or even Yes. And while there’s a notable lack of saxophones or vocal manipulations, they’re still fond of putting odd sonic details into songs – I particularly like the just barely audible music box chimes in the background of “Halo of Nembutals” and the skittering, Autchure-style drum machine that unexpectedly crops up in “Copernicus”.

To sum things up, De-Loused In The Comatorium gets the asterisks for being the most definitive example of The Mars Volta sound, and Amputechure is sort of the most musically diverse, but this is the one I probably see myself revisiting the most: It’s got about as many layers to pick up on as previous albums, but with more emphasis on melody.

Key Tracks: With Twilight As My Guide, Desperate Graves, Luciforms
18th May '11 4:50:19 PM flag for mods
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