The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet

Quite brilliant lunacy

The Mars Volta have never taken the easy route. Their sixth album since Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala quit seminal post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In in 2001, ‘Noctourniquet’ is framed around a narrative based both on Superman villain Solomon Grundy and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus. If you need refreshing, that’s the one in which Hyacinth, the (male) lover of the god Apollo, attempts to impress Apollo by catching his discus, but gets struck by it and dies. The music follows the same recondite, abstruse path as the lyrics – an ambitious, avant-garde swirl of prog, rock, post-rock and quasi-metal that carries the weight of such intense cerebral pressure. Suffice to say, there are no songs about wearing the same jeans for four days…

It is, of course, utterly OTT, pretentious, and – at times – wilfully inaccessible. Opening gambit ‘The Whip Hand’ is a whirring buzzsaw of atonal dissonance that requires severe patience to get through it, while ‘In Absentia’, somewhat aptly, never really finds its focus. But there are times when ‘Noctourniquet’ settles into a spellbinding groove, namely on the paranoid ‘Aegis’ and the phenomenal, off-kilter, Nick Cave-meets-Marilyn Manson-esque of ‘The Malkin Jewel’, a disturbing track which prowls like a homicidal maniac about to strike. Elsewhere, ‘Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound’ is bewitching, lovely and accessible, while the frenetic ‘Molochwalker’ recalls the rambunctious volatility of At The Drive-In. Of course, after the announcement of their reunion, all eyes are currently on that former outfit, but, in the interim, this is a powerful reminder of the pair’s quite brilliant lunacy.



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