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The Mars Volta - The Bedlam In Goliath CD (album) cover

THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

3.46 | 430 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When the album first appeared at this site I was quite curious about this new album by The Mars Volta. Would it come back to the forms like they created "Frances The Mute" with so many sound effects solo or a bit of structured music. I retained myself from purchasing the CD from the net hoping that there will be local pressing version. I was right - another week later I saw the CD was sold at local CD stores in my country, with practically affordable price. The first chance to listen to this album was through my laptop using Sennheiser PX-100 headphone system because at that time I was quite busy for Helloween (power metal rules!) live in Jakarta 22 February 2008. I was lucky listening to this album using excellent headphone so that all the subtleties of the music I could hear clearly through my ears. From the first spin, this album summarized "excellent" rating for my taste even though I found the vocal line was quite weird for normal listeners, I believe. From then I have been listening the album for more than 10 spins it has grown on me significantly everytime I spin the CD. I attempted to write some words about this album but my mind was full with the thoughts on how to make the Germany's power metal band "Helloween" would be a successful metal concert ever in Jakarta. Yeah it was! The show was great and I am now quite tired physically due to intense activities that I made during the concert because I was the host for the show.

So it's about time to visit this site and I saw again that this album still at the top-right side of this site. So I clicked and look at the reviews. I found the review by colleague collaborator Zitro sounded provocative to me and it stimulated me to write this review. The main intent of this write-up is not to defend about his opinion because as prog head I am fully aware that we have to accept differing views. And I do not want to waste my time selling the idea that this album is excellent while others' opinions do not count - nope! I do not mean that. However, I have to put myself as a prog reviewer who has been trying to perfect my listening skills and improving how to write prog reviews as informative as possible even for the albums that I do not have a personal interest. Simply put, I jut want to put things into perspective.

Having said so, it has never and should never be in my vocabulary for saying something like "what happen to people who say that this album is excellent" while actually I personally dislike the album. I think it's not fair to say say. Why? This is progressive world, my friends.. we are talking about music with a very wide spectrum and probably unlimited boundaries from jazz-influenced, pop-influenced, rock-influenced, avant-garde-influenced . you name it .to heavy prog which is in fact very hard to define. Things that you think is great for you, it's probably not the case with someone else and it's totally fine. People have their own tastes and opinion about the music they like or dislike. This is especially true for music that the songwriting has some sort of patterns and structures and there is solid basis to derive that the music has a harmony and melody that make some people enjoy it.

Secondly, I am in the school of thought of not comparing music from different styles or subgenre. Comparing The Mars Volta with The Flower Kings is like comparing Muse with Rush. How can you do that? The music is totally different in style and in fact subgenre. It is definitely not fair comparing them. In fact, even though I love The Flower Kings, I will not compare it with Yes or Genesis - bands that heavily influence The Flower Kings. Why? Each band has its own characteristics which only "taste" that can differentiate. So .. enjoy the music of The Flower Kings, Yes and Genesis separately and do not try to compare! It's a waste of time. If you want to compare it, just a matter of "taste" that you can use as a basis; and I believe your reason about liking or disliking the music. For this reason, I sometimes write review with this subheading Why Liking This Album? and Why You Are NOT Liking This Album? by trying to elaborate possible people's perceptions about this album. Fans of The flower Kings are probably not liking The Mars Volta albums and vice versa, even though this is not always the case. Remember, music is emotion!

Let's have a look on this album.

Why Liking This Album?

Cohesive. In my opinion this album offers music played by competent musicians that demonstrate their skills appropriately in each song in the album that has a cohesive whole musically. The story line of "The Bedlam in Goliath" has something to do with a haunted Ouija board and a demonic force demanding to be reincarnated, and the music would still trip up anyone trying to clap along. But the Mars Volta has stopped trying to trump the complexity of its previous efforts by reducing unnecessary sound effects that tend to make us got bored and impatient. Without having to know the story, the music has already projected a flow that sounds like a concept album from the stream of music they offer. From the opening track "Aberinkula" (5:47) which starts in high energy, it flows seamlessly to "Metatron" (8:13), "Ilyena" (5:38) and it flows nicely right towards the concluding track "Conjugal Burns" (6:36) in cohesive way.

