The Mars Volta
Noctourniquet


2.5
average

Review

by Martin L. USER (44 Reviews)
March 28th, 2012 | 30 replies | 3,010 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


This spring, many listeners will hear of and subsequently listen to post-prog-hardcore-whatever-rockers The Mars Volta for the first time, grasping Cedric’s wailing with their ears, and feeling the spastic tingling of Omar’s guitar deep in their stomachs. Well, such hyperbolic descriptions aren’t quite fair to Noctourniquet; they’re not as aptly applied here as they would have been to previous Volta releases, at least. It’s not much of a stretch to say - including the material from At the Drive-In - the group has been more spastic and complex than, say... His orifice icicles hemorrhaged or... Sharkhides that got tangled in the mausoleum. Obviously, TMV have a knack for the erratic and turbulent. Noctourniquet displays not a turn further into the deep end, but rather back into shallow waters that should be more comforting listening for many, with pieces of things like The ant hills of the dawning of this plague only peeking through in various spurts and consequently making Noctourniquet a record worth hearing.

When Cedric claimed the album would consist of 13 songs more simplified in nature than usual, he spoke the truth; and herein lies Noctourniquet’s most outstanding and troublesome quality. It’s most visible in the frank “Molochwalker,” which reaches highlight-level on Noctourniquet not by merit of insane and unpredictable songwriting and prog-wankery, but by straightforward melodies and pleasingness. If the infusion of simplicity is TMV’s manner of “ambition,” as I’ve seen it described, then the surprising aspect of Noctourniquet is that it still manages to fall somewhere between their many previous records. It’s not nearly as messy or unrefined as Goliath, yet much less epic at the same time. It lacks the ear-twisting guitar screeching and the abyssal, drawn-out passages of Frances (notice the track runtimes), yet still falls victim to many of the same ills.

Among these detractions are The Mars Volta’s undeviating ability to kill any sense of momentum. On Frances the Mute it was executed by the holes in-between the highlights, emptiness and sparseness; on Noctourniquet, it’s most noticeable in filler like the drowsy title track or the meandering, plodding “Imago.” Thankfully, the tracklist includes songs like the dynamic “Whip Hand” that make the aforementioned sound like filler in the first place. It’s difficult to deny that Volta are at anything but the top of their game here; and most of all, it’s vigorous, it’s energetic. With interesting songwriting reminiscent of deloused days, every twist and turn down to the enigmatic “I’m a landmine” section is both unexpected and welcome. It helps, too, that Cedric’s vocal duties are at top notch, once again reminiscent of the band’s debut record. It’s just enough to make one yearn for more.

Yet as always, the vocals range from the centerpoint that propels TMV towards epic success to the force that drags it down, as evidenced by the crooning in “Empty Vessels,” which falls handily into the momentum-killing camp. Besides aspects like this, moments on Noctourniquet make it a worthwhile addition to the discography. The Mars Volta’s more tempered approach works perfectly on “Dyslexicon” and “Molochwalker” -- coincidentally two of my favorite track names by The Volta, as well. This pair, along with “Whip Hand” which seems to reset The Mars Volta to its default setting in many ways (even if it offers false hopes for the rest of the record), keep the record afloat among sundry minor missteps.

For instance, Noctourniquet is not nearly as straightforwardly invested into a storyline as other releases have been; but even with albums like De-Loused, you didn’t need to understand it to enjoy it. Noctourniquet is still noticeably haphazard, though. The Mars Volta are at their best when they’re clinging onto some touchstone to ground their spasms of insanity. On Noctourniquet, there’s less of a touchstone as well as less insanity -- not quite as flaccid and formless as Frances, but still lacking a definitive backbone. It’s directly because of this quality that the record, though containing a few of TMV’s most glorious moments and notions, probably won’t be remembered down the road as quintessential releases by the band like the status that (positively or negatively) Frances The Mute and De-Loused In The Comatorium have achieved.

A good record for sure, Noctourniquet still lacks any defining qualities that propel it to be much more than that. Standouts are standouts here simply because they are striking amid the tepidity and laziness throughout. The lack of energy makes one suspect that TMV were simply exhausted after pouring so much energy into Goliath and, being recorded shortly after, Noctourniquet suffered because of it. It’s exciting that the band has finally released an album with more power to be digested by the many than previously, I only hope that those swallowing The Mars Volta for the first time don’t get a bad taste in their mouth from what is most definitely not a standout among their discography.



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user ratings (849)
Chart.
3.5
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
carouse
March 28th 2012


300 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well this review feels somewhat bloated and unnecessary, but I had had much of it written before all of the others were posted, and I seem to be of a different opinion than many, so I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to finish this writeup. What are your thoughts? Anybody agree?

KILL
March 28th 2012


71743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

sweet

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

Tyrael
March 28th 2012


20874 Comments


lol a 1

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

MO
March 28th 2012


18630 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol ratings

figure337
March 28th 2012


420 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Reads like a 3.5 to me.

NeutralThunder12
March 28th 2012


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lol this band (when they do it correctly) is the epitome of not killing momentum. So i disagree, but your review was really excellent. pos

carouse
March 28th 2012


300 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Really? I think it's a record worth listening to, especially if you're a fan of the band. Yet, it's far from "great" because of its flaws, and instead falls somewhere in the middle - hence a 2.5. It's sort of pointless to argue the semantics of it though considering how ratings and their meanings are subjective, anyway.

carouse
March 28th 2012


300 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

You're going to try and tell me that Frances The Mute had momentum and impetus? Thanks for the comment on my review, though.

NeutralThunder12
March 28th 2012


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

well for me the album works and flows holistically and bangs out catchy jam sessions and epic melodies right up until cassandra which does ruin the album but before that its pretty spot on and composed beautifully, and not to mention catchy as hell

NeutralThunder12
March 28th 2012


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

but the whole thing about lack of energy after goliath makes absolutely no sense but the review is still well written

RosaParks
March 28th 2012


14900 Comments


amazing album

johnnyblaze
March 28th 2012


2605 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ya i wouldnt say there's a lack of energy on this record at all. sure, the songs are a little down-tempo but the energy is there - it's just more restrained (which I quite like).

only part i really agree with is that imago is a weak track. empty vessels and the title track are pretty amazing dude.

NeutralThunder12
March 28th 2012


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

yeah theres a ton more energy that present on octasleepron and a ton more effective experimentation than bedlam in shitliath, i mean come on Aegis, Dyslexicon and Molochwalker are such fun and upbeat tracks

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


50338 Comments


I bet this is a 2.5

Digging: The Brave Little Abacus - Masked Dancers

chambered69
March 28th 2012


1253 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

ur my favorite new reviewer person :]

Knott-
Emeritus
March 28th 2012


10195 Comments


You write well. Fuck knows who neg'd this. Fanboys innit.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2012


3394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

pos

Digging: Amplifier - Mystoria

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2012


10186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

Coding error in the second to last paragraph. Extremely well-written though :] can understand what you're arguing for sure.

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

carouse
March 28th 2012


300 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thank you for pointing that out, OmahaStylee. It's nice that you can disagree with the review and appreciate it too, I can definitely see where those who enjoyed this are coming from, as well.

And I appreciate it Knott! That means a lot coming from a Staff member.

Also, chambered I saw that you commented on my last review too, thanks. We have similar taste, I believe.


I didn't think a review this long would get so many comments- I guess it paid off to venture outside my usual reviewing zone of metal and hardcore.

PuddlesPuddles
March 28th 2012


4772 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

This is the review this album deserves, but not the one Sputnik wants to admit



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