The Mars Volta
The Bedlam in Goliath


2.5
average

Review

by Jeremy Price USER (33 Reviews)
January 24th, 2008 | 131 replies | 13,679 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Mars Volta come to the game with a clear head and a seamless plan, but the execution ruins what could have been a brilliant album.

15 of 19 thought this review was well written

This may sound strange, but whenever I think of The Mars Volta, I immediately think of communism. It has nothing to do with Omar’s dictatorial command of the band: rather, it’s more about the band as a whole. For me, the concept of The Mars Volta has always seemed similar to that of communism: a good idea in theory, but poorly executed. On paper, the idea of prog mixed with post hardcore and jazz while being transcribed by eight absolutely fantastic musicians sounds unbelievable. In the real world, however, it falls on its face. Yes the group has released some spectacular tracks (Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus, Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt), but they’ve also released songs that could be described as crimes against music (This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed, El Ciervo Vulnerado). So, where does The Bedlam In Goliath fit into all of this?

Well, let me say this: Before this record, I was very adamant about not hating the Mars Volta. I wasn’t a fan of Amputechture in any regard, but I still had hope for this record. The leaked tracks I had heard had me convinced that this couldn’t be that bad of a record. Unfortunately, after downloading the leak and sitting down for its seventy-six minute duration, I must relay that my experience with The Bedlam in Goliath felt something like a bout of horrendous constipation: plenty of grunting and swearing, occasional moments of brief release, and, at certain intervals, tears.

In short, The Bedlam In Goliath made me hate The Mars Volta.

After subsequent listens, my initial anger subsided, only to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. But why? What makes this such an dissapointing album? Well, to get an idea of what this album sounds like, play Amputechture through your left speaker and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music through your right speaker. Somewhere down the line, Mr. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (the group’s lead guitarist and composer) decided that the best way to improve their music was to drown every single song in feedback, “ambient wah” and annoying electronic effects. Underneath almost every single song, you can hear what essentially sounds like Omar scratching his guitar with a nail file while filtering it through a vacuum and 10 random effect pedals. It’s an effect that ruins otherwise decent songs like “Metatron”, whose structure is overall solid but whose fillings have been stuffed to the seams to the point of breaking.

Which is probably my main problem with any Mars Volta record: there’s always way too much going on, and little of it is ever coherent. Omar himself has admitted it on several occasions: he’s ignorant of music theory, and it shows. While he’s certainly gifted at creating individual melodies, when he tries to have all eight band members playing completely separate melodies all at the same time, it ends up a bloated mess. Not that it always fails, however. “Askepios” thrives from the somewhat odd dichotomy of the two lead guitar parts. Then, two minutes later, it falls apart again after the piece begins to go nowhere, for the second time.

“Aberinkula”, at the very least, is honest with its intentions, and shows you exactly what to expect for the next seventy-six minutes: plenty of potential, but choked full of noise, unfocused melodies, and plenty of wailing. They do attempt to salvage the song about halfway through with an interesting groove. Of course, this groove only reveals another cursed enemy of my eardrums: a Mars Volta saxophone solo. While there’s nothing I love more than a good sax solo (that’s a lie, but bear with me), the band proves once again they can ruin any genre, and proceed to blare off not one, but two of the most melody-less solos you will ever hear. “Metatron” hits a brief sweet spot around 3:15, and for once you think the song is going somewhere. However, it’s no more than a tease, as not one minute later, they decide to ditch this smooth ambrosia for blaring dissonance that leaves an aftertaste something like limp hemp.

After the disappointing opening, there’s only one place the album can go. “Ilyena” feels like a reward for the listener’s patience. Struggle through the first few songs, and you emerge upon a beacon of focused melodies and irresistible groove. If it weren’t for its god-awful outro (Which sounds like a mash-up of Alvin & the Chipmunks and your CD skipping and then catching on fire), it could almost be considered the best track on the album. Instead, that that honor goes to “Wax Simulacra”. It’s odd that a two-and-a-half minute song could ever be a highlight, but that’s the idea: It boils down everything the Mars Volta do right into an easily digestible length, and makes it catchy to boot. Cohesive, dynamic, intelligent… “Wax Simulacra” may be the most listenable song on the whole album.

