Most frequent Everyviewers may remember Clay’s review on the progressive rock band The Mars Volta’s newest album Octahedron. Well today, in the shadow of Halloween and with T.V. channels beginning their brutal rape of any and all things scary, I will be reviewing an album based on ghosts, Quija boards, and the afterlife. The album in question is the Volta’s fourth, and my personal favorite, The Bedlam in Goliath.
If anyone out there is like me, then they have CD’s laying around or lost on there Ipod that they may have never even opened or listened to. This was my case for Bedlam. I am a very big fan of At the Drive-In and I was more than willing to give this album a shot, having heard tracks from Deloused and falling in love with the experimental sound Cedric and Omar had forged.
The Mars Volta are known for their wild albums such as Deloused in the Comatorium, which tells of what Cedric thought a good friend of the band saw while he was in a coma, or Frances the Mute, which is themed around a journal found in a car. After reading that a track on the album had won a Grammy in 2008 for best hard rock performance, I decided to finally give the album some listening time, and I left the experience happy overall.
The Bedlam in Goliath is a masterpiece in my opinion, and also a tragedy. The album blends music from across the board, combining jazz, salsa, post-hardcore, some very spooky sound effects, as well as traditional Middle-Eastern themes, into a very haunting and powerful album.
Musically, it is a mash-up of sounds, lyrical stylings, and outrageous guitar playing. It plays out much like a movie, the more and more you listen to the album, the more things you will be able to pick out, such as minor sound effects or vocal layering within the different tracks.
Bixler-Zavala is known for lyrics that make any sense to people who are not under the influence of mescaline. Take, for instance, this line from the track Goliath: “She fumigated my mental hygiene. I’m all out of pulse but I know you can resuscitate me”
There is more of a method to the madness in the albums verses, which are “The tale of an Honor Killing by strict Muslim’s” as Bixler-Zavala had said, and are the product of forces beyond the band’s control. I’m speaking of “The Soothsayer,” a Quija board Omar purchased in Jerusalem as a gift for Cedric. The board became a staple while the band toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a means of winding the bands down after strenuous touring and constant shows.
The Soothsayer brought about three spirits, two girls and one man (dubbed Goliath) who were Muslim’s in Jerusalem. A poem found on the board outlined a triangle between them, and the death’s of the women. Many strange events began to take place. A member of the recording team having a nervous breakdown, the band’s recording studio flooding and destroying much of there progress on the new album, which would later become Bedlam. The band began to panic, the board giving off more gruesome messages, and the constant equipment issues lead Omar to destroy the board, and bury it.
The Bedlam in Goliath fits in with its ghostly tales of spirits, the album’s tracks holding an otherworldly feel that may be the workings of more than just the band. Fans of The Mars Volta may have mixed feelings on the album, which in points has an almost Zappa sound to it (the track Metatron in particular). The album seems like one massive song at times. The transitions between songs are almost flawless, no breaks or clunky changes in sound, all the while retelling the story that the band was told through The Soothsayer.
Bedlam follows in previous Volta fashion, wild musical journeys backed by Cedric’s abstract and sometimes just plain odd lyrics, bouncing off each other in what I thought was a remarkable album, though some tracks were rather long winded, and you need to dig very deep to pick out the story behind the album.
The Bedlam in Goliath was a trip that I can say I truly enjoyed. Though some argue it is no where near as good as Deloused, this album is a musical experience that I entered with speculation and left with a bit more respect for the new shoes of my former Post-Hardcore heroes, At the Drive-in. The concept presented was interesting, as was the story behind it. The music mash-up that makes up Bedlam was one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Score: 8.0/10 (Great)