After the Grammy award winning Latin-infused math rock album The Bedlam in Goliath the peak of The Mars Volta’s evolution into electronic inspiration had been reached. Lead guitarist and self-proclaimed “benign dictator” of the group Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s latest independent projects up to that point had been increasingly inspired by electronic music. It was obvious that the band was heading in that direction, especially when you consider the sound of their previous album Amputechture compared to the one before it, Frances the Mute.
But when their fifth studio album Octahedron was released in 2009 it was almost as obvious that the rest of the band wasn’t interested. Their last album was back to the fundamentals of progressive rock sound mixed with Latin rock styles. Gone from their next album, however, will be any shred of electric charge but Spanish-language lyrics, which have been a staple of their style since conception. It’s not a cliché band “no me hallo” moment that’s driving the delay in the release though – the album has curiously already been recorded.
With that said, nobody in the band has said much else about it other than it’s stripped down and “future punk”. If only we could know what that means exactly. That’s a pretty convenient description if you ask me. That’s like saying the movie is going to be “unprecedented melodrama” when you’re a filmmaker talking about his latest pre-production. You can’t get more generic than that. The ambiguity, considering Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s intellect, is certainly intentional.
Whatever future punk ends up being it’s most certainly going to be lacking that feisty interchange between hard rock, Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s espanol lamentos, and the tactful injection of electronic power pulses brought to us by the benign dictator Rodriguez-Lopez. Octahedron was back to basics, and with the rumors that the seventh album is in fact merely a “simplifying” of previous recordings it’s clear we won’t be getting that bite from The Mars Volta that we’ve previously been accustomed to.
Whether or not that lingers for their seventh release, which will most likely be their next big artistic leap as long as this next album is indeed a retooling. But maybe this is just a break in the Rodriguez-Lopez dictatorship, and the electro power is soon to return. I prefer groups to act democratically, don’t get me wrong. Just sometimes a little bit of direct control can bring out the best in a band.