An acoustic Mars Volta album? Not quite, but Octahedron is as close as they may ever
come and it’s how bandleader Omar Rodriguez Lopez has described it on several
occasions. And while in reality this is light years away from “acoustic,” coming
off 2008’s The Bedlam in Goliath, which
garnered a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock Performance,” you simply have to respect
the band for making their least Hard Rock album yet.
More than being acoustic, what Omar means is there are more
songs (about half) in the vein of “Widow,” from 2005’s Frances the Mute, with slower tempos, more spacious arrangements
and a less frantic approach. But these are Volta
songs, therefore still very creepy and burdened with emotion, beautiful at
times, yes – but uncomfortable and heavy none the less. And the other half of
the album is a sonic maelstrom of octopus arm drumming, laser guitars, obtuse
angels, blood-curdling cries and their trademark sensory overload attack.
“With Twilight As My Guide” is as soft and pretty as Volta has ever gotten. Cedric Bixler Zavala’s voice is
clean, almost angelic at times, and Omar’s Spanish nylon strings are serene. In
all honestly, it’s hard to tell if this is the direction we want our
freak-the-hell-out psychedelic warriors to go, but it’s not about what we want.
This band is making truly original, dare we say “important” music and in order
to do that an artist must only follow the muse, not expectations. And besides,
after “Twilight” comes “Cotopaxi,” one of the
heaviest, most punked-up tracks they’ve ever laid down and disc closer
“Luciforms” is an eight-minute sprawling mindfuck.
At this point – after eight years, five studio albums and
hundreds of third eye cleansing live shows – you are either in or out on The
Mars Volta. And if you’re already convinced of their genius then you don’t
really care if Octahedron is less
aggressive, maybe even easier for the masses to dig. All you really want is a window
into their world, because, come on,
it’s a fascinating view.
Standout Tracks: “Luciforms,”
“Cotopaxi” AARON KAYCE