- 29 Feb 12
EARLY CONTENDER FOR ALBUM OF THE YEAR FROM ENDURING PROG-ROCK OUTFIT
“I am a landmine, I AM A LANDMINE!” shrieks Cedric Bixler-Zavala, amidst the frenzied conclusion of ‘The Whip Hand’, a blistering opening salvo to sixth studio album Noctourniquet. It is a fervent reminder that rumours of The Mars Volta’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. When At The Drive-In burst back into life in January, breaking a 11-year silence and confirming a long overdue reunion, some concern arose amid the celebrations.
What would become of The Mars Volta, one of the bands that sprang up from ATDI’s apparent demise? On the evidence of Noctourniquet, there’s little cause for alarm. Their palate has always been a progressive combination of At The Drive-In’s intensity (employed more sparingly) and their own skill at weaving breathy, patient soundscapes. This latest effort harnesses that sound, delivering moments of propulsive aggression (‘Aegis’), thoughtful contemplation (‘Lapochka’) and haunting beauty (‘Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound’).
Like any experimental album, Noctourniquet is often demanding, but the rewards are plenty, not least Bixler-Zavala’s hypnotic vocals, which continue to amaze as they seamlessly flip from banshee-like wails to quiet refrains over the course of 65 minutes. As you pore over the dark nursery rhymes of ‘The Malkin Jewel’ and the emphatic title-track, his presence hits you harder than ever. The Texan is as challenging and uncompromising as his band’s latest record. Music desperately needs frontmen like him right now.