The Mars Volta
The Bedlam in Goliath


3.5
great

Review

by Benjamin Carter USER (3 Reviews)
June 14th, 2008 | 23 replies | 4,502 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: There is fun, intrigue, passion, horror and sheer power here - but only if you are prepared to let this album mess with your mind a bit...

10 of 10 thought this review was well written

Whenever I hear a band described as "experimental", I am often struck by the bizarre and intriguing implicit comparison between musicians and scientists. "Jamming", "grooving", "riffing", "singing", "crafting songs", "creating soundscapes" and the like are all known to us as tropes and jargon of music as an art form; when a band is dubbed "experimental", I start to imagine them more as stages of some kind of scientific method, where songcraft is an esoteric, even mystical, manipulation of metaphysical matter. If experimental bands are like scientists, then, the Mars Volta must be pretty much the maddest, most deranged scientists around. Love them or hate them, there's no denying that these guys are WEIRD, and not in your average "alternative post-hardcore" way either: if music is an experiment, they surely experiment with more exotic, eldritch and explosive chemicals than just about anybody in their league, throwing them together and mixing them up with reckless, almost unhinged ambition. Listening to this, their latest album, you could at first be forgiven for thinking that Messrs Rodriguez and Bixler-Zavala have at last completely lost their minds, for it is even more entropic than anything else I've heard out of them. But before long, you begin to consider the possibility that they are not on an eclectic rampage, but are simply experimenting where few bands have dared to experiment so ambitiously before: the subconscious.

THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH does not strike me as either cerebral (as most experimental music is, or tries to be) nor emotional, but spiritual. By that, I don't mean to say, "it's the most awesome thing I've ever heard in my life!" in a fanboy-hyperbole kind of way. What I mean is that it's not really music for the mind, the body, or the hearstrings, but more for those weird feelings and thoughts that pop up in nightmares, acid trips, or caffeine-fuelled forum posts at three'o'clock in the morning. It attempts to tap in to those feelings with a stream-of-consciousness style of music that mixes a myriad of different styles, including funk, jazz and sixties/seventies psychedelia, with a refreshing disregard for the conventions of those styles. Fans of the band will know what I mean, and would probably describe their earlier albums as being in this style as well. What's different about this one, I think, is that it goes deeper into those bizarre places in a much more strident way - basically, that unlike some of their earlier work, it's consistently and deeply powerful stuff, whether that power renders you speechless with wonder, or whether it frazzles and scares the hell out of you. For me, it did both!

From the second that "Aberinkula" smashes through the speakers, a fiery Molotov cocktail of aggressive funk rock and twisted Floydian fusion, you can tell that this album is going to take you on a breakneck and jolting ride. All twelve tracks contain the kind of diverse sonic feast that fans of the band have come to love. "Askepios" sounds like the soundtrack to a Tim Burton film that the band have blown up with dynamite and re-assembled into a haunting, twisted masterpiece - and then overdubbed a jazz-rock jam on top! You are then given a second or two to breathe before the schizoid tribal beat of "Ouroborous" kicks in, around which the collective of incredibly talented musicians construct their Byzantine rhythmic interplay and dazzling harmonic textures. "Soothsayer" lulls you into a trance with its rich interwoven keyboard and guitar sounds; "Ilyena" leads you slowly into the depths of a nightmare with ambient progressions and downright scary studio-effects trickery; "Agadez" goes from edgy, swaggering jazz-funk to billowing and clangorous soundscapes before you've had time to blink. The variety of this album is, in short, stunning.

Be warned, though, that it's not the kind of variety that makes for easy listening. This album demands your full and undivided attention before it rewards you with this atmospheric feast, and if you don't listen carefully and keep up, it dissolves into a terrifying whirlwind of musical insanity that will have you convinced you are hearing the sound of a band possessed. This in itself might be great for some listeners, but it would not be at all hard to be put off by all the relentless genre-bending and reckless eclecticism. True, not many people buy a Mars Volta CD for easy listening; but if you're not 100% prepared to be dragged through a musical maelstrom, you run the risk of being profoundly annoyed by this album, which just refuses to behave or give you a break.

If that sounds like weird stuff: it's the lyrics that are really something else. Mars Volta veterans will be accustomed to Cedric Bixler-Zavala's style: Umberto Eco's occultist, cultural and spiritual symbolism meets Syd Barrett's stream-of-consciousness acid shamanism, delivered in a piercing wail to sinuous, mode-hopping melodies. Basically, it's unique! What's different this time is that the creepy imagery seems to chill a lot closer to the bone, for a reason that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's the fact that Bixler-Zavala merely sketched out the concepts for each song and all but ad-libbed many of the lyrics; or maybe it's the unifying concept of his (reportedly true...) experiences with an ouija board, but the lyrics on this album sound a lot less like esoteric, abstract babble and a lot more like Cedric is reading out transcripts of your nightmares. Again, that is IF you're in the right frame of mind; if not, it may sound as weird and waker-ful as it looks on paper.

