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The Mars Volta

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The Mars Volta Noctourniquet album cover
3.55 | 365 ratings | 17 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Whip Hand (4:49)
2. Aegis (5:11)
3. Dyslexicon (4:22)
4. Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound (6:43)
5. The Malkin Jewel (4:44)
6. Lapochka (4:16)
7. In Absentia (7:26)
8. Imago (3:58)
9. Molochwalker (3:33)
10. Trinkets Pale of Moon (4:25)
11. Vedamalady (3:54)
12. Noctourniquet (5:39)
13. Zed and Two Naughts (5:36)

Total Time 64:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Cedric Bixler-Zavala / vocals
- Omar Rodriguez-López / guitars, keyboards, synths, bass, direction & arrangements, producer
- Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez / keyboards, synths (credited but didn't perform)
- Juan Alderete / bass
- Deantoni Parks / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Sonny Kay

2LP Rodriguez Lopez Productions - RLP025 (2012, US)

CD Warner Bros. Records - 530380-2 (2012, US)
CD Warner Bros. Records - WPCR-14440 (2012, Japan)
CD Warner Bros. Records - 9362-49518-4 (2012, Europe)

Thanks to AgentSpork for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE MARS VOLTA Noctourniquet Music

THE MARS VOLTA Noctourniquet ratings distribution

(365 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

THE MARS VOLTA Noctourniquet reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by VanVanVan
4 stars To be honest, I've never been a huge Mars Volta fan. I enjoyed most of what I heard from them, but I never made it a priority to seek out and listen heavily to their stuff, and by the time The Bedlam in Goliath came out they had more or less fallen off of my radar. Thus, I'll freely admit that I haven't really been along to hear their sound evolve from what it was on Amputechture to what it is here, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that I need to go back and find out.

My point, of course, is that the sound of Noctourniquet is drastically different from the sound of The Mars Volta's first three albums. I have no idea if this has been a drastic shift or a gradual drift, but coming off a two album gap there's definitely a difference. For one thing, electronics are much more prominent on this album, appearing nearly ubiquitously. Second and even more drastic is the compositional shift that seems to have occurred. Gone are the 16 minute odysseys, the instrumental freak outs and extended prog-rock solos. In their place are very tight, well put together compositions that manage a level of accessibility their predecessors never had while still maintaining some degree of the Mars Volta's inherent weirdness. While I won't venture to claim that one style is better than the other, it is a definite difference and one that's very interesting to hear.

"The Whip Hand" begins the album with some rather innocuous electronics before a fuzzed- out, distorted, and bizarrely rhythmic riff comes in. Vocals follow soon after, laying down a vocal line that's both more accessible than much of the band's previous work and still unmistakably the Mars Volta. Some psychedelic, almost acid-washed guitar parts appear in the track as well, along with a variety of electronic sounds. Largely as a result of the latter sounds, the track as a whole sounds much more alt-pop than prog-rock, but the band's rampant experimentalism also permeates the track, and "The Whip Hand" ends up being a very strange song that samples from many genres without falling squarely into any of them.

"Aegis" is noticeably more subdued, with a languid, almost Radiohead-esque vibe to it that contrasts sharply with the tightly wound insanity of so many previous TMV tracks. Again, various keyboard sounds feature prominently, and the combination of a fairly standard structure with the immediately recognizable "Mars Volta sound" results in a surprisingly accessible, even catchy song with some great vocal melodies and a noticeable lack of the knotty, occasionally hard to digest instrumental parts that featured so prominently on much of the group's earlier work.

"Dyslexicon" also makes prominent use of electronic sounds, with a kind of distorted Kraftwerk sequence playing near constantly behind the percussion and guitar parts that make up most of the rest of the music for the track. As with much of The Mars Volta's music, the vocals are the primary focus for much of the track, with haunting harmonies and some extremely (if unsurprisingly) powerful delivery courtesy of Mr. Bixler-Zavala. The instrumentals are fascinating as well, with multiple parts sounding as if different instruments are playing in different time signatures and a strange degree of distortion on the guitars that gives them an avant edge without ever sounding intentionally weird.

"Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound" begins with some distorted electronic noise before an uncharacteristically cheerful guitar part comes in. The track has a very psychedelic, almost Floydian vibe to it, though the always-unique vocals keep that comparison from going too far. I can again hear a little bit of similarity to Radiohead as well, and really this is a very approachable song, especially for the Mars Volta. In fact, I'd imagine that if you played this song and "Cygnus? Vismund Cygnus" to someone who wasn't in the know they'd be unable to identify the two as the same band. That said, this is an incredibly solid song, and it really highlights how behind all the insanity the Mars Volta are really just incredible composers. "Empty Vessels?" is hauntingly beautiful, delicately psychedelic and gratingly abrasive all in one, and at least here that's a combination that works.

"The Malkin Jewel" is probably the song that you've heard by now if you've been following this album at all, as the band released it about a month in advance as the "lead single" of the album. Featuring an almost groovy bass part and some brilliant interplay between percussion and guitar, "The Malkin Jewel" is a decidedly idiosyncratic track, but not one that's terribly hard to "get." I never thought I'd use the word accessible this much in describing a Mars Volta album, but this track is another very approachable one, at least until the rising wall of sound that ends the track appears.

"Lapochka" begins almost minimalistically, with vocals coming out with such bombast that the backing instruments sound strangely spare. The sound gets flushed out a bit with a variety of keyboard textures and other sound effects, and "Lapochka" develops some very good hooks along the way as well. It also highlights how strong the arrangement is on this album, with vocals, guitars, percussion, and electronics all working together perfectly to create one cohesive musical blend.

"In Absentia" begins with some breathy, distorted sound effects before a very cool, ominous keyboard part comes in. The song has a very interesting compositional structure, with the keyboards, percussion and vocals all seemingly slightly out of touch with one another and yet the track as a whole working perfectly. "In Absentia" has a decidedly sinister atmosphere to it, with a hauntingly melodic keyboard part repeated consistently under slightly distorted vocals. As a result of this (in combination with the disjointed composition), the track comes off as very unsettling and slightly unhinged, which in my opinion is a style the Mars Volta can pull off very well.

"Imago" actually reminds me very strongly of David Gilmour's solo album, On An Island (except for the vocals, of course). With a very relaxing ambience only minorly undercut by brief, noisy electronic bursts, "Imago" is by and large a very dreamy song, and one that ends up being very pretty. It's also a very good change of pace after the rather dark "In Absentia," as its feel is noticeably sunnier.

"Molochwalker" is a bit of a rockier number, with more strange guitar riffs and belted vocal delivery to contrast with the dreamy crooning of "Imago." As a matter of fact, it's probably the most similar song on the album to the band's work circa Frances the Mute or Amputechture, though the slightly more accessible approach the band took for Noctourniquet definitely still comes through. I can pick out some definite blues influences in the riffing as well, though to say that this song falls anywhere close to straight blues would be a drastic oversimplification.

"Trinkets Pale of Moon" begins with a fairly sedate guitar part played over some ambient voice clips. When the vocals come in, they have the kind of mysterious, slithery tone that only Bixler-Zavala can pull off. Some pseudo-vintage organ textures round out the sound before a more modern keyboard texture comes in at around the two minute mark. The juxtaposition of this with the classic rock organ gives the song a very unique, chilled-out feel that's equal parts haunting and idiosyncratic. Another very relaxed track, but a very compelling one.

"Vedamalady" follows much in the same vein, with guitars and keyboards playing off of each other in a way that elevates the track beyond its alt-rock and avant-electronica influences. However, despite its occasional moments of textural strangeness, this is still a very accessible track, with gorgeous vocal melodies and harmonies. In fact, toward the end of the track the song becomes nearly anthemic, with one of the most powerful and emotive vocal lines I've heard from any Mars Volta album.

The title track is a bit stranger, with an understated introductory section that again recalls much of the band's earlier work. After this comes another section of seemingly clashing time- signatures, but the song stays fully in the realm of more-or-less relaxed psychedelia. Even as intensity begins to build towards the end of the track it's far less frantic than most of what I remember from the group's first 3 albums. There's even some instrumental passages that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Kraftwerk's The Man Machine, and that album is about as chilled-out as you can get.

"Zed and Two Naughts" closes out the album on an interesting note, starting off with an almost trip-hop motif but quickly building into a more frenetic rocker, with Bixler-Zavala's vocals becoming more intense as the track progresses and the instrumentation getting noisier and heavier as well. By the time the track reaches its climax, in fact, the band is in full on rock mode, which makes the sudden end to the song all the more jarring. Overall, it's a very fitting end to an album that never seems insistent on keeping the listener just a little bit off balance.

