Throughout the years of their existence The Mars Volta's chief detractors have always cited their spastic musical convulsions and incessant jamming as their largest downfalls. Well, with "Octahedron" the band appear to have addressed those complaints and more by taking a heavy dosage of proverbial Ritalin to create their so-called 'acoustic' album. Such a description would be misleading however as this outing is anything but unplugged.
Instead what it amounts to is perhaps the first time the band have ever taken a step back from their aural schizophrenia and concentrated on developing the backbones of their songs into something they can bounce ideas off of rather than chop into bits. Once the initial shock of this tranquility wears off the listener is presented with an outing that feels strangely restrained in comparison to the bands back catalogue. Assuredly leaving some to question whether this directional shift is a shark jump or a natural evolution.
Still, the neo-psychedelia that has electrified the bands material in the past does remain present, albeit this time at a much lower voltage. In turn, "Octahedron" relies on a lot of balladry with a few spiraling build-ups and bridges that relieve tension, but fail to shock or change gears as effectively as the band have in the past - sans a few rapid-paced tracks. If anything though, "Octahedron" isn't hurt so much by the groups decision to scale things back so much as it is by pacing and track sequencing.
Nearly the first 26 minutes of the album, while intriguing and explorative, linger on with a somber air that somewhat ironically leaves the listener wondering if they have ADHD themselves, as it finds them waiting for a shot that never comes. It is not until "Cotopaxi" arrives that the band return to the animated eclectic Latin-infused zeal of their past selves, only to once again fade into melancholic dirges soon afterwards. Sure the band retain their diverse flavor and efficacy and few will be completely disappointed by what they hear here. But the solemn implementation and overbearing sense of weight on "Octahedron" make it an album fit for only a few shapes and sizes.
(3.5 / 5)