Looking back on my first review, it is probably a raving, scarcely comprehensible collection of pretentious brain-fart! Apologies for boring you all to death. This album, however, does not deserve to be described in the same terms. It's demanding, elaborate and downright insane, dragging you (whether you're dumbstruck with wonder or kicking and screaming in frustration) into the kinds of places you normally only go in your strangest dreams. I give it a three and a half. For some people, it will be an album they trip out to again and again, sitting alongside the more ambitious works of King Crimson and Eloy. For others, it will only irritate; but one thing it will not do is leave you cold. THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH is above all a vivid and dynamic album that touches those corners of the mind that usually go untouched by music; and whether it does so in a rewarding way or not, it's one hell of a musical achievement.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Askepios", "Goliath", "Ouroborous", "Soothsayer", "Agadez"

YOU WILL DEFINITELY ENJOY THIS ALBUM IF:
- You are intrigued by the idea of suffering from epilepsy
- You read the words "subconscious", "occultism", "ouija", "spiritual" and "Umberto Eco" in this review without laughing or sighing
-You find Pink Floyd too sedate and mainstream

YOU WILL DEFINITELY NOT ENJOY THIS ALBUM IF:
- You ALREADY suffer from epilepsy
- You think "Amputechture" was pretentious and overblown
- You try to listen to it with a hangover


user ratings (2015)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2008



15693 Comments


this review is beautiful. ive never read a first review i've enjoyed as much as this one

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins® [AMDISCS]

RagingNoob
June 15th 2008



134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow, thanks! *blushes*

I have never been high, but yeah, this album is probably the best excuse to have a go :D

SynGates
June 15th 2008



2467 Comments


Epilepsy not cool man! I've had 3 seizures to date, none caused by this album though lol. Good review.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2008



15693 Comments


no problem welcome and such. get rid of the first couple sentences in your last paragraph though

Mendigo
June 15th 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

great review, I've pos'd it of course, like everyone who read seems to have ;)
sometimes I think it's my fault that I don't like their music, it usually sounds so great in theory. But I've really tried, and just don't grasp what should be good about it once they start to play.

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I am not a fan of Mars Volta, but this is all right.

This review is the closest to my opinion, and it's really good.

foreverendeared
June 15th 2008



14678 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really fantastic review. please, for god's sake, keep reviewing, this site needs more reviews like this.
as far as the album goes, i still haven't listened to it enough to rate it. Frances the Mute is a classic thoughThis Message Edited On 06.15.08

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I need to listen to their old stuff, I heard it's better than this.

Mendigo
June 15th 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

De-Loused is pretty good, the rest isn't much better than this. but that's just my opinion and there are enough people wanting to shoot everyone with such blasphemic thoughts.

foreverendeared
June 15th 2008



14678 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i don't want to shoot you, but Frances the Mute is brilliant. it's not very accessible though

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Thanks.

Oddsen
June 15th 2008



1127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review. I love this album but it is so incredibly long and some of the songs seem somewhat sloppy. Metatron and goliath rule so much though

Mendigo
June 15th 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

i don't want to shoot you, but Frances the Mute is brilliant. it's not very accessible though

I don't wanna start another argument, but considering music, accessibility is usually one of the things I care about the least. Which means, that my problem isn't that Mars Volta aren't easily accessible. My problem is that their music just isn't very good in my opinion.This Message Edited On 06.15.08

foreverendeared
June 15th 2008



14678 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it can still be a turn off when it takes about 5 or 6 listen throughs just to digest an album, which is the case with Frances. i'm just sayin if you don't give it the proper attention, it probably won't click

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

The Mars Volta is usually like that. It took me about 10 listens to think this wasn't awful.

foreverendeared
June 15th 2008



14678 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm on about listen number 3 with this one.

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

listen to it about 50 times, and you will probably give it a 3 or 4 or something.

foreverendeared
June 15th 2008



14678 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

haha you make it sound like it's not worth the journey

SHOOTME
June 15th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I was kind of disappointed, especially because of how many people say it's brilliant.

willfellmarsy
June 16th 2008



3844 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great-tastic review but i don't think it reads like a 3.5...personal opinion i guess so i cant really judge how u rate things but it seems like you really like it but don't think others will less patience will...whatevs man nice review...
and to this...

Soothsayer sucks
you are a silly goose because that is one of my faves...i love Cedric's deeper vocals and the chorus gives me the bumps of goose...



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