The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet (Warner Brothers)

Just as The Mars Volta have released this, their sixth album, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala have announced that they are reuniting with their former band mates in At The Drive-In for a few live dates. The timing may seem strange but that’s because of the time it took to get Noctourniquet ready for release.

Apparently Omar had the music done and dusted back in 2009 but Cedric wanted some extra time to get his lyrics together. He took almost three years and finally it’s here.

There have been a few changes within the Mars Volta camp in the meantime. Frenzied drummer Thomas Pridgen has been replaced by Deantoni Parks and long-time keyboard player Ikey Owens is gone as well, with Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez taking over. Also, former RHCP guitarist John Frusciante is AWOL as well…he’s been present on the five previous albums.

But TMV has always been Omar and Cedric’s show, so there is no drastic change in style here. Cedric has described this album as sounding like “future punk”, but I’m not sure I would agree. The music is loud, complex and cerebral. This is prog-rock for the 21st   Century though 20th Century influences certainly creep in such as Frank Zappa and King Crimson.

This is also meant to be a concept album based loosely on the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme or a story written by Cedric called “The Boy With Knives Stuck In His Voice”. That lyric can be found in the tune In Absentia, while there is a nightmarish quality to tracks like The Whip Hand and Trinkets Pale Of Moon.

The lyrics themselves are pretty obscure, I’m sure they make sense to Bixler-Zavala, but I can only guess as to what he’s on about. Musically, things are as challenging as always.

The best way to experience Noctourniquet is the throw away the lyric sheet and let the music wash over you…repeatedly.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to In Absentia from Noctourniquet