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(58 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Having been a fan of TMV for only about 3 years now (stunning considering I’ve been into PROG for a good 25 years), my comments may not be taken seriously by the die-hards. I do have the entire catalogue so I’m not a complete novice.

    I can’t understand the complaining. Every release has had a different feel. I found it very refreshing to hear a toned down Volta. I love the chaos of Bedlam and the intricacy of FTM and so on but this gave me a chance to really hear their abilities as song writers. This often is well presented in more formulaic hook-driven music. There is enough chops here to give the hard-cores a chubby. This is no downward spiral I’m sure. Musicians (being one myself) have the same mood swings as any artist and perpetuate current moods by craft.

    I dig this hell out of this CD and highly recommend it. I think this would be a good starting point to new fans. It’s just odd enough to catch interest and melodic enough to not require 10 listens to absorb. Bravo.

    Posted on December 24, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I loved The Bedlam in Goliath, so adjust your barometer accordingly when considering my review. The previous Volta album was a muscular, diverse, intense, disturbing, ambitious album with little reprieve throughout; Octahedron is, from one possible perspective, constrastingly refreshing. From another, it is a weak, dissolved effort; the shortest, slowest, and quietest album thus far from the band, and with few surprises. For those who found that TBiG rocked too hard, the subdued Octahedron will offer some relaxed music, but (as I imagine the majority of fans’ opinions are directed) the rest may find disappointment.

    As I’ve indicated, the album is short. Eight tracks, fifty minutes. A numerical analysis suggests the band has grown lazy. Anyone familiar with the progressive death metal band Opeth might see an analogous situation between Deliverance/Damnation and TMV’s TBiG/Octahedron. It’s clear the decision here for a less bombastic approach was deliberate; the lingering question is whether or not the change is appealing. All TMV fans (in my experience) adore De-loused; many consider it the band’s greatest piece of work (I tend to vacillate), and Octahedron contains several cuts that remind the listener of parts from De-loused. Copernicus is almost equal parts Televators and Radiohead. The drawn out, reflective melodies and harmonies featured consistently over the album are interesting, but there is nothing here as haunting as Miranda That Ghost…, or as sprawlingly eerie Soothsayer. Desperate Graves does steal the catchy chorus award, making it a highlight of the album.

    The album does rock in parts, and the results are generally not failures. Luciforms, the longest track on the record, alternates heavy, mid-tempo sections with ponderous, mysterious ones; building up towards a climax that is embarrassingly reminiscent of Tetragrammaton (one of the greater pieces of music the band ever created). This latest track doesn’t approach the level of visceral delight characteristic of Amputechture, however. This is the worst album from the band and arguably the least progressive; it isn’t bad, but hopefully we can expect more energized efforts from them in the future. It seems that the unpleasant occult experiences associated with TBiG may have scarred TMV’s creative tenacity. Still, the album is worth hearing for its more exciting moments. Since We’ve Been Wrong exudes a lulling drift of atmospheric, melancholic prog-pop/rock that beckons at the album’s gates for a full listen.

    Posted on December 24, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I was a little skeptical when I first picked up this CD. The Mars Volta is one of those bands that one can easily classify as “all over the place” or “crazy.” They’re a not-so-accessible tour de force of maniacal percussion, guitars, and screaming vocals. They take a long time to appreciate, but eventually, after your brain manages to sift through the layers of complexity of chaos, a beautiful and impressive scenery often emerges that was previously invisible and unrelatable.

    This album is far more subdued, hence the skepticism. It’s difficult to call any territory “familiar” to the Mars Volta, but this album surely treads into calmer and more unfamiliar waters than ever before. Sure, it’s a bit more poppy and classically-structured (often with the verse-chorus-verse, etc.)–but man, are these tunes awesome. The opener, “Since We’ve Been Wrong” is laid back, emotional, and gives such an adrenaline rush when the drums finally kick in at the 5-minute mark that you know you’re in for a ride. Teflon kicks in with a radio-friendly up-tempo beat with all around great singing and energy. Halo of Nembuttals is one that slowly grew on me as the time passed–I’d call it one of my favorites now. The melody is one that I first found slightly annoying, yet soon realized I couldn’t get it out of my head–and now I love it.

