Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Mars Volta - Octahedron

If you read my review of their previous effort The Bedlam In Goliath, you'll know that I must have scratched the scab again - but I'm glad I did. Last year's Octahedron, their latest and 5th studio album is by far their most accessible to date. There's still enough of a smattering of weirdness around to keep original fans happy, but not enough to put off the more mainstream inclined nu-prog fan.

If you're new to this band a word of warning - Cedric Bixler-Zavala's voice is an acquired taste. He sings in a high pitched nasal fashion, and although that description sounds awful, I actually find it fits with the weird angles this band throw at you. Imagine a more agressive Geddy Lee but without the nails down a blackboard effect and you about halfway there!

Like all their albums this one reveals hidden layers after repeated listens, but unlike their later more experimental (emphasis on the mental) works also has an immediacy previously lacking. Maiman Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has been quoted as saying this is the band's "acoustic" album, and it is, not so much in instrumentation, but in the stripped down production and very tight ensemble playing

The album opens with a simple but rather fine ballad Since We've Been Wrong (see what they've done there?) well crafted by the band and a good vocal from Sr. BZ. Ballads like this are a definite development for MV and there are other examples on the cd, notably Copernicus and With Twilight As My Guide. The album ends with the barking mad Luciforms, just to show they've not lost the keys to the lunatic asylum.

I reckon this is their best album since their debut De-Loused In The Comatorium (I kid you not), and by far their most "pop".

4.5 out of 5 

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