Since their jaw-dropping Tremulant EP and De-Loused in the Comatorium masterworks, The Mars Volta have seen a steady decline in the quality of their album releases. Amputechture and Bedlam in Goliath were big disappointments for me. The band has always had a proflific work ethic (with five albums in six years), but it seemed that the band was content with releasing jam sessions for albums. Lead guitarist Omar Rodriguz-Lopez considers their latest release an acoustic album. In Octahedron, The Mars Volta have revisited the formula that brought them early success and released their best album since 2005’s Frances the Mute.
Album opener, “Since You’ve Been Wrong” is one of the best tracks of 2009 and follows in the tradition of “Televators” and “The Widow” as accessible, radio-friendly singles. Another highlight is the 8-minute epic “With Twilight As My Guide,” which is one of the best tracks the band has conceived to date. Lead singer Cedric Bixler Zavala’s stunning vocals and Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s mix of acoustic guitars and effects creates an eerie atmosphere that works in every way. “Copernicus” contains some electronic elements that offers a welcomed progressive sound.
Zavala had previous mentioned that Octahedron would be The Mars Volta’s pop record, “The band wanted to make the opposite of all the records we’ve done. All along we’ve threatened people that we’d make a pop record, and now we have.” The band’s declaration of Octahedron as an acoustic album isn’t exactly accurate. European single “Cotopaxi” and the excellent “Desperate Graves” are as heavy as anything the band has released before. Rodriguz-Lopez said in early 2009 that the next two records were already recorded and awaiting release dates. Octahedron was one of those albums, and another is yet to come. While we wait for official news of an At The Drive-In reunion, it’s good to know that The Mars Volta have returned to form.