    The next tune, With Twilight As My Guide, introduces how good The Mars Volta is at writing slow songs. The two standouts on the album–this tune and the later Copernicus–are very slow but so full of emotion and build so well that you’ll be playing it on repeat for days. Juxtaposed with the accessible “Desparate Graves” and the album closer Luciforms–this album really holds a pleasing mix of slow, fast, and medium-paced songs. The more I’ve listened, the more each tune continues to impress me.

    Posted on December 24, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • OK, this album is going to be tough for people looking for that nostalgic feeling those of us have for albums such as De-loused or even Frances the Mute. The last couple of albums have represented a specific groove in my opinion that has lacked some progression from a “feel” standpoint. I personally found that I was almost tired after listening to Bedlam from the onslaught (which I adore about the album). I mention this only to set the stage for this album.

    The time signatures are a much more straight- forward as compared to previous albums. However, this doesn’t mean that there what can be known as the Mars Volta time signatures/riffs aren’t here. The album contains a great psychedelic edge that traverses the soundscape quite well. Vocals represent a format that is more fluid, less manic, than previous albums, which may be difficult for the first-album fans to buy into. This, coupled with more breaks in the song structure (fade out guitar riffs for guitar effects over a bass/drum/vocal combo for instance), over a slower BPM, can come as somewhat of a shock for fans.

    The soundscapes Mars has provided here are fantastic. The grooves are no less powerful as well, and in many ways it contains little more edge in its directness (referencing Cotopaxi here, and for those who got picked up the iTune pre-order with the live version have a REAL treat!). I found the nod to Pink Floyd’s “time” awesome personally. I haven’t seen reviews that picked up on the similarities between Halo and Time. It also is a great metaphor for the feel that they are trying to incorporate into the music, as well as the influence this style of psychedeia has had on their music.

    In summary, I totally disagree with the poor reviews. This album does not sound like any other album out there, by other bands or Mars Volta themselves. That’s a very good thing, since what secures a bands longevity is whether it can progress as a band. People tend to get stuck in a form of nostalgia, always looking for that “same experience,” yet these same people tend to be unable to break out of this old-school vs. new-school paradigm. If this album was Mars Volta’s first album, it would absolutely be recognized as a hit. Obviously there’s a disconnect between what some people expect Mars Volta to produce vs. what Mars Volta (obviously) expects themselves to produce. This contention has been ongoing since Francis.

    For those who are able to appreciate Mars Volta’s earlier albums for what they were, and who are interested in hearing how Mars Volta is trying to change up the in-your-face aggressive styling that they have been producing the last couple of albums, I think you will really enjoy this album. For those who are looking for counter-culture rock and roll will also enjoy this. However, for those who are looking for a De-loused or Francis the Mute, you may very well find yourself disappointed again.

    Posted on December 24, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Do you hear that? Its the collective crying that occurs after the release of yet another Mars Volta album. You would figure that at this point fans would understand what the Mars Volta are all about. Do they really not yet understand that the band will never give fans what they want but instead will follow their own creative instincts? You never hear a Bjork fan complain when she goes off and does something really strange like on Medulla or Volta and yet the Mars Volta, a band that is clearly hell bent on being abstract and artistic, gets a lip full every time they go in a different direction. Get over it and get used to it.

    I guess its customary to bring up the bands past records when speaking of the most current release and the easiest comparison is that this record is 99% ballads. If “Asilos Magdalena”, “Miranda that ghost”, and “Televators” were some of your favorite songs than you should be right at home with this album.

    My number one complaint (and there were very few of them) about The Bedlam in Goliath is that the band never took a moment to relax on that album. With every song being fast paced and loud I longed for those moments on a Volta record where I could take a breather before the next relentless thirteen minute prog rock latin jazz head bopping track would begin. Octahedron is the Ying to that albums Yang. I for one welcome a much slower album that builds to a more meaningful and impactful conclusion.

    Cedric’s lyrics are more heartfelt and the emphasis he’s allowed to give every line really helps a lot. Where this record will truly shine is when they mix these beautiful songs with their other material in their live show. Otherwise its a more mellow but also a more meaningful experience when listened to from beginning to end. To complain is to not “get” what this band is all about. If you are listening to them you should be more than happy to be surprised on every album. They challenge their fans and it just seems like some fans don’t want to be challenged. For them their are plenty of other bland offerings out there. I for one am glad that sometimes it takes a couple of spins to enjoy a track or two.

    Posted on December 24, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now