Octahedron

Album Review of Octahedron by The Mars Volta.

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Octahedron

The Mars Volta

Octahedron by The Mars Volta

Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative

70 Music Critic Score
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Octahedron - Fairly Good, Based on 11 Critics

AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

For punk, metal, or hard rock bands, the unplugged album is the one that shows whether they've been succeeding simply on energy and volume or because of real talent. (Anyone who remained a skeptic of Kurt Cobain's songwriting skills must have been converted by Nirvana's MTV Unplugged masterpiece. ) And Octahedron, a quieter and more subdued Mars Volta album, proves that same fact (if not at the same level as Nirvana) for a band that's perpetually lived on a knife's edge of tension.

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Sputnikmusic - 80
Based on rating 4.0/5
80

Review Summary: Wait, wasn't this supposed to be an acoustic album!? Why are there drums and stuff? And why is it so good?Here is the thing about Octahedron: it’s pretty much what EVERY PERSON WHO HATES THE MARS VOLTA HAS WANTED THEM TO MAKE FOR YEARS. The Mars Volta (and their fans by proxy) have prided themselves on being ridiculously spazzy, taking progressive music to places that while perhaps not new, that have not been fully explored. Who can forget the progression “Drunkship of Lanturns” goes through, or the freak out after the chorus of “Day of the Baphomets”? Despite this, detractors have always bitched that the songs are too long; a revolving door of guitar wanking, nonsensical lyrics and superfluous song structure that isn’t fit for human consumption.

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Drowned In Sound - 70
Based on rating 7/10
70

Behind closed doors, The Mars Volta are a playful, joke-cracking duo, quoting from their favourite British comedies – The League Of Gentlemen, The Mighty Boosh – and giggling about performing unspeakable acts on parental figures. The serious, straight-faced impression of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala is, mostly, a product of the media’s presentation of them: all promotional photography features the pair looking as if no amount of tickling under the armpit could have them crack a smile. But, that said, they’ve never, ever, not taken their art seriously – theirs is music that muddles and amazes in its complexity and depth.

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PopMatters - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Has it been 18 months already? Then it must be time for another album from the Mars Volta. Interestingly, though, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and their cohorts have decided to do something different this time out. Octahedron is almost exactly the inverse of the formula the band has been following since they started. Instead of an album full of crazy prog-rock jams broken up by the occasional slow song, this album is dominated by slow ballads and mid-tempo rock songs and broken up by a couple of crazy, fast pieces.

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Pitchfork - 60
Based on rating 6.0/10
60

Look, here's the deal: If you don't know what you're getting into with a new Mars Volta record at this point, after seven years and five albums (plus one EP and a live thing or two), then my advice is to go directly to full-length numero uno, 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. Sample its rhythmic-centric, post-emo art-rock, and decide if you need to continue through the band's catalog. It only gets less user-friendly from there.

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Paste Magazine
Their review was positive

SoaringBy Rachel DoveyListening to The Mars Volta is a bit like watching anything written by Alan Ball: weird (there will probably be graveside fantasies and vampire sex), cerebral (you’ll have to Google most of the nouns) and absolutely delightful. On Octahedron, the Los Angeles octet takes its cryptic, stream-of-consciousness prog rock to new heights—or, more accurately, new depths. Chock full of falsetto harmonies and lilting, distorted chord progressions, this is the group’s quietest album to date, though it’s a far cry from unplugged.

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The New York Times
Their review was positive

THE MARS VOLTA“Octahedron”(Warner Brothers) A few disarming moments on “Octahedron” unfold slowly, with pockets of space and calm. Don’t be lured into trusting them. This album, the fifth studio release by the Mars Volta, employs stillness as a setup for all manner of disruption: sharply ….

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Delusions of Adequacy
Their review was positive

When El Paso buddies Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez dismantled the increasingly successful At The Drive In in 2001 to form the Mars Volta, it touched off what would become a firestorm of activity for their new project. By embracing a robust yet nebulous form of musical experimentalism and eschewing nearly all precepts for mainstream acceptance, the new band had laid down the blueprint for several albums worth of head spinning metal freakouts, made even edgier with nearly unpronounceable song titles and song structures that were occasionally bookended by exhausting stretches of brooding ambience. 2007’s The Bedlam In Goliath saw the extremes pushed even further, thanks to an alleged Ouija board spirit whose spectral presence nearly turned the entire creative process into turmoil.

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Entertainment Weekly
Their review was generally favourable

Those expecting another jolt of the Mars Volta’s? patented prog-?metal-jazz-fusion are likely to be? bemused, if not downright disappointed, by the band’s relatively restrained new album.? Octahedron is rife with hushed passages, acoustic filigrees, and dreamy vocals that herald either a radical retooling or, more likely, a period of transition for these experimentalists. But fans needn’t feel too bummed: The lyrics remain as arcane as ever. Even if you don’t totally love the band’s new direction, you can bet there’s a juicy pretentious concept waiting to? be rooted out here.

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Paste Magazine
Their review was unenthusiastic

SoaringBy Rachel DoveyListening to The Mars Volta is a bit like watching anything written by Alan Ball: weird (there will probably be graveside fantasies and vampire sex), cerebral (you’ll have to Google most of the nouns) and absolutely delightful. On Octahedron, the Los Angeles octet takes its cryptic, stream-of-consciousness prog rock to new heights—or, more accurately, new depths. Chock full of falsetto harmonies and lilting, distorted chord progressions, this is the group’s quietest album to date, though it’s a far cry from unplugged.

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Austin Chronicle
Their review was negative

Since the Mars Volta's magnetic debut EP, 2002's Tremulant, At the Drive-In expat tandem Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala have followed a career trajectory that parallels a round of Tetris: musical shapes of various size and color falling with ever-increasing speed and complexity. Experimental megalomania ensued unchecked until the whole spaceship crashed on last year's The Bedlam in Goliath. Misleadingly billed as an acoustic effort, Octahedron is the El Pasoans' attempt to hit the reset button.

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