The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

The Mars Volta
The Bedlam in Goliath

I wrestled with the notion of reviewing the new one by hometown darlings The Mars Volta for quite some time. There were some other choice and quality albums that I could have reviewed and maybe those would have been better as to review something in a positive and light manner. However, I figured that I would go with my instinct and review the new one by the two childhood friends from my very own El Paso, Texas, The Bedlam in Goliath.

Since the blissfully wonderful, intense and musical Frances the Mute, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have now concocted two albums that are just music overload. The Bedlam in Goliath is an exhausting listen and it seems like the guys have tried to pack in as many prog-rock clichés as possible. Everything from the falsetto squealing to the monster guitar riffs to the freaky flute outbursts, it’s overkill.

The best song on here is “Ilyena” which features a great hook and catchy rhythm. And the next song, “Wax Simulacra” is a brisk two and a half minute jam of a song. It’s intense, heavy and intricate. The band have mastered the ability to scream and jam out and though it’s a novel concept, it happens too much on the album.

“Askepios” has an annoying garbling sound that feeds into “Ouroboros.” And though it sounds like the album might finally cool off there, the manic drumming kicks before the torrid guitars jump in. It ends up having one of the best melodies on the album and the arrangement is clever, however it goes on for well over six minutes.

Sure, this is an album by gifted musicians as everyone on here can play the heck out of their instruments. The problem here is that there is just too much of everything on here. This is a long, drawn-out, 75 minute album. You think, “Well at least the longest song is 9:32 long” but when most of the songs are at least 8 or more minutes, that’s a lot.

There really isn’t much variety on here either; everything is either fast or faster. I kept waiting for something lush and memorable like “The Widow” or maybe something beautifully melodic like “Asilos Magdalena” but it never came. Even the penultimate song, “Soothsayer,” starts off well and just when I thought it would be the gem of the album; it ends up being another cacophony of musical mess.

Apparently this album was created on the strength of a possessed Ouija board. According to band’s site, the board took over their lives and brought a lot of bad luck to them as they were recording. They even labeled it as the “album that wasn’t meant to be.” So a lot of the song names come from the Ouija and supposedly it’s channeled through the music as well. I just wonder, if there were so many of these ‘signs’ and ‘occurrences,’ why didn’t they shelve the music and start on a different album? I would love to see how the band would sound with a really solid producer to temper and edit some of the band’s more eccentric qualities.

It’s been a long time since I have seen a band with so many strengths wastes them on such an excruciatingly difficult listen. Sure, die-hards will love this but others just don’t have the time to dissect it all.