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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.

Context is interesting and can unfairly doom or raise an album more than it deserves, but the fairest way to judge an album is on the music. Musically, this album is very different from previous Mars Volta efforts. If you have been paying any attention to the band's career trajectory however you would expect that already as the band always take a new direction and never repeat the same thing twice.

This wasn't the record anyone expected the band to put out, which is exactly what makes the band so great in the first place. The band have come a long way since their classic debut album De-Loused In The Comatorium, both shedding and making thousands of fans with each release. As long as there is weird and creative music with Cedric's voice and Omar's guitar style it'll feel acceptable to call it The Mars Volta. Just to make things a little easier however, Noctourniquet is another concept album like most of their previous works which helps it to fit in a little better too.

With Noctourniquet the music has taken a distinctly more electronic turn. Additionally, the music is a lost less explosive and brash than their heaviest works and a lot less complex and jazzy than their most Progressive Rock influenced works. The band almost seems to be channeling later-day Radiohead at times, or at least some of the same influences.

At first listen the album can feel like it is off on a wild tangent deliberately trying to be different, but it is a grower as always and repeat listens will help it to make sense within the band's overall catalogue. Cedric has described the sound as "Future Punk" and you can get what that was supposed to mean when listening to tracks like `In Absentia,' `The Whip Hand' or lead single `The Malakin Jewel,' but if you don't like the idea of "Future Punk" don't worry however, as this isn't the whole picture.

Tracks like `Aegis' `Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sounds' and quieter songs like `Trinkets Pale Of Moon' feel a bit more like previous Mars Volta work and wouldn't have been that drastically out of place on Octahedron or Bedlam In Goliath. These songs are perhaps the most instantly enjoyable, if you don't like too much change.

Overall; evolution and drastically changing is business as usual for The Mars Volta. Noctourniquet feels like it might be half trying to do something genuinely new and half trying to keep one foot in their previous style. As always with The Mars Volta a lot of fans will hate this album just because it isn't like their debut, a lot of fans will blindly love the album no matter what and a lot of people will feel initially confused before it eventually grows on them. Chose which category you usually fall into and chances are that will probably be a good indicator of how you feel about this record too.
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on 21 July 2012
Mars volta are consistent in that they are never frightened of taking risks. Nocturnequet is indicative of yet another leap over the career abyss. this time, Omar et al have created an album that is straight forward, and gone are the lengthy jams and guitar soloing that they were known for. I have to admit, that as an avid appreciator of prog and psych rock, i was a bit alienated on the first few listens. now, more recently as i listen, i see this album as a quick fix of Mars Volta-ism - perhaps the musical equivalent of a shot of espresso before work :). some great hooks here and there, great percussion, nothing too wild; nothing too meandering.

Mars Volts have shown that they can cut down on all the wildness, write an accessible song, and still retain their identity as a band. However, I do hope the insane musicality is back with the next album...

All hail one of the best bands around at the minute.

P.S If you like the Mars Volta, try Zech's Marquise. Brilliant

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on 6 April 2012
Having listened to this album a few times i must say that i am very impressed with it.

Love the funky drum beats, the experimental sound samples and the general sonic atmosphere that only TMV can create.

This is better than Octahedron, i know this album was slagged off but i actually thought is was really good, saying this I don't think Noctourniquet is quite as good as their debut De-Loused, but it is still and excellent album which gets better and better with each listen.

May they continue to produce many more inspirational ground breaking albums in times to come :)
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on 30 March 2012
I am going to be brief; for me this album is superb! It lacks the "spirit" and aggression of ATDI recordings but I have completely dissolved listening to "Vedamalady".
Sonically whimsical as usual,the album puts you in a state of blissful perplexity.
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on 21 March 2013
Incredible, forward-thinking and diverse record, featuring some of the best hooks and ideas of their career. Omar's drum production gets bigger with every record and Deantoni's drumming is both intelligent and raw, putting him right up there with the likes of Theadore and Pridgen. Cedric never disappoints, delivering yet another stunning vocal performance! Thoroughly enjoyable listen and possibly the best album of their career.

Vinyl package is brilliant. Nice idea with the 3D artwork + glasses and the different coloured vinyl are awesome.

Great package and great album. Absolute must have for all fans of The Mars Volta
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on 8 May 2012
The Mars Volta change up their sound once again, on first listen the album to me sounded either abit "too different" or "abit bland", but i knew as with all TMV releases, time will do this justice and it does.

First track "The Whip Hand" with its huge distorted dirty bassline gets things going, albeit a strange starter for a TMV album, then "Aegis" and "Dyslexicon" is like something off of Bedlam/Goliath, then "Empty Vessels" is a slow burner not to disimilar to something off of Octahedron, but the more you listen to these or any of the tracks on this album they all become a part of the bigger picture and when the bigger picture arrives, Its amazing, i for one love the new direction of sound they took on this after initally being disappointed.

My Standout/Try These Tracks:

In Absentia [Fave Track!]
Zed and Two Naughts
Empty Vessels

I do enjoy every track on this album. I dont think a day has passed since release when iv not played this album or at least a few tracks off it. 10/10
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on 27 March 2012
When TMV released "Octahedron", their aim was to strip back their sound, introduce more subtle dynamics and release a "pop" record. They FAILED. Now with "Noctourniquet" they have finally realised what they set out to achieve before.

The more I hear this album, the more it grows on me, "Vedamalady" has to be the best balad TMV have ever written, the falsetto chorus on "Aegis" is worthy of the band's debut, new guy Deantoni Park's drums are intricate and propell the heavier parts on "Dyslexicon" forward in a similar way to "...Bedlam..." and the proggy "In Absentia" is to die for. That's not even mentioning the Nick Caveesque art-rock of "The Malkin Jewel", with it's lurching rhythms.

I am so glad this is much much much better than the dissapointment that was "Octahedron".
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on 9 January 2016
One of their best in my opinion. More accessible.
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on 28 December 2015
Their best album to date. Highly recommended!
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on 10 April 2012
Being a huge Mars Volta fan, I always look out for their releases.

There are other reviews that you can read which will discuss the tracks, and indeed compare the album to previous releases. This review however, will tackle an altogether different point - the sound quality you can expect.

Firstly, it's necessary to dispel any misconception that sound quality is related to source material. There is no reason why guitar based music should clip in the mastering of the recording, or why there should not be considerable dynamic range. As an example, ZZ Top's 'Eliminator' has an outstanding Dynamic Range.

As a perspective - "Eliminator" has a DR of 14-17. Oasis's 'definately maybe' - the band which is often associated with the invention of dynamically limited music has a DR of 7.

So, what about Noctourniquet? It's 3. Yes, I said 3.

That's the end of the review because quite simply, words fail me.
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