Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Mars Volta - Octahedron (2009)


Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Warner Bros.
Country of Origin: Texas, USA
Band Formation: 2001
Band Members:
Vocals: Cedric Bixler-Zavala
Guitar: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Keyboards: Isaiah Ikey Owens
Bass: Juan Alderete
Drums: Thomas Pridgen
Percussion/Synthesizers: Marcel Rodriguez- Lopez

Song list:
1.Since We’ve Been Wrong
2.Teflon
3.Halo of Nembutals
4.With Twilight as My Guide
5.Cotopaxi
6.Desperate Graves
7.Copernicus
8.Luciforms

Review: Your instant reaction after “hearing” to this album will be that this is so much unlike TMV. Yes, it sounds different, but it still does not fail to deliver their stereotypical psychedelic feel. So, do yourself a favour, stop hearing, and start listening on your excursion through their latest track-list.

The creative driving force of the band, Omar Lopez and Zavala have toned down the prog-rock epics and the dizzying song arrangements rendering that psychedelic feel to highlight the band’s instrumental interludes and vocals.

The band members referred to this album as an “acoustic album”. Literally, because it is less chaotic, less bombastic, more forgiving than their earlier releases. Non-literally – Huh, you call this acoustic? You see, I have only expressed the album to be “less chaotic” which literally means it is still chaotic, or is it?

Strategically, this is an inverse of the formula used by the band. And, I think it is something I might have contemplated and wished for whilst listening to their last album. Instead of inserting slow-tracks amidst crazily fast tracks, this album inserts mid-tempo tracks amidst slow ones. There is a difference.

You see, in The Bedlam in Goliath, despite loving the album to a great extent, there were moments when I’d hope that they (TMV) “go easy”. The complexity in orchestration, the intensity in the words left me in short of breath. Heavy guitars, pounding drums, multiple-layers of music when listened via some good quality speakers made you feel as if you were been hit first in the head and then been tortured in your subconscious state. Even though I enjoyed it, I still speculated that going slightly slow, might broaden their prospective.

This album puts the band on a tough test. When the intensity in the music rendered by electrical add-ons is turned down, it is completely up to the instrument and its immaculate sound to deliver the intensity. This, in-turn, challenges the instrument player as well. Also, since, there are not many layers in the music, lyrics need to be apt to contribute to a great melody. Precisely, everything becomes much more crucial when played neat. I am glad to report, TMV have capitalised on the same to emerge successful. In other words, almost all songs have memorable qualities.

No, it is not that the band has gone tender. The progressive elements still prevail. The intensity and complexity are still there. It is merely turned tad down this time. So, relax, the band is not swaying into the pop lane.

The lyrics cover both the aspects of a victim and a tormentor around themes of deceit, abduction, mental turmoil thereby showing “slightly” varying contrasts. It is not easy to decode the bands’ lyrics as the obtuseness continues to remain in their self-conscious and cracked lyrics.

One could argue that, probably, the lean towards the softer side was way too much for the band. But, I judge anyone who thinks so must be because of the 18 month gap after their last release.

The first track is something I would refer to as a radio-hit. Catchy guitar tunes, emotional impact of the lyrics will make the non-TMV fans to like the song as well. Televators, carries hypnotizing guitar riffs and atmospheric and ambient elements making it quite pleasant. The fusion of Blues and Jazz in Copernicus is indeed a surprise.

Having written all the above, I am only dissatisfied with the Grammy-award winning band’s jam session like feel in a few songs. It isn’t as “tremendously impacting” as their previous releases. There is nothing new and one might call it dull as well. This might probably be due to the shift from their regular heavy and noisy pattern at which they excelled and which had comparatively lesser bands playing such to a soft style where there are comparatively better bands. Still, I am glad they are on the road. They may be driving their Ferrari on the bus lane in NYC, this time. But, at least they are not going the wrong way.

I suspect it is the more number of slow-tracks that might push their audience away. After all, not many people appreciate the experimental aspect of any band. The music is less adventurous making it lean away from aggressive progressive rock (if I may) to hard rock/progressive rock. Even the indie rock and punk element infused by the band in the past has been put away this time. Still, I refrain myself from classifying this as experimental as there is nothing new apart from the change in ratio of speed. Experimental, for the band – may be. Experimental, genre wise – not really.

If you keep an open mind while listening to this album, you will realize that, yes, this might be less intense, but the overload of ideas still prevail within their lyrics which fills the gap that the less intense music leaves. Frankly, this balance needs to be encouraged before we are fed up with their songs being noisy all the time.

Highlights of the album: Since We’ve Been Wrong, Teflon, Cotopaxi, Copernicus

Links: The Mars Volta
The Mars Volta on MySpace

Ratings: 6/10
Originality: 5.5
Instrumentation: 7
Lyrics: 6

Written for Headbangers India

Copyright © Ajey Padival 2009 (Brisbane, Australia; +61-434360675; ajeypadival@msn.com)

32 responses:

PULKIT said...

it was a brilliant post as alwys!
where exactly have u taken this pic from ? the support pic was enigmatic and strange?
what was it revealing..?

anyways...

the new blog out look and added widgets ...all look super:)

Strawberry Girl said...

