The Mars VoltaÃÂ ÃÂ ‘Noctourniquet’ (Warner Brthers)
Available 26th March
The Mars Volta have a legacy that continues to grow and grow. The project spawned from the El Paso post-hardcore punk band, At The Drive-In, who have reformed this year to play a series of Summer festivals. It’s a busy year for Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar RodrÃÂguez-LÃÂ³pez, with thoughts still well and truly on their creative future whilst dipping into the past for a short while to revive the nostalgia of their youth, the band that defined their legacy,ÃÂ and future asÃÂ The Mars Volta.
TheÃÂ Grammy award-winningÃÂ Mars Volta have always been a step upwards and outwards compared to the raw powerÃÂ and simplicityÃÂ of At The Drive-In. Their music can’t always be described as accessible,ÃÂ or even coherent. They’re renowned forpushingÃÂ the boundaries as far as prog-rock andÃÂ experimentalism is concerned.RodrÃÂguez-LÃÂ³pezÃÂ and Bixler-Zavala are truly the creative forces within the band, with other members coming and going following various fall-outsÃÂ and quarrels with the two leaders. It seems that withÃÂ ”ËNoctourniquet‘, as they get to a certain stage of their career, they have almost mellowed to a degree. Now, compared to the complexity and elaborateness of their previous efforts,ÃÂ ”ËThe Bedlam In Goliath‘ÃÂ for example, they’reexperimentingÃÂ more with the idea of accessibility as was evident with their effort on 2009’s success,ÃÂ ”ËOctahedron‘.ÃÂ ”ËOctahedron‘ÃÂ was an album that delved in the idea of more acoustic influences, although still showing multi-instrumentalism in parts. The lead singer even admitted himself “All along we’ve threatened people that we’d make a pop record, and now we have.”Â This changed the format of the band altogether. They were no longer known as the band that made music only music students could appreciate. They actually made an album that anybody could enjoy, changing the scaffolding for future audiences that may not only be interested their future work, but even their previous records.
In 2012, however, they still have thatÃÂ power;ÃÂ Cedric’s screaming,ÃÂ Rush-esque vocals are the driving force of the album,ÃÂ Omar’sÃÂ skill with a guitar thatÃÂ is still evidentÃÂ to be out of this world. Omar is one guitarist, along with his regular collaborator, John Frusciante, who I consider to be up there with the greats, Hendrix, Page, Beck, White, Frusciante, andÃÂ RodrÃÂguez-LÃÂ³pez. His consistent drive to do things that no others have done isÃÂ something that sells the band, he distorts and wails alongside Cedric’s devilish shrieksÃÂ and screams. They really are the perfect creative duo. I sometimes think that if Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were making music together in the current climate, they would probably be nearer to The Mars VoltaÃÂ than any other musician today.
A highlight of this album isÃÂ the clear progression into more pop formula structures. Leading track (made availableÃÂ prior to album’s release),ÃÂ ”ËThe Malkin Jewel‘ÃÂ is like a waltz with a bumbling verse I could imagine supporting a VictorianÃÂ disease-ridden, LondonÃÂ street. Distortion and electronics supportÃÂ Bixler-Zavala’s powerful anthemic vocals. The Mars Volta’s sixth album is a triumph as far asÃÂ popÃÂ progressionÃÂ isconcerned. But then again, did anybodyÃÂ expect them to ever do anything twice?
Another thing that’s quite understated is Cedric’s strive to limit the high notes. On previous albums he could be heard to reach the maximum notes on tracks such as”ËCassandra Gemini‘, almost showing off his ability. On this album it’s clear he’s proved what he needs to and he’s at the stage where he can use his vocal range to his advantage and dictate when and where the high notes need to be applied, and where they don’t.ÃÂ The title track, on the other hand shows him straining his vocals on the chorus, sounding like he is shreddingÃÂ his throatÃÂ and tearing his vocal chords to give the right effect, a true effort from aÃÂ powerfulÃÂ vocal experimentalist.
Lyrically, Cedric has always explored both fiction and reality and combined the two, creating truly sensational poetic imagery.ÃÂ ”ËTrinkets of Pale Moon‘ÃÂ is a more acoustic effort, with Cedric singing in his high tenor vocal range “And every time you hear thescreamÃÂ of lullabies collapsingÃÂ walk towards the echo and let it hold you trembling”Â. Cedric has always cleverly incorporated abstract imagery and transfusedÃÂ it with the reality and it is refreshing to see his poetic style is still prevalent throughout the latest LP.
Despite their announcement of the ATD-I reunion later this year, I find it quite a surprise that their sound is such a long way from the band of their youth. They claimed there would be no new material fromÃÂ At The Drive-In. Well,ÃÂ they’re going to have to adjust prettyÃÂ well, all luck and credit to them for that.ÃÂ ”ËNoctourniquet‘ÃÂ is an album of subtle complexity, only using certain formulas when needed, but exploringmultipleÃÂ influences and distortion nonetheless. They demonstrate they still have the skills that won them their Grammy in the first place. The skills of orchestrating and composing multiple instruments and making them fit into their melody where best suited. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and OmarÃÂ RodrÃÂguez-LÃÂ³pezÃÂ are two of the most productive and creative musicians in the music industry.ÃÂ ”ËNoctourniquet‘ÃÂ is amarvellousÃÂ effort, pushing those boundaries and expectations yet again.
The creative future for The Mars Volta has never been written, and it cannot be predicted, especially not forÃÂ their latest success,ÃÂ ”ËNoctourniquet‘.