Released just months after Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez' old band, At the Drive-In, announced they would be getting back together, the pair's sixth studio album as the Mars Volta finds them exploring the esoteric as they continue their journey ever further down the neo-prog rabbit hole. Noctourniquet highlights the more intellectual, esoteric sound the band has championed over the years, but even though the album soars creatively, it feels emotionally restrained. On the opening track, "The Whip Hand," the gradually building song is suddenly hijacked by electronics at the chorus when a droning synth dominates the mix while Bixler-Zavala's processed vocals proclaim, "That's when I disconnect from you," a sentiment that seems to track throughout the album. It feels as if the two aren't as united in their pursuit of the abstract as they once were, and the amount of extra work and studio magic it takes to bring the vocals and compositions in line leaves the album feeling more over-thought than thoughtfully crafted. Noctourniquet does manage to come together from time to time, though, as songs like "Dyslexicon" and "Molochwalker" trend toward the more visceral, instinctual songwriting that made At the Drive-In such a perfect convergence of raw emotion and technical ability. While moments like that may be just enough to keep longtime fans of the Mars Volta hooked in long enough to let the album grow on them, it might not be enough to make converts out of the uninitiated.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney