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Album Review

The Mars Volta 'Octahedron'

June 22, 2009
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Rock
The Mars Volta Octahedron
Warner Bros.
ESSENTIAL “Cotopaxi’’

“Octahedron’’ does not sound like the Mars Volta’s past few records, but it certainly feels like a Mars Volta record, especially in the way it swoops up a listener for an excursion to the psychedelic frontier. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala are the creative duo driving the band and once again deliver on a standing promise to blow any mind that is willing to stay open. The furious prog-rock epics and dizzying song arrangements of previous Mars Volta records are toned down, allowing acoustic-guitar interludes and calm, well-tailored vocals to emerge. Yet “Octahedron’’ does not skimp on the emotional turmoil central to the band’s sound. The eight tunes here dance around themes of abduction and deceit, and the way Bixler-Zavala plays both victim and tormentor creates some harrowing contrasts. “Octahedron’’ emphasizes a solid foundation versus daredevil execution. Some new fare - “Since We’ve Been Wrong,’’ “With Twilight as My Guide’’ - may draw the masses to Mars Volta. But the closing “Luciforms’’ is so joyously chaotic that clearly the Mars Volta is not pandering. (Out tomorrow) SCOTT McLENNAN