Album Review: The Mars Volta - 'Noctourniquet'

28 March 2012 | 12:14 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Strap yourself in and let the music take control.

More The Mars Volta More The Mars Volta

One of the things that makes the idea of a new Mars Volta album so exciting is the band's blatant disregard for anyone's thoughts or opinions about music but their own. They have made is clear that they make music for themselves and you can either love it or hate it, either way Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala aren't phased.

The group's sixth album 'Noctourniquet' marks an important stage in the Mars Volta time line as this is the record where Rodriguez Lopez has both announced his final work as ruler of the band whilst also taking total control of the creative process for one last time, recording pretty much everything, except for the percussion, himself. This makes the prospect of what the next album could sound like even more exciting as fans can probably expect something completely different, especially since there are some small differences on 'Noctourniquet' which suggest the changes have already begun.

The most obvious of these differences is the song lengths. Here we have the biggest collection, of the shortest Mars Volta songs, with structures being a little more standard. That is not to say the music is any less crazy, if anything it is the same amount of crazy packed into a shorter time frame.

Usually, the first song released from a Mars Volta record makes a little bit of sense as a single (at least as much sense as a Mars Volta single could make), but this time, the band have chosen the, shall we say, quirkiest song on the record as the single. The Malkin Jewel, is a creepy track that tumbles along with Bixler Zavala putting on his best scary story telling voice, yelling about rats in a cellar during the chorus. There is a heavy use of synthesisers throughout all of the tracks, sometimes pushed to excess to create a tripped out, atmospheric landscape in In Absentia, and sometimes just used to blast out a powerful funk groove, such as the heavy bass synth in opening track The Whip Hand. This first numer is one of the stand outs as it demonstrates the heavy use of vocal melodies that continue to be present throughout the whole record, especially in the end section, where Bixler Zavala takes the lead of the song with his "I am a landmine" line.

Usually the crazy guitar riffing of Rodriguez Lopez consumes the group's music however this has been dialled back a fair bit on the new album, allowing room for the synths, vocals melodies and harmonies, and most obviously, the drums. Deantoni Parks near damn well steals the show on 'Noctourniquet' with his various percussive patterns, especially in tracks like Molochwalker, another highlight, where he can be working in tandem with the fuzzed out funk guitar riff one minute, and then break away to make the chorus crash and thunder the next.

The touches of electronica are used extremely well, better than ever before where this band are concerned, especially in the mellowed out Trinkets Pale Of Moon, a soft lullaby lead by vocals and backed by an electro beat and clean picked guitar. The albums dynamics are all over the place with as much heavy chaos as there is soft beauty.

There really isn't much point to saying what is good or bad about this record, Mars Volta albums don't work that way. Plus, and above all, The Mars Volta won't listen, they will just continue on, doing what they do and you are either on board or non-existent in their world.

1. The Whip Hand

2. Aegis

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

3. Dyslexicon

4. Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound

5. The Malkin Jewel

6. Lapochka

7. In Absentia

8. Imago

9. Molochwalker

10. Trinkets Pale of Moon

11. Vedamalady

12. Noctourniquet

13. Zed and Two Naughts