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The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.52 | 317 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I feel as if this is essentially Octahedron fully realised, with a whole lot of electronic sound and dissonance added on top of that. What I mean by this is that it feels similar to Octahedron in some ways, mainly the large amount of ballads and softer moments, but the songwriting is much tighter and more interesting, while also, in classic Mars Volta fashion, utilises their abrasive edge. I believe that in certain regards, this is the most difficult Mars Volta album to listen to, as the heavy use of dissonant synths and the songs' tendencies to go off the rails make this an uncomfortable listen, but an overall highly rewarding one.

From the opening track 'The Whip Hand', one is immediately thrown into the deep end, with a near apocalyptic sound to it, capturing the feeling that everything is falling apart, further pushing this discomfort with the chorus synths which are borderline unlistenable, somehow working despite this, likely due to the already uneasy tone set. Aegis is a much simpler, more palatable song that uses a simple, yet good rhythm and uses a consistent, driving beat throughout the majority of the song. These two songs really highlight the duality of The Mars Volta, being able to create beautiful melodies while also being able to create nightmarish tracks that give off a real sense of discomfort. From the next four tracks, the two highlights are easily Dyslexicon and The Malkin Jewel. The former of these is one of the most engaging songs on the album for sure, applying various vocal styles and effects, while the backing instrumentals are kept fairly minimalistic other than the occasional burst of electronic noise or the energetic drumming present. The Malkin Jewel, while not as bizarre as Dyslexicon, is one of the high points on the album, being more conventional in its structure, but containing an incredible chorus and an awesome bass groove. 'In Absentia' marks the halfway point on the album, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest compositions by the band. The way it transforms blows me away no matter how many times I listen to it. It starts off highly experimental, filled with all kinds of effects, containing very little semblance of a constant rhythm or even melody, before completely changing into something so beautiful that it feels as if you're being swept away as you're listening.

The second side is much more conventional, with much more focus on the more traditional structure and songwriting. Songs like 'Imago' and 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' are simply divine, being easy to listen to, but containing plenty to enjoy despite this. The track that falls between these two, 'Molochwalker', is a more straightforward rocker, with plenty of energy, reminiscent of their first four albums. The one other highlight from this side is the closing track, 'Zed and Two Naughts' being among the most simplistic songs the band has ever written, but also one with incredible emotional impact, especially during the chorus.

Despite all of the positives this album has, there are also some things about it which drag it down. The muddy production and mix on this album are both a positive and negative to me, while it works well at times, creating further atmosphere and really allowing the electronics plastered all over the place to stand out, I also find it to take away from the song at times, most notably in terms of the drums sounding extremely washed out and muffled. Along with this, I must say that the drumming in general is nowhere near up to the regular standard for me in many songs, as I feel like the drums are much more messily played than both Jon Theodore and Thomas Pridgen. There also happens to be the issue of overplaying in certain songs, especially 'The Malkin Jewel' and the title track, which are both brought down to some extent due to their slower nature poorly fitting with the energetic drumming. I also take issue with a few of the songs, with 'Vedamalady' and the title track both sounding quite unimpressive and dull, and 'Lapochka' genuinely being one of the worst things the band has ever put out, with no decent melody, point of interest, not anything. These issues all come together, and while I absolutely love the majority of the material here, these issues are definitely enough to make me only rate it 3.5 stars (rounded down in this case). I definitely find this to be a massive step up from 'Octahedron', but still can't deny that there are a couple of significant flaws to be found here. I'd recommend to listen to this album regardless, as it is quite varied, both in terms of style and tone, and has some absolutely incredible songs that should not me missed by anyone who enjoys The Mars Volta, while also providing a unique twist to keep things interesting.

Best Tracks: In Absentia, Zed and Two Naughts, The Malkin Jewel, Dyslexicon

Worst Tracks: Vedamalady, Noctourniquet, Lapochka

Verdict: An album with incredible potential that was brought down by poor drumming and some inconsistency. Despite this, there are still a number of incredible songs that more than justify me recommending people to listen to it at least once.

Kempokid | 3/5 |


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