Review Summary: The most aggressive, radical, and most straight-forward Volta album just happens to be one of their strongest.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has been a highly influential musician in two of today’s most prominently influential music acts in At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta. At the Drive-In is credited as one of those bands that changed everything with their final release, Relationship of Command
; and has, once again, pushed the musical boundaries to their edge with the Progressive Rock outfit The Mars Volta. From their debut De-Loused in the Comatorium
which gained them considerable acclaim and attention, to the harshly criticized Amputechture
, they’ve always kept their sound inconsistent, revolutionary, and inventive. Their music has been called out by multiple musicians for the inventive, original music it is, and they are quickly gaining commercial success as well as a cult, die-hard fanbase. It seems Rodriguez-Lopez is one of those musician masterminds that comes along once in a blue moon.
If you thought that the Volta would never make another successful release after the let-down of Amputechture, you should check your head. This is a group of guys in Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez that have been musically inconsistent since their At the Drive-In days. Acrobatic Tenement
sounded nothing like In/Casino/Out
, and Casino sounded nothing like Relationship of Command
. For The Mars Volta, De-Loused in the Comatorium sounded nothing like Frances the Mute, and Frances sounded nothing like Amputechture. So, it’s easy to say we expected The Mars Volta could put out a revolutionary album that would be much better than their last. The really lengthy interludes of Amputechture
are taken away for more complex song structures, more action, more rock, more guitar, more extremely-fast drumming, and higher-pitched vocals. The Bedlam in Goliath also includes more of their Latin influences as noticed by their song titles, and continues the infusion of Jazz Fusion into their music that began with Frances the Mute This is definitely Volta’s toughest, loudest, and rowdiest record, as not one song is as laid-back in the vein of Televators
. The songs often change completely in the middle of the track, and go into a wild guitar solo or drum solo, completely changing the time signature and the rhythm of the song. So, while it only has twelve tracks it feels as if there is almost twenty. The album is still lengthy, but every second of the album is interesting and keeps you enthralled as Zavala tells you the disturbing story surrounding the occurrences that plagued the band during record, backed up by Lopez’s frantic riffs and the new drummer Thomas Pridgen’s 'mad' skills.
The biggest change here is the change in Zavala’s vocal performance. His vocals are pushed up into a higher level, as he pushes them to the edge, screaming at the highest pitch I’ve ever heard on record. He’s done some major work to his vocal style, and honestly, this extreme vocal style is, in my opinion, the best vocal performance Zavala’s ever put on record. It fits the crazed style of The Bedlam in Goliath well, and matches the paranoid style of the lyrical storyline. They also seem to want some more commercial exposure; as the single Wax Simulacra
clocks in at a radio-friendly 2:39, has a more standard song structure, a catchy chorus line, and the guitar work, drumming, as well as the lack of the Latin or Jazz Fusion influences in this song makes it easily the most accessible The Mars Volta song ever.
But don’t let that fool you-even with The Bedlam in Goliath being the most accessible Volta album; it’s still as fun and cryptic as ever. This album makes you want to listen the whole way through-it grabs you and doesn’t release you until the end. Along the way, tracks like Goliath
, and Conjugal Burns
stand out as some of the best Volta tracks ever written. Goliath, for example, is one of those tracks that you want to turn up real, real loud when it comes onto your iPod on shuffle. It’s catchy, makes you want to jam out in public despite looking like a complete mental case, or there's Cavalettas
which feels like more of an At the Drive-In leftover spiced up with that Volta charm. There's alsoOuroborus
, which is one of the most extreme Volta tracks ever written; it changes dynamics quickly and successfully, being a psychotic-sounding Latin charged track for a few minutes before lulling into a quiet bridge, before exploding back again. Or, Conjugal Burns
which is a haunting, slow-burning track that captures a definite eerie atmosphere and is definitely a quite uneasing track. Zavala’s vocals are also a bit more refined and are a bit more like classic style Volta lyrics; but still have that special sound that Zavala’s adopted for Goliath. It’s quite multiple-personality, and closes the album on a strong note; being the most musically different yet extremely enjoyable track on the album. Zavala also mispronounces a few words in this song, which wouldn’t be an issue if one line in the track wouldn’t catch attention and distract the listener from the actual music. The line is actually quite funny even if Zavala doesn’t actually say what it sounds like he does. At 1:08 in the track, Zavala utters a line that will forever go down in Volta history. Just take a listen; but don’t forget, the track itself is excellent and is definitely a stand-out.
Yet, if you didn’t like De-Loused in the Comatorium or Frances the Mute there is little chance you’ll like this album; in fact, it might irritate you more. The rhythms are faster, the style is more Latin, it’s more haunting, cryptic, and pretentious, plus Zavala’s vocals are higher, louder, and more prevalent than in past albums, and it’s also just as long as previous Volta albums. So it’s apparent that if you don’t like it, there’s a good chance you didn’t like their previous album. But if you’re a Volta fan, that’s all the reasons you need to go out and buy The Bedlam in Goliath isn’t it? This is one well-done, produced, and executed album; as this would have been deemed a failure after De-Loused because it’s so different and De-Loused is so good. After Amputechture, we all wanted to see Volta release a more accessible album that was heavier, more aggressive, and better as a whole; and that’s what we got. While there’s a few issues still around, like the album’s quick shot for the jugular with the opening track Aberinkula (which is only an average track at best), or the seemingly pointless interlude in Tourniquet Man
which was probably instituted in the track listing to keep your head from exploding in the crazed heaviness of the album. Still, Volta fans can rejoice in the streets; as Lopez and Zavala have successfully delivered the goods this time around. The Bedlam in Goliath is everything promised, and more.