Well, it’s here. Three years in the making, and the Mars Volta released their follow-up to 2009’s Octahedron. Noctourniquet was released last Tuesday after years of anticipation. If you guys looked at my earlier posts, you would know that I’m a fan of theirs and that I was looking forward to this album with great anticipation. After listening to it for a week, I can say that it is a solid album and is probably definitely one of my favorites of theirs.
No two Mars Volta albums are alike. What setsNoctourniquet apart is the shift from guitar-centered work (there’s only one guitar solo in this entire album on the track “Molochwalker”) to synthesizers played by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez himself. These synth sounds litter this album back to front. “The Whip Hand” sports buzzsaw synths for the chorus; “The Malkin Jewel” has a synth freakout at its climax; the guitars on “Lapochka” seem nearly non-existent next to the amount of synth on it. Some fans may shun this album for this fact, but I personally love it. I’ve always been a fan of sounds, and the synths definitely offer a soundscape that is intense, beautiful, and unexplainable.
The songs themselves are really great to listen to. “Dyslexicon” and “Molochwalker” have an intensity that makes me move physically, and “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound” and “Imago” move me emotionally. The songs also take a cue from Octahedron. These tracks tend to be more accessible than the typical Mars Volta track. The songs are shorter (average about 4:30 with the shortest track at 3:31 and the longest at 7:26), and cling to a more concise popular song structure. Fans would be adverse to this as well, and I understand. But I would be lying if I said the length of some of Mars Volta’s past songs didn’t bore me because they were long and unchanging. With these more structured songs, I don’t get bored listening to this album. Also,the songs keep the progressive rock elements (abnormal phrase lengths, changing time signatures, genre blending, atonality, and lyrics drenched in way-out metaphors) that the Mars Volta have always had.
All the members of the band are in top form, especially Cedric. He sings with such passion that I haven’t felt before. His smooth singing and shots give me goosebumps, like on “Dyslexicon” and “Imago.” Though the loss of Thomas Pridgen took away the intensity of The Bedlam in Goliath, new drummer Deatoni Parks brings his own interesting style, which I would describe as “frantic,” but not in an intense way. He’s more laid back than Pridgen, but still has his technicality. “The Malkin Jewel,” “Molochwalker,” and “Dyslexicon” are good examples.
I’ve been saying great things about this album, so what exactly is bad about it? Well, the mixing could be better. The bass takes a back seat on the whole album, making it hard to hear or even feel. Also, I love a lot of sound, but the first half of “In Absentia” is nearly sensory overload. All of the effects don’t fit well together for my ears. And maybe some more intense songs like “Molochwalker” wouldn’t hurt.
Overall, I was not disappointed by Noctourniquet. The Mars Volta took another turn, and I was able to go with them on it. Many fans are upset by this, saying the Mars Volta need a “return to form.” I can understand their frustration, but all I have to say is that I would love that, but if The Mars Volta continue in this new direction fromNoctourniquet, I won’t be mad at them. I like it very much.
-The Whip Hand
-Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound
-The Malkin Jewel
-Zed and Two Naughts