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

THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

3.52 | 495 ratings

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The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'The Mars Volta' return with their 4th album, 'The Bedlam in Goliath'. Like their previous releases there is a story behind the album and if you have a spare hour, and I do mean an hour, you can read the full thing on their website. Basically its all about a Ouija board Omar bought in Israel. Bad things began to happen and they all thought the board was cursed and in order to get rid of the curse they had to bury it. The question is did this make or break the output on the record? Well here is my take on things.

The general feel of the album is a kind of heavy punky prog. Think back to all the heaviest parts from previous albums. Those parts make up the majority of the record this time round. Therefore I would say compared to previous albums where they covered a wide range of sounds, mixing quiet and loud parts creating and also having different styles of songs. This album focuses more on the one style and that style is predominantly loud. The irony of about this is that Cedric and Omar left 'At the drive-in' because the other members wanted to go down the punk/rock/pop route while Omar and Cedric wanted go in a more progressive/experimental direction. With 'Bedlam', it's like they made it to show how far they have come musically since 'At the Drive-in'. They can still do the punkier rock songs, but now they are a lot more polished and expansive than before. Even though it's a heavier record, Cedric does no resort to his old At the Drive-in days where he shouted the lyrics. The vocals are brilliant because the bursts occur a lot more often throughout this album. I just wait with great anticipation for the next vocal explosion to occur.

I would go as far as saying this is MV's most accessible album to date. A big statement I know and one in which would lead many of my friends to laugh a lot as they really don't think they are capable of making an accessible album! But the way I look at it is all the tracks have the same feel to them and relatively speaking it is easier listening than many of the songs on previous albums. Moreover, on each of the previous albums there have always been parts which are weird and take a long time to make any sense. However there are not really any parts like that on 'Bedlam'. While I don't think this album will bring in any new fans as it still has 'The Mars Volta' sound all over it; I think it may actually put off older fans who fell in love with the band due to the experimentation (weirdness) and pushing the boundaries of their music through the variety in their sound. The other albums usually took me at least 20 listens to understand and I use to relish the challenge of 'getting it'. This album took me about 5 listens and if it was a computer game this would be MV on easy mode. I think the album would have been received brilliantly if this was their debut as compared to ATDI it's a big step up and would have acted as a great transitional record between the two bands. But when you compare 'Bedlam' to the previous 3 albums the quality is there, but in terms of progression and experimentation it feels like a step back. In saying that it is just that even though it was easier 'to get'; you will find yourself listening to it just as much, if not more than the other albums.

The main highlights of the album for me are tracks 'Metatron', 'Goliath', 'Agadez', and bonus track; 'Candy and a current bun'. 'Metatron' feels like a continuation from track 1; Aberinkula which acts as a great builder/introduction. Cedric instantly kicks off 'Meta' screeching the vocals "Maybe I'll break down" oozing passion and charisma. 'Goliath' has got my favourite riff on the album. Furthermore Omar's solos on this track are edgy and frantic which really does some up the song. Most notably around the 4 minute 30 seconds mark and again at 6 minutes 40 seconds where the track seems to go into orbit as Cedric's vocals go into hyper mode. 'Agadez' is underpinned by a funky bass line delivered by the one and only Juan Alderete. When I first heard 'Candy and a current bun' I thought it sounded like a proper old school punk track. Funnily enough I later found out it actually was! It is a cover of the early Pink Floyd song. Cedric changes his vocal style here to one I can't recall him doing before. Each lyric is delivered purposely and precisely with a swagger attached. There is a funky keyboard part which acts as great closer to the album. I have since listened to the original and have to say that TMV make the original seem very ordinary and pedestrian. 'Ilyena' and 'Tourniquet Man' are the slow chill out songs on the album. However someone didn't tell that to new drummer Thomas Pridgen as he still drums at the same ferocity as the other tracks. This was clearly deliberate though as it does work a treat.

Overall, 'Bedlam' is a great album. How a band can make an album with 13 tracks on it lasting 78 minutes feel like mainstream punk/rock/pop/prog record; only TMV know. They are genius, they are not going to go away and they are not capable of rehashing the same three chords on every album. These are extremely talented musicians with the creative force that make them one of the most fresh and exciting prog bands on the planet. I'm looking forward to their next album already.

PS. - Just a warning for people who return to listening to this album after a break from it. Do not say 'I m going 'Back to Bedlam'', as people may laugh at you and you may lose all music credibility you ever had as 'Back to Bedlam is an album by James Blunt. Don't say I didn't warn you!

The Rain Man | 4/5 |

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