Sound — 8
Well, it's been 18 months since The Mars Volta's last effort, "The Bedlam In Goliath", an album which showcased Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and the rest of the Mars Volta Group at quite simply their craziest. The 76-minute epic of insane songs played at insane speeds was well recieved by critics after the somewhat dissapointing "Amputechture", but "The Bedlam In Goliath" did not fare as well with fans of the band. However, on this, their fifth studio album, entitled "Octahedron", the band has created the biggest contrast with Bedlam, something Cedric dubbed as their "acoustic album". Due to the new direction of the band, Rodriguez-Lopez asked longtime members, saxophonist Adrin Terrazas-Gonzlez and sound manipulator Paul Hinojos to leave the band, which both did amicably. Some fans may turn away at the fact that this truly is the Volta's equivalent to a "pop album", but probably the most surprising thing about this new direction for the band is that it works. Well. With the title "Octehedron", it comes as no surprise that their latest effort is 8 songs, and being an album with more pop-structured songs, the songs are much shorter than typical Mars Volta. This results in their shortest album thus far, clocking in at about 50 minutes, considerably shorter than their last three albums. Also, similar to "Amputechture", the album is not driven by one sole concept. That being said, some fans may miss the 16 minute epics, the jazz freakouts and the random time signature changes found on earlier records. However, with "Octahedron", the Mars Volta have easily created some of their catchiest and most accessible material to date.
Lyrics — 9
Cedric Bixler-Zavala was once described as a man who writes his lyrics by turning a dictionary upside down and using whatever words fall out, and at moments on Octahedron, his lyrics are as incomprehensible as ever. Although his lyrics at times may make little sense (see Halo of Nembutals, which features words such as "carcinogen" and "asp"), "Octahedron" features some of Cedric's best vocal work with the band. The album explores quite a few vocal styles, from the sweetly sung "Since We've Been Wrong" to the eery, Pink Floyd-esque "With Twilight As My Guide". Another hightlight of the album would be "Teflon", a mid-tempo rocker which is easily among the band's catchiest songs. When Cedric sings "let the wheels burn, let the wheels burn, stack the tires to the neck, with the body inside", it may be the most grooving Mars Volta we've seen in a while. What the Mars Volta have done with this album, is create something where, though still just as cryptic, the lyrics fit the songs perfectly. A simply stellar performance by Cedric on this album.
Overall Impression — 8
While some people will always find The Mars Volta to be just plain noise, one thing you cannot deny is the amazing musicianship found on each and every one of their albums. From the amazing presence and range of Cedric Baxler-Zavala to the phenominal drumwork of Thomas Pridgen, The Mars Volta are still at the top of their game, musically speaking. "Octahedron" may turn some fans of the band away, with roughly half the album being composed of softer, more acoustic songs, but it most certainly will remind the fans, dissappointed by "Amputechture" and "Bedlam", just what this amazing group is capable of doing. It may not exactly be the "acoustic album" it claims to be(you need only listen to "Cotopaxi" to see that the band will always have that insanity in them), this album is certainly their softest, and just like every Mars Volta album to date, it does take a few listens to fully appreciate. It may not compare to De-loused or Frances, but the Mars Volta are a progressive band, constantly changing their style, and therefore it is impossible to rightfully compare their newer albums to their early work. Fans who are still stuck in 2003 need to realize that it is now 6 years later and that they should move on, exactly as the band has. This album may not be their finest, but it is certainly a great album, and is exactly what the Mars Volta needed to do after the sheer insanity of "The Bedlam In Goliath". Perhaps the band needs the listener, and themselves, to relax before they unleash whatever insanity comes with their next album. I guess we will all just have to wait and see.