Sound: Omar has stated that the music from "Noctourniquet" was recorded initially in 2009, just shortly after "Octahedron" was being mixed. Since then, Cedric has been writing and recording the vocals for the album. This is the first album to feature Deantoni Parks on drums, as well as the first without contributions by keyboardist, Ikey Owens, and guitarist, John Frusciante. Supposedly, there was some argument between Omar and Cedric regarding the lack of speed Cedric utilized in writing and recording the lyrics for the album, but hopefully this will not hinder The Mars Vola in continuing to release music. The song "Zed And Two Naughts" has already been secured to be part of the soundtrack for "MLB 12: The Show". The lead single, "The Malkin Jewel" was released on February 12th. The original release date for the album of March 27th was changed to be a day earlier for March 26th but no reason was given.
The Mars Volta, to me, is unique in the world of prog rock due to the number of influences they incorporate successfully and just how BIG their overall sound is. On "Tourniquet" they've managed to live up to my expectations in this category. Listening to The Mars Volta makes me think of the early prog rock bands that were around in the early 70's especially Emerson, Lake And Palmer (not as in they sound like ELP, but something is similar in their style or approach I can't put my finger on). While their songs don't sound the same, they are recognizable as The Mars Volta mainly through Omar's unique sense of melody. You will find a slight change in musical direction from their previous album, "Octahedron", and earlier.
Listening to "Tourniquet", the songs feel like they are washing over you due to the "wall of sound" type mixing that was used on this album. "Tourniquet" might be slightly less complicated musically than some of The Mars Volta's previous releases, but it is still undisputedly The Mars Volta. Deantoni Parks does an excellent job on the album with a fairly unique style that seems to really click well within the context of the band. // 8
Lyrics: Cedric's voice has always been unique to me, and it continues to stand out as such. The vocal delivery gives character to each track on the album. My favorite vocalists include people like Dave Mustaine, Isaac Brock, Jack White, Adrian Belew and Cedric Bixler-Zavala mainly due to the fact that their voices have character and don't sound generic. For good or ill, Cedric sounds unique and this gives their music a big advantage in the world of prog rock, or at least in my opinion. His vocal performance on "Noctourniquet" is as good as his previous performances from "De-Loused In The Comatorium" through "Octahedron".
As an example of the lyrical content of the album, here are some lyrics from "In Absentia": "The was once a boy/ with knives stuck in his voice/ All he wanted, all he wanted was a little affection/ Until one day he came/ to tempt his mother's taste/ all she wanted, all she wanted was to spread her infection/ spit and spindle we refuse/ burning fumes of lucid youth to mend/ her broken thoughts". Pretty deep stuff, really Cedric is not only a great vocalist, but a respectable songwriter. Further lyrics, this time from the track "Vedamalady": "Here it comes again/ mesh of arms travels up my neck/ Morning dawn declares itself/ and mirrors stare back at my reflection/ When I'm alone, I'm alone at night/ I want winter to fall on me". The Mars Volta always has really interesting/intriguing lyrics. I don't even understand what they are singing about every song but the lyrics are engaging enough to get me thinking about it. // 9
Overall Impression: "Noctourniquet" may end up being my favorite prog rock release of 2012, but only time will tell. I find myself trying to list my favorite and least favorite songs from the album and I can't really do this, they are all really great to me. I feel really anxious about the interviews I've read that indicate there may be some tension between Omar and Cedric, as I really hope they continue to work together. While there are several modern prog rock bands I like, The Mars Volta really stands out to me as one of the few that have the same type of energy and vibe as the early prog rock acts of the seventies. If I absolutely had to name favorite songs on the album, I would have to say "Aegis", "Dyslexicon" and "Noctourniquet". If I absolutely had to name my least favorite track from the album I guess I would go with "The Whip Hand". Honestly, every song on the album is really good. This is the first album by The Mars Volta where I have liked every single song from beginning to end. // 9
- Brandon East (c) 2012