The Mars Volta: Noctourniquet

This is the sixth album from progressive/psychedelic rock band The Mars Volta.

I’ll be really blunt, I like The Mars Volta a lot, but I prefer At The Drive-In any day of the week and I really want them to reunite, so I’m a little biased towards this band. It’s nothing against the band at all as you’ll soon see. However, I just remembered that At the Drive-In have reunited because they are playing Coachella this summer along with a few other European festival appearances, so thats good except I won’t have the opportunity to see them.

The Mars Volta have made a name for themselves by being extremely bizarre  thanks the brilliance of guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. There’s elements of Jazz, Fusion, Rock, Latin Music, all within their music and yet wrapped together with the complexity and rhythmic accuracy of a math rock band. Despite the fact that the band has had multiple member swaps over the years, every member is extremely proficient on their instrument and the band are always incredibly tight. 

Like I said before, the band are extremely bizarre and I feel like what they play is a bit of an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it, I don’t think you’d ever be disappointed with them. I started getting into the band in 2008 with the release of Bedlam in Goliath, and I have since never been disappointed with the band. However, I do feel like their experimentalist attitude gets the best of them sometimes and I don’t really need a nine minute bassoon solo on record. It’s cool, but a little overcooked and I was kinda disappointed when I saw them live opening up for Soundgarden’s reunion show at Festival Pier last July. The band started off really strong, but their set dipped and got very drawn out to the point where I didn’t really know if they  had changed to a different song or if they were trying to stay in some sort of groove. But that’s just The Mars Volta though and I guess you just have to except them for what they are.

Enough of that, how ’bout an album review? Noctourniquet is marvelously technical and brilliant, yet slightly somber with little joy on the surface. From, the visceral electronic display of “Lapoochka”, to the usual retro-jazz “Dyslexicon”, the band display a fierce array of technically demanding riffs, intricate solos, and a rock-opera vibe to nail it all together. If you know what The Mars Volta are all about, then the only thing that will surprise you is how they’re able to continuously create such brilliant soundscapes and melodic journeys, while being fresh and exciting with every album. This highly anticipated new album should more than satisfy the ears of the eager listeners awaiting to hear what The Mars Volta have to offer. You’ll have to wait a bit though because the album doesn’t hit shelves until the 26th.

Some standout tracks include “Lapochka”, “Dyslexicon”, “The Malkin Jewel”, and “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound”, which is arguably the band’s most and least accessible song to date.

All in all, really good album that I would highly recommend to anyone who isn’t just a casual music fan. You really have to be a certain type of music fan to get this band, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Luke Helker


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