So overall, while I would argue this is not the prog-rock masterpiece that Frances the Mute was, it's still a very solid album and a worthy addition to the Mars Volta canon as far as my limited experience with the band is concerned. Going into the album with an open mind is almost certain to yield positive results, and for me at least it's nice to hear the Mars Volta relax a bit after building up a mental image of them as a band that couldn't hold still. And of course, as I've hopefully conveyed, the songs are excellent, by turns psychedelic, haunting, and beautiful. A very good album and a highly recommended listen.


Review by Negoba
5 stars Genius Evolves - This is the State of the Art of Prog

I have been listening to NOCTOURNIQUET intermittently over several weeks, and every time I come back to it, I've been extremely impressed. From the first raunchy guitar entrance of "The Whip Hand," it's clear that the Mars Volta have made some changes. The band has taken their core sound, folded in the new melodicism of OCTAHEDRON, and then added some even crazier rhythmic ideas and a host of new tones from the keys and guitars. The result is simultaneously recognizable as Mars Volta music and something completely fresh and surprising. To be sure, the band has gotten back their edge.

With adrenaline filled bands like TMV, it's always a crapshoot how they will age. Acting spastic at 40 is ridiculous and Omar and Cedric are closing in. The move from At the Drive- In to Mars Volta simultaneously maintained and expanded the level of creativity of the pair, and NOCTOURNIQUET also represents a (lesser) maturing without sacrifice of energy or wierdness. Omar seems to have made the most changes, with a whole new pallette of gadgets and trippy effects. Cedric sounds great and again is quite melodic. And while the new whizbangs are what pull me in and make my brain admire the band, the melodies are what really make the music stick down in the gut.

The first six songs are simply amazing, and the let up from there is only minor. The later songs get a bit more exploratory, take their time a bit more. A few tracks ("Imago" comes to mind) are more like older material. The Mars Volta have always toyed with odd time signatures, but some tracks on this album are toying with math-rock. New drummer Deantoni Parks has shades of Zach Hill in him. Like Hill, his slightly loose, organic style hides a deep mastery of rhythm (he's a Berklee School of Music Graduate and now teacher of jazz drumming). In addition, keyboardist Ikey Evans has been replaced by backstage noisemaker Lars Stalfors.

The opening monster "The Whip Hand" and the advance single "Malkin Jewel" are perhaps where the new members and the resulting new sound are most prominent. I was fairly uncertain of the drunken Jack White sound of "Jewel" at first, but it's great in the context of the album. "Dyslexicon" has a number of melodic elements that alude to post-punk / new wave like Blondie. "Empty Vessels" is a slow head trip in a syncopated 3. "Lapochka" gives the listener a little break with Cedric back to his straight voice but the band playing a mutant pop-prog. Complete with dark keyboards, odd time signature, and space-rock trappings, this is probably the most likely to appeal to your average fan on PA.

The only drawback to this album is that what amounts to side 2 is less focused. Some where about the middle of "In Abstentia" I'm no longer amazed, but simply content. This along with the album length keeps me from wanting to turn around and listen on continuous repeat. Still, this may be my favorite Mars Volta album. As a guy pushing 40 myself, its not uncommon for me to like band's middle albums best. Especially when, as here, the band is still growing and challenging themselves.

I've debated on the 5 star rating but I think the strength of the first 6 songs is more than enough to carry the day. No other band to my knowledge is combining traditional prog ideas with modern indie guts and their own personal genius quite like Mars Volta. Enjoy.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This has the worst artwork of any TMV album yet. Good thing the music itself more than makes up for it. I first heard the album when I streamed it on the RollingStone website. Feeling their last two albums were a bit of a letdown I really didn't know what to expect. I liked it the more I listened to it and figuring it would not be streamable on the RS site forever, I did the inevitable and ordered the damn CD. So now Octahedron is the only TMV studio album I do not own. Noctourniquet is a very consistent album which, like every TMV album, sounds different from the last one. There are shades of earlier stuff but more electronics than before and Cedric's vocals are more 'normal' than usual. The break the band took between albums was a good idea as it rejuvenated their creative juices. Omar of course released 5824 solo albums in the meantime...but still.

