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. Recorded in less than a month, Octahedron is by no means an unplugged album -- it's not acoustic, it's not confined to ballads, and it includes consecutive hard rockers in "Cotopaxi" and "Desperate Graves" -- but it charts a different direction for the Mars Volta, and proves they don't need to shuttle between dynamic extremes in order to succeed on an artistic level. The format allows a greater role and more space for John Frusciante, who accompanies Cedric Bixler-Zavala's vocals well, and also provides his own highlights, channeling the Edge on the emotional "Teflon" and, later, echoing Pink Floyd on "With Twilight as My Guide." With a few exceptions, Zavala's lyrics are as arcane as ever; the glossary for "Halo of Nembutals" alone would include the words "vermin," "sloth," "ringworms," "necrophiliacs," "carcinogen," "asp," "communion-shaped," and "palindromes." Still, they achieve scrutability far more often than in the past, and reveal more of the tenderness that was occasionally visible in Mars Volta material. ("Since We've Been Wrong," the single and first track, is especially affecting.) Calling this an unplugged album is useful only in relation to what the group has produced in the past, but what the Mars Volta created on Octahedron will provide them with more range and opportunities in the future.
Performance CreditsMars Volta Primary Artist
John Frusciante Guitar,Track Performer,Group Member
Thomas Pridgen Drums,Track Performer,Group Member
Isaiah Owens Keyboards
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Guitar,Track Performer,Group Member
Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez Synthesizer
Mark Aanderud Piano
Cedric Bixler Vocals,Track Performer,Group Member
Technical CreditsJeff Jordan Artwork
Mars Volta Composer
Isaiah Abolin Engineer
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,Direction,Audio Production
Lars Stalfors Engineer
Cedric Bixler Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Octahedron based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
best band ever
Everything that these guys touch is amazing. "Bedlam in Goliath" was a punk masterpiece that just sent chills down your spine. "Octahedron" sees The Mars Volta testing the waters on the other side of the spectrum. I say they succeed. A lot of listeners will be expecting big shifts into punk rock marathons when these songs build-up, but they will be disappointed. Mr. Rodriguez keeps the gain down, and I was pleasantly surprised so find myself not hating it. The Mars Volta get a lot of flack for being "too weird", but these men experiment and try to push the boundaries of what we are used to hearing. This album is not only about challenging themselves as musicians, but also ourselves as listeners.
This is my first exposure to the Mars Volta, and I'll be upfront: I didn't like it. The thing that threw me off immediately is the vocals. The vocalist is annoying on two levels: one, his voice is shrill and unpleasant to listen to, and two, the lyrics are some of the worst that I have ever heard in my life (and I've heard some bad lyrics). The songs themselves are mostly amelodic. What I mean by that is that the melodies are in no way natural to the music; it sounds like the band (or the guitarist, who seems essentially to be the band) came up with riffs and musical structures, and the "melodies" were imposed on top of them. The result is that the whole album lacks any organic feel at all. The individual songs sound as though they were assembled from a series of otherwise unconnected musical ideas stitched together by somewhat specious transitions. Therefore, a lot of this album sounds fractured and incomplete. The album also seems aimless, which is a peculiar criticism for what is supposed to be a concept album, but it does seem aimless and pointless. The musical ideas appear, they fail to develop, and then they simply end, or they drift off into sound effects, which is disappointing and annoying simultaneously. I had read a lot of good reviews of this band. This did not live up to what I have read. I can say that if you want something that sounds like a bad imitation of old progressive rock from the 1970s, this is your thing. If you're looking for any genuine emotion, melodic sense, or musical depth, you're better off looking somewhere else.