The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet

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).


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


* Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – guitars
* Cedric Bixler-Zavala – vocals
* Juan Alderete – bass
* Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez – keyboards, synths
* Deantoni Parks – drums
* Lars Stalfors – synths


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