The new drummer is great and is worthy of his position. There is more keyboards (mostly synths) than on any earlier album. Most of the time the synths are used for spacey or atmospheric sounds and not melodic or rhythmic parts. Cedric's lyrics are generally not as oblique and esoteric as on previous releases. Until you read the lyrics you might be fooled into thinking some of these tracks are love songs; the word 'love' gets used quite a bit. "The Whip Hand" opens the album with a synth sequence being faded in. A good opener and one of the better songs. I love the main riff done on either a distorted synth or guitar synth. Interesting studio alterations to the guitar in places. Cedric's vocals here are generally what you would expect of him. Also, don't step on him because he's a landmine.

"Aegis" starts off on some kind of Radiohead-ish post-rock-y vibe. Then it goes into typical TMV territory. There is a sequencer pattern here which reminds me of Muse. I like the watery/echoey guitar tone in the 'verse' parts. I have no idea what singles have been released from the album, but "Empty Vessles Make The Loudest Sound" sounds like single material. Not bad but not a highlight. "The Malkin Jewel" starts out as some kind of slightly avant blues-rock. Later turns more atmospheric and then slightly cacaphonous. "Lapochka" is a highlight. Love how the drummer intentionally doesn't hit a drum when he should, creating a great anti-beat. The vocals are memorable and the whole song is excellent.

"In Absentia" may be the best track. This song really grew on me. It begins almost dissonant and cacaphonous while the singing is more accessible. Lots of studio altered sounds including backwards stuff and modified vocals before a single keyboard note gets repeated but changes keys while Cedric sings. Then all of a sudden the drums kick in and the music is a lot more melodic and accessible now. This part sounds like a completely different song to the first part but they segue into each other perfectly. "Molochwalker" is a real rocker that would not be out of place on either De-loused or Bedlam. "Trinkets Pale Of Moon" opens with acoustic guitar and a sample of people chanting (and later some of them talking). Later on when Cedric is already singing you hear some nice organ or an organ type of sound on synth, then electronic beats. Interesting track.

"Vedamalady" is another single-ready song but better than "Empty Vessels..." Album closer "Zed And Two Naughts" has a great spacey, electronic beginning followed by a great beat then a great bass part. After that it sounds like something from the first two TMV albums. Overall a great album and return to form for the band. The songs are neither short nor very long and the lows here are not as low as on most of their albums. Apart from a track or two nothing really matches their best work either. But it flows well and sounds good (compared to Bedlam which was headache-inducing on earphones). 4 stars.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was enamoured with The Mars Volta album "Frances the Mute", a master work with genius innovative prog sounds, and one by one acquired all their albums. The debut was likewise an excellent album on its own merits. The main drawcard of the band is the high strangeness of the psychedelic polyrhythmic indulgence that dominates, with insane percussive time sigs and guitars turned up to 11. Zavala's vocals are usually a tour de force of outlandish brashness blending a weird cacophony of Spanish, Oriental and jibberish to generate a new language. It is the weird atmospherics that caught my attention and when these attributes are removed all that remains is another dreary alternative rock band. Even the weird malignant art work is gone to be replaced by a poor album cover resembling some pop artist's nightmare. To be honest, nothing has really lived up to the FTM album, especially the last albums have been way under par in terms of quality, innovation and technique and Zavala's vocals suffer in many respects. Not only is this disappointing, it is downright confounding. How a band can sink to the level of "Amputecture" is beyond reason when they are capable of sheer brilliance. At least "Amputecture" featured Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez's inventive guitar crashes and the wild percussive metrical shapes of Jon Theodore, as well as Latin rhythms and the non sensical banter of Cedric Bixler Zavala. Since then, the band really became another FM radio import and nothing lives up to the magic of their earlier releases.

Certainly the band know how to construct a melody but the inventive nature of the band, the absolute audacity of creating mind bending epics with time signature chaos was stripped out of The Mars Volta. The result has been the mere husk of a genius unit; a shadow only remains. A live concert I saw online recently only supports this view as in the concert Zavala's voice is shot to pieces, and it is such a noisy mess it is very embarrassing to watch.

