Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Album of the Week Vol. 2 - The Bedlam in Goliath

Most times bands come up with album titles, they just sound good. Not in a long time has an album title described so accurately what is actually recorded. The Mars Volta’s latest release The Bedlam in Goliath is exactly what it says it is. It’s grandiose chaos in epically large proportions. This isn’t anything new for the Volta, but it’s even more apparent on Bedlam than it has been in the past. Twelve tracks of frenzied prog-jazz that only lulls a few times is very hard to listen to sometimes and the Volta has released one of the most daunting listens in a long time.

The album was written during a time of much chaos in the band’s life. Guitarist Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez and lyricist/vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala were messing around with a Ouija board that they got in Jerusalem during their recording sessions. Several overwhelming events almost tore the band apart during production of the album. Producers having nervous breakdowns, tracks disappearing that were already recorded, floods and a whole series of unfortunate events that somehow were overcome by the time the album was finished. This is fairly evident throughout the chaos that is The Bedlam in Goliath.

In fact, from the first second of “Aberinkula”, you are thrown directly into this conflict. A surge of sound, including new drummer Thomas Pridgen’s insanely accurate and avalanche speed, will immediately catch you off guard. The song truly blossoms once the chaos becomes a little more coherent toward the last two minutes when this funky, menacing breakdown comes together. “Metatron” follows easy suit and is such a seamless transition that you don’t realize track two has begun.

The albums first single, “Wax Simulacra” follows in the tradition of tracks like “The Widow” and “Vermicide” as being the most single friendly, yet still an overwhelming surge of sound that you shouldn’t expect to hear on the radio anytime soon. “Goliath” the most solidified yet still stilted track is easily the albums most gratifying performance. The funky mood to the song is a refreshing turn from the overwhelming tidal wave of sound that will come flying from your headphones, stereo speakers of whatever you play this on.

Songs like “Ilyena” and “Tourniquet Man” are easily forgettable and disposable. “Ilyena” tries to hard to sound different with its strange vocal effects and “Tourniquet Man” is a strange attempt at a ballad. By the time you get through the next few tracks before the finale of “Conjugal Burns”, you are tired, restless and not really interested anymore. Although the album follows suit in grand The Mars Volta

Unlike Amputechture or Frances the Mute, which both had long winded 16-minute tracks that could have been easily broken into multiple songs, The Bedlam in Goliath has shorter songs that flow together and swell with passion and power. That being said, it seems that no one song fully develops to its fullest potential and therefore each song just seems like an unfinished jam. Like most releases from The Mars Volta, there are refreshing moments of prog glory that end up shining through the rest of the muck and the mire that the album seems to be flooded with.

The Bedlam in Goliath may have been recorded during a time in which the band was either cursed or visited be otherworldly spirits that plagued the production, but I doubt that is what brings forth the weaknesses of the album. The band has a specific sound with it’s rather furious paced guitar work or falsetto lyrical content, but on this album, they really can’t figure it out to it’s fullest potential. Maybe a little less tinkering with the occult and more tinkering with song structures would have made The Bedlam in Goliath a more cohesive and intriguing album.

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