The Mars Volta was never very accessible to the average listener, and Noctourniquet is certainly no exception. In fact, it may be even less accessible in some respects. I usually ease myself into a new Volta record by identifying the tracks that have a few clear grooves or melodies. Yes, they exist (see: “Inertiatic ESP”, “L’Via L’Viaquez”, “Wax Simulacra”). I found myself struggling to find such points on Noctourniquet, and upon first listen I didn’t care for it at all.
I held off on my review for a night, then listened again the next day. For some reason I was more intrigued the second time around.
First off, Noctourniquet is a pretty different sound for an already different-sounding band. That can of course be a good thing, but I’m not totally convinced here. The songs are more synth-heavy, and much more ambient than past releases. I even thought the 2nd track “Aegis” was a Radiohead song left off of Hail to the Thief for a minute.
Most of the tracks sound just as chaotic as you’d expect, but they lack much of the guitar rock element. The result is a lower-key, thoughtful album. There is certainly intensity within the songs but it’s more of a situational (or “building”) intensity, rather than the in-your-face craziness. I also found myself growing impatient with the drawn out intros and the seemingly unnecessary weirdness.
But that kind of sums up my beef with latter day Mars Volta anyway: the chaotic-ness of their debut was fascinating, and the songs still rocked and grooved. Now it has morphed into a self-indulgent soundscape of crazy drums, guitar effects, and mumbling (or squealing) vocal lines. The track “Molochwalker” is probably the hardest rocking of the bunch, but it doesn’t offer anything as interesting and diverse as the songs on De-loused…
Last year I caught their set while waiting to shoot photos for Soundgarden. It was probably a prog musician’s heaven to watch them play (and I love a lot of prog rock), but to me it was just a bunch of long drawn-out crazy jam sessions. After the first 2 songs, I got bored quickly.
Bottom Line: There are no tracks on this current release that will melt your face or anything… it’s a good dreamscape kind of record if you’re in the mood for it. Personally I’ve had enough with the abundance of sound effects and insane drum patterns. Their last record (2009’s Octahedron) was a very different sound for them as well, except there are a bunch of songs that I love from that album. Not so much here. Hardcore Volta fans will be happy though!
Categories: Album Reviews