I too appreciate an album that doesn't jar you from one song to the next. Yet I hate to hear music on an album that is somehow a repeat of the last piece. It gets tiring listening to the same sound, ditto, etc... ;D

Great Review, I'm gonna have to see what you mean by giving them a listen.

SG

Alexandra Garland said...

Hey Ajey,
You got me with this one. I'll give it a listen. Particularly 'Copernicus" sounds intriguing! Nice review!!
-Alex

Brosreview said...

@PULKIT - It is the official album cover Pulkit. So, I have taken it from the band's official website.

The blog outlook has not changed. And, I have not added any new widget. So, you have mistaken me for someone else. Sorry.

Thanks for reading.

Brosreview said...

@Strawberry Girl - Yes, do give them a listen. Thank you!!!

Brosreview said...

@Alexandra - Enjoy listening! Thanks, you!!!

Rikkij said...

AJ- you really do a thorough study of the things you write about and cover the entire spectrum. Your reviews are of the best anywhere. ~rick

Brosreview said...

@Rikkij - Thanks mate! You've made my day!

Strawberry Girl said...

Wow, they do have a different sound. I sort of like Vermicide, Goliath is interesting and fun (especially towards the middle I love the build up they do there and different tempo from then on)... that was weird I was listening to "Birthday" when I opened up a blog playing ABBA's "Take a chance on me" LOL a sound not ever heard in this universe before (actually Birthday is wobbly enough). K' Ajay, this band is certainly "different" from what I'm used to... at least I'll be able to recognize them when their playing on the Martian spacecrafts radio as they land in my room (whenever that happens and all) ;p

SG

Brosreview said...

@Strawberry Girl - Yes, they do sound different. I am glad you noticed it.

"I was listening to "Birthday" when I opened up a blog playing ABBA's "Take a chance on me" LOL a sound not ever heard in this universe before (actually Birthday is wobbly enough)."

Ha! That is definitely weird!

Thanks again!

Chhaya said...

whoa!!.. u do put your heart n soul in whatever u do!!

i was so impressed after reading ur comments on my poems.. and now after reading this review i am sure that you are a very passionate person. Only such a person can do justice to "reviews"..

its easy to judge but its so tough to be a balanced and honest critic.

love ur words n ur works alike Ajey

you have inspired me to write something on the music/movies/books i like..

Jenny said...

Great review, Ajey!

I love progressive rock/fusion, long jazzy jamming solos, improvisations. Like some of Traffic's stuff, for example. So perhaps this is something for me too.

See? Now you made me curious, which shows your talent for writing this sorts of texts as well. :)

Brosreview said...

@Jenny - Yea, then this album is worth a listen. Thank you!!!

thoughts said...

these posts are really useful for music lovers.
thanks.

Brosreview said...

@thoughts - Now, that is the intention! Thanks for reading!

Ande said...

I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge about today’s progressive rock music.

My familiarity of the genre stops somewhere in the 70´s. This sounds interesting and I will definitely listen to this! You really captured my attention.
Great review!

Brosreview said...

@Ande - Frankly, those were the best times of music mate. But, do give this band a listen. Thanks for the appreciation!!!

inky said...

I Just LOVE abba, and take a chance on me is a FAVE.. I listened to this band, if you like head banging its OK. I do love all types of music and head banging is good for all at times.. You always comment on my blog with such honesty and brilliance.. TY

I enjoyed it

Poetikat said...

I haven't heard of them Ajay, but I did go through a progressive phase in my teens, so I might like them.

Well-written review.

Kat

Brosreview said...

@inky - Thanks!

Brosreview said...

@Poetikat - Thanks!!!

Brosreview said...

@Chhaya - Oh, I thought I'd replied to you. Well, yes, I do put my heart and soul into whatever I do. I reckon, there is no other better way to do things, is there?

Thanks for your beautiful words!

Nadege said...

you write engrossing music critiques, and they must be AJ,
because I don't listen to or
buy this genre, yet your critique
for me is always engrossing -
which means you are a very passionate fan and writer.

Brosreview said...

@Nadege - Thank you! Yes, I am a fan of metal, and so it shows via my reviews.

aditya said...

The review is engrossing. It certainly is out of the box. Completely different to the mechanical and rational ones you get accustomed to reading on the Internet. You have touched the finer nuances of the band I feel. And this I feel despite never having listened to the band.
I hope you can feel me.

Brosreview said...

@Aditya - Thanks, you!!!

Miss Sunshine said...

You write such deep reviews , they just fly past me :P
brilliant it was :D intriguing :)

and ur not late for the guest post! you're still eligible..dat is if ur still willin to write.. :D
just drop in ur e-mail ID @ my shout box :D

Brosreview said...

@Miss Sunshine - Thank you!!!

Make Me Disappear said...

I love listening to psychedelic bands, and TMV is one of them!

Frances the mute was a landmark album, at least for me, heh! I put it in the league of DSOTM and Stupid dream!

Must check this album out soon!

Thank You!

Brosreview said...

@Make Me Disappear - You sure check it out! Thanks.

Arjun said...

Ah! A review! Coming online after long and I like the site that greets me. You know what I feel about the album.

Very comprehensive stuff. Awesome.

Arjun.

Brosreview said...

@Arjun -Thanks Arjun!