Navigating The Mars Volta’s variety of prog-rock has never been simple; their breadcrumb trail of soundscapes and cryptic lyrics inevitably strays off course. The question is whether to go along for the ride on this, their sixth studio release.
Noctourniquet is a blazing riposte from a band often accused of self-indulgence, and of having reached their peak. These 13 tracks present some of the most accessible in the band’s catalogue, yet their many layers and melodic tangents may be still too dizzying for many of their critics. Coming in at just over an hour, this is a tighter and less frantic mind trip than long-time listeners will be used to.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s sprawling banshee vocals command both structured rock numbers like Aegis, and dreamier moments such as Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound. Never one to be outshone, guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez owns the rhythmic waves of lead single, The Malkin Jewel and the fire-slinging Molochwalker. Ambient nods to ‘70s prog-rock (In Absentia) and synth-heavy numbers (Whip Hand) melt into softly quivering lullabies (Trinkets Pale of Moon). Overall, you get the sense this record is their unique interpretation of the expression ‘less is more’.
Standing slightly askew beside neatly packaged, made-for-iTunes anthems, TMV have made another puzzle worth taking the time to piece together. If Rodriguez Lopez et al. lost you years ago, this record may not be different enough to win you back. For the unacquainted, ambivalent and fans alike, Noctourniquet begs to be heard – hallucinogens not necessary.