“Goliath” is the only other true highlight, and even it has its flaws. Yet it also has one of the most incredible crescendos you will ever witness, which make the song more than worth a listen. Sadly, after Goliath, every other track is either only average or piss-poor. “Cavelattes” falls into the latter category, for after 90 seconds of flawless post-hardcore, we have to struggle through eight minutes of absolute tripe, the majority of which consists of an extended, unconvincing hardcore breakdown interspersed by tuneless saxophones and an overabundance of vocal effects. “Soothsayer” is guilty of much of the same, in that it feels like it should carry some sort of real emotion to it, with its sweeping string score and lengthy duration. Unfortunately, while it hints at genius, more often than not is dissolves into chaos as all eight members attempt to outplay one another (much like the entire album.) There’s a moment around 4:30 where, for exactly one minute, Omar treats us to his rendition of brownsound, that conjures up the images of a painful dentist trip. Yikes.

The rest of the tracks are average enough that they don’t deserve mention (Agadez, Ourobourus) or so disappointing that I wish I didn’t have to mention them. “Tourniquet Man” begins promisingly as a haunting acoustic ballad in the vein of Asilos Magdalena. Much like that same track, by the end the vocal effects have essentially killed all emotion that was built up before it. That’s the thing; The Mars Volta keep falling into the exact same traps that ruined Amputechture, and weakened the resolve of their fanbase. This lack of evolution also shows in songs like “Ourobourus”, where the band seems to rehash melodies and drum patterns from Drunkship Of Lanterns.

Honestly, The Bedlam In Goliath isn’t a completely terrible album. There's the makings of a great album hidden deep in here, and there are plenty of tracks that will no doubt be essential to any true Mars Volta fan. At the same time, there’s plenty of tracks that will try your patience or, even worse, downright annoy you. It’s clear that the band’s intentions are in the right place, but their execution continues to ruin whatever promise they show. If you’re a Mars Volta fan, you’ll no doubt love this album. If you dislike the band with a seething passion, don’t expect this to change your mind. For all of its efforts, The Bedlam In Goliath is just the Mars Volta being The Mars Volta. Take that as you will.



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user ratings (2039)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yes, it's a long review, but I had a lot to say. I'll edit it eventually. I eagerly await hearing all 14 reasons why I'm wrong.

And no, "You're a gay homo faggot" doesn't count.

P13
January 24th 2008



1327 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I still say that it a better rating than amputechture.
and: Apparatus a crime against music? I thought that was a strong song, the chorus
is a bit over done but a crime against music is a bit strong.
This Message Edited On 01.24.08

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That's cause it is better than Amputechture.

And Apparatus just bugs me. Maybe I exaggerated with the "crime against music" thing, but it's one of those songs that just too unmelodic to be cool.This Message Edited On 01.24.08

MoonlightBleeding
January 24th 2008



452 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The review was well-written and you backed your points well. Except you seem to despise the record, but only give it a 2.5. I was expecting a 1.5.

But oh well, I disagree with everything you said...the Mars Volta are missionaries of rock, and they've backed everything perfectly and produced a near perfect album and survived the mess called Amputechture.This Message Edited On 01.24.08

TheGreatD17
January 24th 2008



1141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review; I guess you just hate this band for the same reasons a lot of people, myself included, love them. The chaos is good.

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Moonlight, I don't despise this album (although I did upon first listen.) This is one of those weird albums that was tough to rate for me, because at times I can almost see this being a 3, and at others I can see this being a 1.5. In the end, 2.5 just felt right.This Message Edited On 01.24.08

MoonlightBleeding
January 24th 2008



452 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The problem with writing negative reviews about a band with a die-hard fanbase:negs.

south_of_heaven 11
January 24th 2008



5433 Comments


meh I still need to get this I guess

omgwtfboogie
January 24th 2008



211 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I disagree with parts of your review, it sounds sometimes like you're going out of your way to dislike certain parts. And the use of hyperbole is childish.

I find it odd that while I agree this is far from a solid album, I feel opposite you in the specifics. You like "Goliath"; I think it's the second worst song on this album (after "Tourniquet Man").

