The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
Of all the weapons within the vast arsenal of The Mars Volta, one clearly outperforms the others. Past the quaking productions of the prolific Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and the overdriven vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala is the sum of all The Mars Volta’s sound–the trait to which they owe their fame. The band has an indomitable resonance: a sound that picks away at the listener’s mind for days. Where other musicians are content to drive the nail halfway into the board, The Mars Volta pummels the spike until the head is halfway through the plank and the wood begins to splinter and crack.
But at the same time, each repeated listen draws the the listener back in, as if the they think the sound will only linger for so long. They claw into the basin, while the music seeps through their fingers with the viscosity of clotted dirt. It possesses the unforgettable mastery of a Rembrandt painting and the talon-like grips of an Agatha Christie novel.
And like the masters they undoubtedly are, The Mars Volta have found a way to make things “fresh” again, with absolutely no risk of novelty. Noctourniquet changes the formula without reducing the results. While redacting Deloused…‘s interstellar jams to more meager and reasonable lengths and withholding the raw crunch of Bedlam in Goliath, the punch is retained. Flagrant experiments with synthesizers further cements the role of The Mars Volta as sonic crusaders. Though what they’re doing isn’t exactly “new”, it’s well-beyond what many artists are willing to try to revamp their own sounds.
But in no way does this compromise the dignity or artistry of a band many love for its incorrigible aggression and biting guitars. Although Rodriguez-Lopez has admitted to making way for the inclusion of synths by moving some of his guitar playing to the background, his brilliant compositions still carry his trademark swank and convicted liveliness, and it’s all noticeable within the first track. “The Whip Hand”s panicky chorus screeches like the Death Star sounding an alarm two minutes before meltdown. Bixler-Zavala’s harmonized vocals shriek in conjunction with newly-introduced laser-cutter synths, flashing red-hot beams all about the track. It’s different, but it’s Mars Volta from the exhaust vent all the way to the core.
Although the significance of the release of the album has been slightly diminished by At the Drive-In’s Coachella reunion, Noctourniquet remains an accomplishment of planetary proportions. It may not be enough to replace the universal liturgy inspired by Deloused…, but it more than holds its own in the repertoire of a band more-than-deserving of its worship.
Final Rating: A-