The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

‘Nocturniquet’ is amongst the band’s best work.

Label: Warner Bros

Rating: 9

The Mars Volta’s first album back after a nearly four year break – especially traumatic for fans given their early prolific recorded output – was always going to court controversy, but it’s almost striking how well this record has been received. The only concerns aired in some corners have focussed on its relative lack of heavy tracks, but whether that has anything to do with At The Drive-In’s reformation remains to be seen; the fact is that The Mars Volta remain a completely different beast.

The distinction is usually drawn thus: ATDI were lean, sharp, angular, while TMV are loose and soulful. On tracks like ‘Dyslexicon’ however they are still able to lay a claim to some thrillingly brutal rock n’roll; for every shoegaze-aping ballad (actually, there’s just the one, ‘Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound’) there’s another demented, thrashing slice of noise like opener ‘The Whip Hand’. Late album track ‘Molochwalker’ continues this theme and comes roaring out of the blocks with renewed vigour, like Three Trapped Tigers backed into a corner and forced to fight their way out.

‘In Absentia’ is the album highlight, though; a pause for reflection amid a sea of noise, every vocal, instrument, treatment or sample works to form a confluence that’s chillingly sublime. There’s no doubt ‘Nocturniquet’ is amongst the band’s best work, and sufficiently different – witness for instance the loud bass-heavy synths that pervade the heavier tracks – from their career highlights that it should satisfy all comers. It’s fucking brilliant, and that’s really all there is to it.