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Noctourniquet

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Mars Volta returns in epic and unexpected fashion with its sixth album, Noctourniquet.

While Noctourniquet was, in typical Mars Volta fashion, written by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala and produced by Rodriguez-Lopez, the 13-track album explores musical territories previously uncharted in the duo's 20 or so years of creating music together. The spectrum of musical and emotional textures conceived and created by Rodriguez-Lopez on Noctourniquet ranges from the opening bombast of "The Whip Hand" to the menacing crawl of "The Malkin Jewel" punctuated throughout by hypnotic melodies and borderline electro-ambient washes, most notably in the epic "In Absentia. "

The bold diversity of the new material combined with Rodriguez-Lopez's assured producer's hand guiding The Mars Volta's most confident and refined performances to date make Noctourniquet an early contender for this year's most challenging and rewarding listen. As with previous Mars Volta efforts, Bixler-Zavala's lyrics trace a narrative journey with a defined protagonist, this time inspired by disparate elements including '80s UK alt-rockers The Godfathers, Superman comic nemesis Solomon Grundy and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 27, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Bros.
  • ASIN: B0074EIQQU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,596 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
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. This time there is also a bit of interesting non-musical context surrounding the album that explains how and why Noctourniquet is the record that it is.

Firstly, the band have been known in the past for having somewhat exacting standards of quality and timing and so if they aren't happy with something it doesn't come out under their name. This has lead to a live album and at least two full studio albums being scrapped or put on hold so far. During their previous album Octahedron's cycle the band claimed that the follow up album was already recorded, but soon after they decided to make this yet newer album instead. Now however it is unclear whether they actually did or not.

It is also interesting that the band would put out a new studio album so close to when the At The Drive In reunion is going on, almost like either the band or the record company don't want fans to forget about The Mars Volta.

Finally, the line-up has seen a change; Isaiah Ikey Owens is absent from the keyboard position for the first time, John Frusciante doesn't contribute any guitar and Deantoni Parks makes his studio debut as the band's new drummer. Interestingly; despite the album being made without their long time keys player Owens, Noctourniquet seems to be driven primarily by Synths. Of course, The Mars Volta have always made use of keys and synths but this album features them even more than usual.
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I'm starting to think this band can do no wrong. Noctourniquet is indeed an obvious continuation from Octahedron, as all of The Mars Volta's albums tend to evolve directly from their predicessors. But as is always the case, it is not an exact copy, either. The creative juices just keep flowing, and Rodriguez-Lopez and Zavala-Bixler aren't anywhere near their plateau. Not at all.
The focus here tends to be on more laid-back pieces. But that is not to say sappy ballads. No, the disturbingly eerie atmosphere keeps the listener glued. Granted, some tracks are hard to grasp until you listen to them a few times, but doesn't that tend to be true of most great music? There's also more electronica influence, and this is a turn-off for some who feel Omar's virtuosity on guitar obligates him to do nothing but jam. But both of this outfit's leaders are extremely creative and proficient musicians overall, and their genius is best left unrestrained to any box the masses would want to keep them in.
The abstract, sometimes humorous lyrics are there once again; how can you not chuckle at the psychotic line "And the traps in the cellar go clickity-clack 'cause you know I always set them for you"? Absolutely delicious.
If you're just hearing this album for the first time, please wait until you've listened to it several times as I did before forming an opinion. What's great about it is it takes a spin or to to truly relish.
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Format: Audio CD
The Mars Volta is one of the few bands that somehow manages to cover different musical territory with each subsequent album and yet still makes music that undoubtedly sounds like The Mars Volta. This time around, "Noctourniquet" finds them rocking harder than they did on their last effort while looking towards the past for inspiration, namely towards electronic beats and synthesizers that recall other bands yet still push the music in a decidedly Mars Volta direction.
Take opener "The Whip Hand", for instance. Absent Cedric's distinctive voice, this track could easily find itself a home on a Nine Inch Nails album. Progressive rock meets industrial rock and the results are exhilarating. "Aegis" follows, which opens with a Radiohead-esque guitar intro (think "Creep") and active percussion not too far removed from Radiohead's more recent endeavors. In fact, several tracks on the album- "Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound", "In Absentia", "Zed and Two Naughts"- are laced with healthy doses of electronica that result in what sounds like a collaboration between The Mars Volta and Reznor, Yorke, possibly even Jourgensen and Ministry. The title track even throws in some '80s sounding synth that evokes images of cheesy dance moves and bad hair, while "Lapochka" throws in some sweet Beach Boy sounding harmonies. Still, throughout it all, the music is undoubtedly The Mars Volta, full of unexpected time signatures and enigmatic lyrics.
Several tracks stand-out as some of the best this band has done. "The Malkin Jewel" could be a Meat Puppets song as covered by Modest Mouse- quirky, jammy, loose, and weird in a manner TMV does not normally do.
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Format: Audio CD
When Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala began touting their last album, Octahedron, as their "acoustic" album, certain expectations were created in this listener's mind. When that album was released, those expectations were left almost completely unsatisfied. Fortunately, my very expectations for Octahedron were realized, almost to a T, in Noctourniquet. Funny, as the music was apparently recorded around the same time.

Having stated the motivation behind Octahedron to be a need for a change in dynamic, what was unveiled instead was more or less usual Mars Volta fare stripped of dynamics. Stiff, flat compositions performed with seemingly minimal enthusiasm. It had its moments, but it was altogether disappointing. Moreover, Bixler-Zavala's work in both the lyrical and melodic departments seemed to be extremely lacking, and at times even dispassionate. I felt more than a little vindicated in these impressions when Mr. Zavala revealed in a recent interview that he is not too fond of the album himself. In fact, Cedric has opened up about quite a few things in the inner world of The Mars Volta that have served to put a lot of these developments (or lack thereof) in perspective. For instance, he attributes the aforementioned decline in quality to an oppressive work pace set by his partner-in-crime and erstwhile-musical-dictator, Mr. Lopez.

Which brings us to Noctourniquet. Having "put Omar in his place", so to speak, Cedric took the better part of 2 years crafting the vocal landscape of the album. And the payoff is great. This is by far, in all respects, the band's most consistent and rewarding release since "Frances the Mute".
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