There are few bands as polarizing as The Mars Volta. And while I've found both good and bad in the band's discography, their recent release Noctourniquet unfortunately lies firmly on the weak end of the spectrum.
The big issue? The songwriting is absolute aimless tripe. "Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound" just kind of plods along without really accomplishing anything, especially with the unnecessarily annoying guitar distortion going on behind the melodic vocals, and "Lapochka" has the tendency to meander too far off the beaten path. Particularly inexcusably, the lead single "The Malkin Jewel" is also incredibly weak, featuring the most annoying combination of discordant playing I've had the displeasure to listen to. The opening track "The Whip Hand" deserves mention as the worst offender of all, however, as it is truly an indecipherable mess of turgidity before you don't spend an hour deconstructing the time signatures. And even if you do that, you're treated to the least enjoyable synth melodies and most aurally painful vocal lines in literally their entire discography.
Okay, not all of the songs are that terrible. I found myself subconsciously grooving along to "Zed and Two Naughts", and the melodic "Imago" actually pulls off the counterpoint between light acoustic guitars and wildly expressive electronics very well. "Vedamalady" is also much more moving than it has any right to be, and "Molochwalker" has some pretty sick solo moments in it. But the point remains that precious little here is standout, especially given the level of musicality The Mars Volta obviously posses. There are just no tracks on here that live up to their ability, a baffling result from a group with clear talent.
It basically sounds like the worst parts of all of their albums to date combined. It has the directionless digressions of Frances the Mute without any of the strong songwriting, it has the chaotic sound of Bedlam in Goliath without any real structure to reign it in, and it has the generally sloppy sound of...well, more or less every single one of their albums. The Mars Volta have an unfortunate habit of trying to obfuscate a lack of solid ideas behind a densely cacophonous presentation, and nowhere is it more apparent than on this album. It simply sounds like a bunch of aurally disconnected musical ideas haphazardly thrown together without rhyme or reason.
Noctourniquet has some good points in it. Deep, deep, italicized underlined deep within. But it's just not worth your time or effort to find them. This album is truly for devoted fans only; otherwise you're better off listening to De-Loused in the Comatorium.
3.0 / 10
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