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Old 06-06-2012, 06:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Mars Volta: Noctourniquet- 2012

The Mars Volta Noctourniquet- 2012
RMR Album Rating- 9

With the exception of Octahedron, Noctourniquet is The Mars Volta’s most accessible album; however, it is still loaded with complex and experimental music, and untangling each of its songs is equivalent to straightening out each strand of the Gordian Knot.

Noctourniquet, like many The Mars Volta albums, is a concept album. The central concept that runs through many of the songs deals with the unhealthy, and sometimes abusive, relationship between children and their parents, and the concept is maybe best described as the idea that “children should be seen, not heard,” which is also a lyric from the song “Aegis.”

The sound of Noctourniquet is completely unique; however, it does resemble a cross-pollination between their last release (Octahedron), and their first album (De-Loused in the Comatorium). As for the instrumentation and playing, I read somewhere that Omar did everything possible to make his guitar sound like anything and everything except for a guitar, and he definitely succeeded, as in most instrumental sections, it is difficult to discern what instruments are actually creating the sound. There are also loads of new musical elements that The Mars Volta had not incorporated on previous albums. For example, there is a very industrial sound that starts “In Absentia,” which is new musical territory for the band. Plus, there are a lot of unique echoing techniques used throughout the album, which give many of the songs an almost house-music vide— not at all in the hip-hop sense, but just in the way that house-music often creates this kind of pushing and pulling rhythm. The final element of the sound is Cedric’s lyrics and vocals. Cedric is quoted in one of his video interviews saying that he had been “long-winded” and used a lot of “complicated sayings” on previous albums. He went on to say that he wanted to be more lyrically straightforward on Noctourniquet, but to me, his lyrics are as complex and ambiguous as ever, which I like. His lyrical ambiguity also masks the concept of the album, so the story is able to stay behind the scenes and not overpower the album.

As for the songs, the album can really be broken down into three types of songs: aggressive, mellow, and experimental. The aggressive songs like “The Whip Hand,” “Aegis,” “Molochwalker,” and “Zed & 2 Naughts” hold some similarities to past The Mars Volta songs, especially some songs from De-Loused in the Comatorium. The mellow songs like “Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound,” “Trinkets of Pale Moon,” “Vedamalady,” and “Noctourniquet” remind me of tracks off Octahedron, but these new tracks take that slower mellow sound that the band forged on Octahedron and make it more complex, unconventional, and exciting. The experimental songs like “The Malkin Jewel” and “In Absentia” show The Mars Volta continuing to push their boundaries, especially on “In Absentia,” where the song transitions seamlessly from heavy industrial style rock, to echoing spacy atmospheric rock, to this strange bend of pulsating house-music style rock, and as different as all those sound elements seem, they all fit perfectly together inside the song

My favorite songs on the album are “Aegis,” “Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound,” and “In Absentia.” I think each of these songs represents the peak of its respective song group on the album. “Aegis” represents the aggressive song group. “Empty Vessels” represents the more mellow song group, and then “In Absentia” represents the more experimental song group.

Overall, Noctourniquet continues to push The Mars Volta’s sound into new and uncharted territories, but it maintains and even improves on many of their past sound elements. In my opening remarks, I commented that this album is one of their most accessible releases to date, but a better description of the album might be that it is their most concise album to date, for it is still complex and experimental— it just experiments with a greater sense of control and vision.

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Old 07-11-2012, 09:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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I have to agree that the lyrics on this record are a lot more memorable and good to sing along with. Wasn't as big on this one as I was on Octahedron, but it's still a great work of art. All rock fans should give Volta a chance.
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