Admittedly the new album is certainly a step up from the last 2 albums but again the band have opted for a more conventional approach and play it safe with short tunes filled with strong melodies and singable choruses. I have come to the conclusion that the band are no longer interested in emulating the progressiveness of their earlier material; playing it safe when they are capable of dangerous territory. On this new album there are some very strong compositions such as the blistering pace of 'Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound' and the dramatic 'The Malkin Jewel', as well as superb progalicious 'In Absentia'. The haunting psych dreamscape of 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' is a feast for the ears and especially the intricate delicacies of 'Vedamalady' comes to mind. Each track has a melodic, at times ambient, organic atmosphere and sit well on any FM radio station's airplay and that is not a bad thing, it is just that the band have shed their more progressive skin to convey the new poppier synth sound. The new drummer is fine, as are other members, and at least the album delivers very promising and worthwhile tracks unlike the last two albums.

There is very little in the way of the earlier bombastic chaos of free form manic jazz, meets heavy power riffing and trippy psychedelia. There are no epics or anything that will surprise the average progger. It is a decent album with slices of catchy songs and some good musicianship occasionally, and slightly progressive sounds, but that is where it ends with The Mars Volta's "Noctourniquet". 3.5 stars is a good result, in comparison to more recent TMV albums.

Review by jammun
3 stars If you look at my previous reviews of TMV, you will know I like these guys, maybe even more than justifiable. Alas, past performance does not guarantee future results, as they are quick to say when you're about to lose a few bucks on some album.

This starts out as possibly the worst TMV album ever recorded. Nothing of note happens, until...

Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound hearkens back to the melodic glory of the former albums, with fine Frippy guitars and the yearning for...empty vessels to fill, just to hear the fine noise that emits from therein. The solo guitar limning the melody, the voices riding it over it, the pure echoing guitars in the background, "searching for a lighthouse in the fog", until all erupts. The melodic skill at this point is just in their blood and it seems almost illegally easy, and it just wafts from the vocals to the guitars, back and forth.

Really, you listen to songs like these, they walk up to you on the street, and in spite of their somewhat questionable looks, well you can't help but sight unseen buy a bridge from them when it's offered. It'd be a good bridge too, and they'd throw in an unforgettable hook. That's how these guys work when they are on.

There are many similar moments here. That's the problem...they are moments.

You see and hear them coming, almost instinctually, and get across the street as soon as possible to avoid the inevitable mugging, the bloody mouth, the semi-concussion, and the missing wallet, not to mention how you're going to explain that long blonde hair on your jacket to your wife.

Still a solid album, I'd say.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Let me start off this review by saying that this is quite possibly The Mars Volta's best work. After repeated listens it seems to just keep getting better, it's slowly creeping it's way into my top 2 TMV albums with Deloused and Frances up there previously and it shows no signs of slowing it's journey into my favorite records of this year and of all time.

What's great about this album is that it sounds very reminiscent of Bedlam only it's songs flow more like Deloused making it some kind of hybrid between prog rock greatness and avant alt-rock. Heck, there are even some electronic music elements in this record, moments that recall memories of Jeremy Michael-Ward's work with the band whom they undoubtedly took a ton of influence from.

It's a record seething with emotion and like most TMV records uses that to make the songs memorable and fantastic-sounding. It's a formula that's been working for years now but with Noctourniquet it seems very much refreshed, like this is a new era for TMV. I can't complain, whatever they did with this record works, I'm still singing "THAT'S WHEN I DISCONNECT FROM YOU" in my head endlessly.

An album, that I'm having trouble describing sure, but a great record nonetheless. I'd go as far as saying this is a good introduction to TMV, right up there with Deloused.

5 star record no doubt.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars It pains me to say it, but one of the most uncompromising bands on Earth apparently no longer wants to scare the bejesus out of unwary listeners. This is the first album from The Mars Volta that can arguably be called dispensable, and for a group so famously unpredictable that may well be the most unexpected criticism ever.

The album reportedly had a difficult genesis, with tracks begun but then shelved for the better part of three (!) years, before a commitment was made to wrap it all up. So it's hardly surprising that the original impetus was lost, and it shows. Songs like 'In Absentia', 'Lapochka' and the aptly titled 'Dyslexicon' give the impression that the left hand of the band was working at cross-purposes to the right.

Stylistically the album continues a trend toward shorter songs, almost but (thankfully) not quite conventional in structure and delivery. What's missing is the collaborative passion of earlier efforts, and (with a few worthwhile exceptions) the memorable hooks. The haunting ballad 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' is a standout; also the beautifully named 'Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound'. And 'The Malkin Jewel', the first single culled from the album, is an obvious highlight, although for whatever odd reason the song reminds me of the '80s goth rockers Bauhaus (circa 'She's In Parties'). Vocally, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Peter Murphy are, if not exactly twins, at least long-lost second cousins switched at birth.

