Texas Sons The Mars Volta Strip Down To Progress With New Album, Movie
El Paso natives Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta have long been known for their bombast and progressive-rock self-indulgence. Ever since they departed the seminal post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, they've spent their time making what can only be described as "epics."
Photo via themarsvolta.com A fresh lineup for a fresh sound.
At the end of the day, you either like their blend of psychedelic progressive Latino jazz-fusion punk rock as heard on albums such as 2005's Frances the Mute or you don't.
Many don't, considering the kinds of critical reviews they've received, but they've managed to carve out a dedicated fan base, a Grammy win and some impressive chart showings for a band as outsider as themselves.
It's been three years since they released an album, the last one being 2009's Octahedron (which they hit Houston for in September of that year). Now they're back this week with their sixth LP, Noctourniquet. It is simultaneously an about-face musically and a challenge to tradition.
They've stripped out most of the "progressive rock" elements. There is only one guitar solo on the album, no long instrumental breaks, and the album skews more to synthesized pop-rock. There's a chorus on opener "The Whip Hand" that could be from a Nine Inch Nails record.
But this album is indeed a progression all the same, breaking their previous mold and looking to the future. They've described the album as "future punk" and the title is absolutely fitting. It is heavier on balladry and pop influences than their older works, but still as dense, challenge, and forward-looking as one would expect from these artsy weirdos.
The concept is a new direction as well. Bixler-Zavala has said he wanted to present their lyrics more directly and, while there are still cryptic metaphors and heady concepts involving nursery rhymes, Scientology, mythology, a grandiose story, and Superman villains, this is probably the first time the band has ever written such a basic yet beautiful love ballad as "Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sounds."