Review Summary: That night I remember what you slipped in my glass.
When a band or project gets buried in the ground for one reason or another, that art is then left with the option of being forgotten about or remembered by those that care to return to it again. It gets a weird retrospective, and members of the band will be inevitably haunted by a certain album that made them or broke them. While I myself am guilty of categorically lumping a bands work in order and putting my retrospective glasses to good use, I find more joy in going back to an entire discography years later, just to see if I feel the same way about a record as I did when I first heard it. Because, as humans, we change and you might see it in a different way later in life. When The Bedlam In Goliath
was first released I was in awe by it; the band’s new drummer, Thomas Pridgen, was a phenomenal and energetic player and brought an exciting level of power to the band -- something that was lacking in the subtle masterpiece of 2006’s Amputecture
. The album was also notably more upfront and to the point, with tracks sitting at pretty average times; there’s no 16 minute epics here, the most you’ll be sat with a track is just over 9 minutes. This was The Mars Volta throwing balls of energy at its fans in quick succession, and I loved every minute of it. Now, with their legacy of records lined up next to each other, I see things in a much different light.
Considering the digestibility of this record, there was a lot of effort that went into the concept of the album, which centres around an anthology of love triangles set in a Muslim community, with each song basing itself on the concept in one way or another. Sonically this is probably the most abrasive Volta you’ll hear; the energy levels contained are set to kill throughout: Thomas’ drum work, the saturation of wacky and strange guitar effects and Cedric’s vocals create a full-frontal assault on its listener. “Aberinkula”, the opening track to the album, delivers a connecting blow from the moment it begins; an abundance of guitar solos, crazy grooves and an uncertainty on where they’ll take the song next. Bedlam
is catchy, full of twists and turns and presents itself in a much more concise way that previous. The crescendo building on “Metatron” and mixing of several different textures and tones make for one of this album’s biggest highlights: from any one of Omar’s schizophrenic guitar passages to the outro’s grinding bass and drum work, the song is engaging and flies by. The rhythm section is stellar throughout, tracks like “Wax Simulacra” showcases Thomas’ excellent chops in a way that doesn’t come across pretentious, more that he takes over the song and becomes an integral part of the track’s aesthetic. He and Juan have many moments where they gel and work off each other and it’s the album’s biggest pro.
However, in spite of everything the band do well on here, there is just something very uninspiring about the album, and it doesn’t seem to hold up as well as the rest of the discography. There are many moments on here that lack the panache the band usually functions at -- which is ironic, given this is one of the most energetic Volta records you’ll ever listen to. But it’s odd choices they make that damage the project: “Goliath” is a great track, but a shameless -- and I mean truly shameless -- plagiarization of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”, effectively ruining a lot of the enjoyment for the song. It’s a worrying sign if you’re having to steal iconic riffs, and one that shows the creative-well is a little dried up. This lack of creativity affects the whole thing and is quite noticable as you sit and listen to the album jagger along: the LP functions at full capacity during the first couple of tracks, but it doesn’t take long before it hits forgettable territory. Nothing really jumps out, there’s no really strong moment in the latter half of the album; Cedric’s melodies are seriously lacking, riffs don’t have a great deal of soul to them, and though the rhythm section does a decent job of holding the album up, it just isn’t enough. You start to notice glaring problems where the record blankets itself under wave upon wave of effects, to the point where you aren’t really listening to a song anymore, just a mesh of effects from members drowning out what was probably a dull idea to begin with. It’s not a bad album, it’s just nowhere near the same level of quality the rest of their albums are at. There’s a few really good ideas at the heart of this thing, with a large loss on how to execute them properly.
PACKAGING: Jewel case with the edges rounded off.
SPECIAL EDITION: Various editions have bonus tracks -- notably the terrible “Candy And A Current Bun” cover -- but the vinyl edition also came with a Ouija board.