The Mars Volta – “Noctourniquet”
By: Ryan Boyce
The Mars Volta have been at the apex, rather, they have been the apex of progressive rock since they formed back in 2001 after the break up of At The Drive In. This album in particular goes great lengths in every direction of fluidity, something that the band has not done since The Bedlam in Goliath. As the director of the band, Omar Rodriguez- Lopez, said himself about the songs on this album “[are] a simplified version of what we’ve done before.” The simplification goes a long way to make the different genres they touch on come out more clearly than previous releases.
The album opens up strongly in a more ambient-rock direction than we have heard the band take before, with the track “The Whip Hand.” Other songs lend most of their progressions to this ambient mix of rock and electronic deluge, such as “Trinkets of Pale Moon,” and “Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sounds.” The guitar work, which drives most of the band, has taken a backseat to the composition of the album. That is something we can all be thankful for.
There are still moments of metal and speedy time changes that we all know The Mars Volta for, but they come in at more appropriate times than some of the band’s previous releases. “Molochwalker” has a driving pulse running through the entire song, and is key to the second half Nocturniquet’s buildup. Rodriguez-Lopez has focused more attention at getting into the heavier bits, rather than dropping us in the middle of a foray of guitar-driven barrages.
Lyrically, the band has not changed at all. The non-sequiters and allusions to little known Gods and Goddesses form a backdrop to the heavy-hitting riffs. “Phantom masses made of pastures/Labyrinths turning, cystic maze,” is a line from “Zed and Two Naughts,” which is arguably the most sonically developed song from the LP. We can ponder the meanings of these lyrics, or take them for what they are worth, which is beyond most understandings. The vocals the Rodriguez-Lopez lends have in fact improved as well, delivering a clearer, more accessible sound than the wails of previous outputs. This album has an all-around well developed sound and proves that The Mars Volta are still capable of holding down the apex of progressive rock for quite some time.
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