The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

by Nathan Fidler Rating:6.5 Release Date:2012-03-26

After two albums in two years, it seemed as if The Mars Volta were on a bit of a roll. However, Noctourniquet, their sixth studio album is their longest awaited release with three years having passed since their last record.

With such a length of time, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez taking time to pursue solo adventures, you could expect the sound to be different for this album. What differs most noticeably, however, is a lack of story or theme. Previously, there was at least an issue to hang each song on, making it easier to comprehend Cedric Bixler-Zavala's cryptic lyrics. If, as has been stated, this albums concept is based on Greek myths and nursery rhymes, it is hard to pick them out.

This point aside, Mars Volta once again offer up more on one album than most standard bands do in a lifetime. An approach which has been described as more futuristic for this effort can be off putting at first, with more sound manipulation and background noise than ever before. 'Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound' tries to prove its title's weight, with the noise drowning everything else out by the end of the track. 'The Malkin Jewel' is the lead single, and an odd choice at that. It's creepy vocals and strangled guitar stabs make it sound like it's walking sideways. "All the rats in the cellar form a vermin of steps, you know they're gonna take me to you"... Goes to show that Bixler-Zavala hasn't lost his unsettling, creative edge.

If there is a friend they are missing it is John Frusciante, who would provide a powerful solo or mesmerising riff here and there to break up the relentless prog-jazz of Rodriguez-Lopez. The drumming hasn't been the same since the first two albums and is a little scattered this time around, lacking even the talent of Thomas Pridgen from the last album.

'Imago' is the most melodic and quiet track, while 'Molochwalker' provides the standard rock song which would usually have been the single. 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' and 'Vedamalady' offer up some acoustic musings but don't match the powerful work on Octahedron. Synths replace the strings of that album and consequently offer less genuine melody this time around.

Hearing a band make strides in their musical evolution is always pleasing but this album won't stay as long in the memory as De-Loused in the Comatorium or Frances the Mute (which still stand up now). With At the Drive-In reforming, you have to wonder if this could be the last Mars Volta album for a while. Not a disappointing album but the least joined-up, and most scatterbrained effort they've put out.

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