Review Summary: And yes, Cedric actually sings about broken hearts.
Upon first glance, the 2012 Mars Volta release appears to be nothing new. Once again its name is the offspring of two already challenging English words (surprise!), not to even mention most of the tracks offered on the release bolster pretty showy titles. Upon a second glance, though, what replaces this initial concern is a more subtle sense of relief. After all, the album artwork soothes, and is no amalgamation of opposing images but instead a geometrically based cover. Since when has The Mars Volta, out of all god-almighty-pretentious art rock groups, been identifiable by their geometrically calculated album cover? While the quirkiness is still evident without even spinning the album, there’s an undeniable allure to the band tightening its sound, tautening a few of the slack screws it's infamous for leaving a bit looser than necessary.
And reflecting upon Noctourniquet
makes one realize that Cedric, Omar and their musical minions have finally embraced maturity in about the most organic way possible. Octahedron was mature, absolutely, but the band often sounded bored with itself, as if the project was taken a little too seriously. The liveliest moments, such as “Cotopaxi”, came across as contrived and haphazardly placed on the album for the sake of sating the Frances nuts. And while its lulls were lovely, they meant less solely because there existed no counterpoint for them to build against. On Noctourniquet
, however, we experience a multitude of musical hues, ranging from the splendor of ‘Empty Vessels’ to the vehemence of ‘Dyslexicon’ that’s reminiscent of only the best moments from the group’s last few efforts. It’s immediately evident how in control of itself the group is, especially in moments such as Rodriguez-Lopez’s gentle guitar strokes that help color ‘The Malkin Jewel’ into the ruby it was created to be. And only occasionally do they bite off more than they can chew instrumentally, which is a refreshing change. Inevitably, a few of the tracks flaunt unnecessarily complicated rhythms, and while it’s still frustrating to sit through it feels more significant than in the past. This is because of the emphasis on Cedric’s vocals that we witness on Noctourniquet
. His croons and yelps are placed at the forefront, and the songs were written for this purpose rather than showcasing the riffs. It becomes more evident with each listen that this is how The Mars Volta thrives, and that perhaps the group’s music is meant to be as docile and domesticated as it appears on the group’s latest release.
The Mars Volta is known for stepping outside of the faux-prog-Baphometal genre rather frequently, and while Noctourniquet
does get lost in itself rather often, what else did we expect? The high moments of this startlingly consistent release are monumental. There's ground tread on this release that's otherwise been dormant in the group for ages, and it mostly emerges from pure simplicity and straightforward elegance. They finally are starting to latch onto the idea that they don't need to wear their quirkiness on their sleeve to make a good song, and this realization will prove to be monumental in the forthcoming success of the Mars Volta. Because honestly, despite the already insane moments this band has had, the truth is that the most potent moments of the Mars Volta are only beginning to surface.