An unstable personnel roster didn't help the project, either. New drummer Deantoni Parks is the most audible weak link, although I'm certainly not trying to cast him as a scapegoat. His clunky, drunken, off-kilter rhythms perfectly compliment a song like 'The Malkin Jewel', but elsewhere throughout the album his efforts were politely camouflaged by lots of studio alchemy, and probably for good reason.

No surprise there: The Mars Volta has always dressed its music in the latest (and often most garish) state-of-the-art wardrobe. But the more calculated psychedelia of 'Noctourniquet' lacks the sometimes volcanic creativity erupting from their other albums. The idiosyncrasies here seem oddly forced and artificial, imposed on the material after the fact to hide the wrinkles in master tapes already three years out of date.

Maybe the album's title is entirely fitting. Or maybe, after a handful of wildly energetic albums, the band simply burned itself out. Perfectly understandable, after the auto-da-fé of 'The Bedlam inGoliath' in just took a couple of albums for the ashes to finally settle. But don't count them out too soon; there might still be a phoenix in their future.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Noctourniquet" is the 6th full-length studio album by US experimental/progressive rock act The Mars Volta. The album was released through Warner Bros. in March 2012. The album was created under a bit of turmoil, as main composer/guitarist Omar Rodriguez- Lopez and lead vocalist/lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala had an argument over the creative process. Most of the instrumental parts for the album were already recorded in 2009, shortly after mixing "Octahedron (2009)" but when Omar Rodriguez-Lopez approached Cedric Bixler-Zavala about recording the vocals for the album, the latter demanded a timeout. He simply didn't feel ready or inspired to work on vocals/lyrics for the album at that point. While it didn't exactly suit Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and his busy restless nature (which is well documented in the way he releases several solo albums a year), Cedric Bixler-Zavala was given room and space to breathe. After a couple of years he returned to the studio to record the vocals for the album.

The music on "Noctourniquet" is as always a experimental rock and a new adventurous chapter in the discography of The Mars Volta. Few bands on today's music scene are as adventurous and boundary bending as The Mars Volta. They always set out to create an album that doesn't sound like the last one, and that's admirable IMO. Sometimes they focus a bit too much on experimentation instead of focusing on some of the otherwise beautiful melodies they also write, but when those two elements go hand in hand these guys produce magic. A track like "Lapochka" stands out as an example of that. Examples of the more "frustrating" tracks to my ears are "The Whip Hand" and "In Absentia".

The musicianship is as usual on a very high level. The band are tight and at times virtuosic. Cedric Bixler-Zavala sings varied and with passion. His high pitched singing style is applied to the music in the right doses.

"Noctourniquet" is a bit of a mixed bag to my ears. Too much of the album drown in "over the top" experimental guitar/keyboard layers, odd rythms and memorability and accessibility suffer from it. There are still some beautifully crafted melodies on the album but too often it sounds like the at times abrasive instrumental parts of the music aren't sensible to the more delicate vocal parts. The Mars Volta have always made busy music and that's of course part of their appeal to fans of experimental rock, but I prefer when they are a bit more restrained. Even those moments aren't completely convincing everytime either though. The parts where they strike the right balance still makes "Noctourniquet" an intriguing and enjoyable album though and I'd say a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved. It's not their best by a long shot though.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
3 stars 6/10

Decently Enjoyable, But Not The Ending This Band Deserves.

(Quick Review)

Nocturniquet is the Mars Volta's sixth studio LP, as well as their last. Not the strongest ending such a great and innovating band could have accomplished, which makes it even more of a disappointment the fact that the band now seizes to exist. Nevertheless, it was good to see the band going for a more straightforward, song-oriented direction, which as consequence requires more focus on the songwriting. And the band hasn't lost much of their talent, both in the above mentioned department as well as in the musicianship one, because it's obvious these artists are still technical beasts when it comes to deliver solid instrumentation. The group can still pull great songs such as the opener 'The Whip Hand', 'Lapochka', the more soothing 'Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound', and overall, a pretty solid, concise, and focused album that, although not thoroughly enjoyable all the way through, is satisfying as a whole.

Review by Prog Leviathan
1 stars Noctourniquet is the sixth and (probably) final album by the Mars Volta, a band of volcanic energy, instrumental virtuosity, electric creativity... and a steady downward slide in quality that ends with this messy, electronic, unapproachable, conflicted, abstract, and ultimately awful album. I was excited about this album at the time of it's release, because I love the band's early works and was hoping for a comeback... a wanted to love this album.