I hate the lyrics to this album, I'm surprised you didn't draw more attention to their shittiness:

"I am a deaf con of angora goats
Warning you all who pass this mote
It’s only a matter of folding in time and space
Before I become your epidemic
Is this the first time at my conventicle
You better not talk
If you came here for semantics
It’s only a matter of folding in time and space
Before I become your epidemic"

Commortus
January 24th 2008



237 Comments


This was a really good review.

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

boogie: Wait, you understand the lyrics?
*slow clap*

Aw, someone neg'd. I'm be remiss if I didn't see it coming, but still, do you at least have a name, raving Mars Volta fan X? This Message Edited On 01.24.08

omgwtfboogie
January 24th 2008



211 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The lyrics will warrant at least an additional paragraph to explain how ludicrous they are.

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If they're as bad as the quote you just provided, I may have to edit my review...

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Read the whole review. My justification for a 2.5 is not within the first few paragraphs.
And I didn't say they suck. Noob.

TheGreatD17
January 24th 2008



1141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He doesn't like the music, he explained why he felt that way, he can say they suck. And within the slew of criticisms he also listed some redeemable factors, so a 2.5 is a reasonable rating for this review.

Meatplow
January 24th 2008



5524 Comments


This is my first Mars Volta, and I like it. On first listen it sounded like noisy garbage, but it started to gel. I disagree with what you are saying in this part -

[quote=review]Underneath almost every single song, you can hear what essentially sounds like Omar scratching his guitar with a nail file while filtering it through a vacuum and 10 random effect pedals. [/quote]

The subtle levels of production are what I enjoy most about this album, there is lots of complexity going on. Listening to it through headphones is very engaging, there is a kind of modern psychadelic flourish to it I dig. i can't compare it to previous albums mind you, from what I hear though this has the makings of a great album you speak of.

Your review does seem a tad reactionary to the more fanboyish reviews i've read on this site regarding this album (and i did see you posting comments how you were going to change everyones mind with yours). Still, you've given it credit where you see fit and thats good. I think its mostly subjective though, theres nothing I could single out as truly bad here but I can see how it might not be to someones taste.

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

In response to chickenfish: You know, I have trouble figuring out why some people, whenever they read my TMV reviews, seem to think "What? Someone who doesn't like The Mars Volta? Obviously he is just an attention whore! After all, who could not like TMV!"


Plus, every review is somewhat biased in some way. Iluvatar admitted that his review was biased towards the band. So, because my bias is against them, it's not valid?


From the sounds of things, chickenfish, you just skimmed my review and got angry because I don't like the album. I believe I listed several negatives, but I also tried to list some of the positives of the album, but I guess you just skimmed over those too. It's a shame really.


But in the end, I think you summed it up best when you said "It's simply opinion".This Message Edited On 01.24.08

TheGreatD17
January 24th 2008



1141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It was totally bias, in the sense that right when I started reading it Mars Volta and Communism was in the same sentence.

The communism (which is inappropriately thought of as evil) thing made sense, even if I don't agree with it. He was simply saying that the music doesn't sound as good as it seems like it should, to him. He's not truly biased, it's not like he is in a rival band or something, he is simply unimpressed by the album.

And I'm not going to bother quoting the compliments, anyone who has actually read this entire review knows this isn't all negative.

The_Flash!!!!
January 24th 2008



93 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YOUR A COMMUNIST WITH THIS RATING!!!

I'm just kidding good review but I'd give it a 4.5

Acre
January 24th 2008



847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't want to get in a huge arguement with you, chickenfish. I understand how you might think my review is just me poking at TMV fans. Yet I assure you, this is my honest -to-God opinion. In fact, I went through several re-writes of this review simply because I was afraid it would too greatly offend TMV fans.

If you really want a good summation of my opinion of the album, read the last paragraph. It best sums up my thoughts on the pros and cons of the album. As for the fact that this and Amp are my only under 3 reviews, most of the albums I would write negative reviews for have already gotten their fair share of a thrashing.

But whatever. I kinda expected plenty of people wouldn't like the review.This Message Edited On 01.24.08



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