Energetic. Have you ever tried a metal band System of A Down? The music is quiet energetic and heavy in nature. If you get used to it, then you would probably like this album by The Mars Volta. Of course, the music between the two is different in style but on energetic side, they are alike. In fact, I thought (at first listen), the music of "The Bedlam in Goliath" is a bit abrasive, but I enjoy listening the album in its entirety. The band seems like not giving a compromise to the listeners that right from the first track "Aberinkula" (5:47) the music has already been so energetic and heavy even from the intro part which is then continued seamlessly with "Metatron" (8:13) which is in the same style with previous track. I have problem, actually, with the tiny vocal line but I tried myself to see from different view that the band wants to create its unique sound through unique singing line. The second track is very progressive in nature considering many changes in style as well as tempo.

"Ilyena" (5:38) is one of my favorites as it flows nicely with excellent rhythm section comprising dynamic bass lines and stunning guitar rhythm and fills. The uniqueness of how the guitar is played has made this song interesting, especially combined with the percussion work. The bridge "Wax Simulacra" (2:41) brings nicely to another excellent track "Goliath" (7:17) which has dialogue style on vocal department. "Goliath" is probably my best favorite track from this album because I like the simple arrangement and the melody, plus the singing style. I also love the upbeat tempo of the music. The flow of the music is so stunning, especially during interlude with guitar solo while drums and bass play dynamically. It's really cool ..

Sudden Breaks. That's why I refer you to System of A Down which the music has so many breaks, so is the case with The Mars Volta "The Bedlam in Goliath". After the heavy music of "Goliath" the music suddenly stops and it continues seamlessly with silent break through "Tourniquet Man" (2:41) which serves as a nice break to another uplifting "Cavalettas" (9:35) which the intro reminds me to King Crimson's "The Power to Believe" album. "Agadez" (6:45) brings the music into a more accessible part where the tempo is quite medium even though the singing style is energetic in nature. "Askepios" (6:33) is quite avant-garde in approach as it starts with a bit complex arrangements with dynamic drumming.

The best break for me is at the beginning of the "Soothsayer" (9:10) where it starts with an ambient which has background of Muslim Prayer's Call, or we call it as adzan, containing "Allah is Great. Allah is Great" because I am a muslim. This ambient has created a very deep experience with me enjoying this sort of background especially when it's combined with eastern (middle-east) style of violin / cello work. Oh my God .. it's so wonderful and so peaceful. As far as my knowledge there is quite rare that prog bands use adzan as music ambience or background. I remember that ARENA "Pride" has adzan component in its music. The music of "Soothsayer" is quite peaceful and it moves in mellow style with nice melody and stunning guitar, sax and violin / cello works.

Excellent Closing. The album concludes beautifully with "Conjugal Burns" (6:36) in unique style, nice melody and great music. I like the way vocal sings the lyrics, especially with the energy he has put in singing and the tempo changes. Style-wise this song definitely sounds like "the final chapter" of the story-line!

Why You Are Not Liking This Album?

I fully understand if you cannot accept the music of The Bedlam in Goliath, especially if you get used to pure melodic music in relatively slow to medium tempo like neo progressive and symphonic prog. If you cannot enjoy the heavy side of progressive music, purchasing this album would be a waste, I think. This is note generally truth statement because, as you know by now, that I basically love the symphonic part of prog - how come I love this The Bedlam in Goliath? Simple. I push myself - sometimes very hard - to enjoy the music that basically not my cup of tea by trying to understand how the music was being composed, combining the notes as well as musical arrangement together.

But . if as a matter of fact you can enjoy progressive metal or metal music like System of A Down or Trivium, understanding the music of The Mars Volta is not gonna be a big challenge for you.

Conclusion

Having discussed with you about how I approach my review about music - especially that I am not familiar with - and my lengthy reasons about this album, I think this album deserves minimum a four star rating due to its cohesiveness, energy and its balanced combination with silent breaks. The guys in the band are geniuses because the music is not something alike to another band. Overall star is 4.5 stars. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 4/5 |

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