Review Summary: The REAL reason there's no ATDI album.
Omar and Cedric have built up quite a rapport for themselves. Simultaneously spearheading not one but two bands that prog rock fanatics instantly go phallic for is not an easy tier to ascend to. That being said, with workload and high bars to live up to (classic dyad Frances the Mute
and De-Loused In the Comatorium
), there are bound to be pitfalls that The Mars Volta are guilty of slipping into occasionally, as with 2008’s Octahedron
which came plummeting to earth with a resounding “Meh”. However, the group hasn’t run out of mutant-pun album titles, and with Noctourniquet
craft something bizarrely unexpected and distinctly Mars Volta.
Early works of the El Paso outfit were speckled with Latin influence, but no more of the days of Spaniard spazz-jazz timbre. The band have tripped into some pocket dimension of dreamy-cum-trippy hypno-art rock full of Twilight Zone
pinball spacey-synths. Imagine being in a dim, neon-lit 80s arcade after a quick hit of ecstasy. The subtle electronic marinade is boosted by a majority of the tracks opening with odd 5-10 second blips of synth-sound effects: an amalgam of 1990s landline ringtones, metallic grinding, crevasse-rumbles, lasers, and things that sound oddly like remixes of Pac-Man and the intro to “Baba O’Riley”. Bubbling beep whiplashes plague “Imago”, which buried beneath the electric façade is a folksy ballad with a lofty chorus.
Despite the gentle sentiment of “Imago”, all those fools blathering about how The Mars Volta are “prog metal” can feel some sort of moronic satisfaction in opener ‘The Whip Hand’s industro-electrocution buzz-riffs under Cedric’s falsetto-bawls of “That’s when I disconnect from you!”. Also in the doomy cavernous entrance of ‘In Absentia’, which is eventually broken by Cedric’s wobblified vocals and the track becomes an overly-layered swirling mindfuck, complete with a rubbing bassline and belltone synths that morph and bleed until almost indistinguishable from a cathedral choir. It’s rather a cascading mess. Experimentation is better gently placed in the vocals, as Cedric twists his already distinctive voice into lightly-tweaked branches, higher whining wails and throaty Mike Patton whispers, as well as Lennon-nasally on “The Malkin Jewel”, a track which can be best described as Mars Volta gone Sgt. Pepper’s
with “I Want You” bluesiness, going acid-carny with Omar playing eerie ringleader tripping balls.
Nay, have no fear. The Volta are still quite spunky-punky. Every Mars Volta album has that quintessential lyric every fan will be screaming in capslock on their Tumblr for weeks after the leak to DepositFiles. Most will latch onto the immediate answer “I’M A LANDMINE” from ‘The Whip Hand’, but the best the Volta made you wait for, the punchline in album closer ‘Zed and Two Naughts’ -- “SAINT CHRISTOPHER”. Track nueve “Molochwalker” starts as the humming waka-waka syncopation of old, before evolving into 90s alt rock with a riff that seems almost Orientally pentatonic.
lacks that certain full punch of jazzy wank from the Frances
days, or the speedy wheedly-deedling of De-Loused
. It’s The Mars Volta tweak-twerking and bleep-blooping and generally giving the fuzzy-buzzy finger to the formulaic. Rather than nesting in their comfortable and popularly familiar sound, they synth it out and add a Speak & Spell or two. It’s pretty different, verging on self-indulgent...and it’s damn catchy, señor.