I hate this album.

It's one of the few records in my collection that, when I begin listening, I genuinely want it to stop almost immediately. Maybe this is nostalgia or sentimentality for the amazing De-Loused, Frances, or Amputechture, or maybe it's the weird staggered rhythms, non-existent melodies, flat and bland dynamics, highly electronic - almost computerized sound, meandering drumming and guitar work, and joylessness that practically assaults the senses with each song.

That's really it, joylessness, I think. This album simply isn't any fun for anyone involved, musicians included. There clearly isn't excitement from a songwriting or performance standpoint, because each of these songs drifts by as unmemorably and unexcitingly as the one that preceded it. Noctourniquet is more than an hour of sounds that aren't quite songs, aren't quite ambiance, aren't quite experimental. It's like a collection of Trent Reznor demos over which Bixler-Zavala recites abstract poetry to. Discussions and interviews talk about the more concise, song-oriented nature of this album, which I totally disagree with. The entire album feels like one agonizingly long song that doesn't know what to do with itself, and the musicians phone this one in and let the album's producer pick up the pieces. There is nothing to grab hold of or remember here.

It's different than they're other releases I'll give it that, but Noctourniquet fails on all fronts. It's a tragic close to an amazing legacy that is definitely for completionists only. People who don't like Mars Volta will probably hate this album, maybe even more than people who love the band. I'm glad that, now having reviewed this album, I'll never have to listen to it again. No, I'm not exaggerating. I love this band... but I hate this album.

Songwriting: 1 - Instrumental Performances: 2 - Lyrics/Vocals: 1 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Review by russellk
3 stars With this, their last album before a timely disbanding, THE MARS VOLTA complete the transition from a psyched-out retro-prog band to a standard rock band with a few tricks. Gone are the epic tracks, the demented guitars, the crazy concepts. All that is left are the songs and, despite their undoubted quality, they're not quite enough.

Part of the problem is that by this point the band is itself a slimmed-down version of the eight-man goliath from their glory days. No Ikey on keyboards is a severe loss, for example (as was his untimely passing in 2014). But at the heart of it is the disintegration of the relationship between Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala. Hard to make great music when the trust and respect isn't there. So, with a few exceptions, the songs here are one dimensional, pallid imitations of their previous work.

All that said, there are plenty of bands who would be proud to have Empty Vessels, Aegis, The Malkin Jewel and the last two minutes of In Absentia on their resume. On the other hand, there are more than a few clunkers on this album, particularly near the end.

A great band. Whether they appealed to you or not, you should be grateful for the way they pushed the boundaries of hard, psychedelic prog rock. Just not on this album.

Review by Kempokid
5 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.

Latest members reviews

5 stars What an excellent offering from The Mars Volta. While their work was arguably getting repetitious and dull in Bedlam, they changed their style quite drastically and released a more acoustic, quite and accessible release with Octahedron, that album suffered from having some filler, and some unf ... (read more)

Report this review (#1262313) | Posted by Billy Pilgrim | Friday, August 29, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album has been in the foetal stages for a while now. Apparently according to the band, there where a lot of arguments over when this album should be released. In fact this album could have been released a lot early, but after disputes from the band...they decided to take their time with this ... (read more)

Report this review (#800621) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Sunday, August 5, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Mars Volta return in 2012 with their sixth full-length studio album, Noctourniquet. As with most of their work many people will have made up their mind about whether they'll like it beforehand anyway, based on whether or not they like how the band keeps changing away from its early style. Thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#686530) | Posted by Gentlegiantprog | Sunday, March 25, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The newest addition to their ever growing catalog, Noctourniquet, brings forth a fresh approach to a formula that has worked for them in the past. This album will turn some heads. Some previously otherwise unwilling listeners will turn towards them. Some hardcore fans may turn away though. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#680964) | Posted by besotoxico | Saturday, March 24, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album was leaked a few weeks ago. I go this and i was extremely excited to play it after waiting for soooooooo long. Believe me, it was well worth the wait! the minute i pressed play there was a huge smile that went across my face from beginning to end on this marvelous LP. From the open ... (read more)

Report this review (#646430) | Posted by vueltavida | Sunday, March 4, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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