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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.48 | 481 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars On their fourth album, Omar and Cedric go further in the direction taken on Amputechture, refining many things and achieving a new sound. While I don't find it as good as Frances the Mute, it still makes for a great listen.

Amputechture sounded pretty much like a transitional album to my ears, with plenty of rough edges to explore, things left unfinished. The Bedlam In Goliath decides to take a further step in some of those things, particularly in the dynamics. Here the band goes back to conceptual albums, something different from the bunch of separate, cut-off songs in Amputechture, trying to unify and give focus to the whole thing. It works well despite the obtuse complexity of the lyrics, particularly on the first half and some moments of the second one (Agadez, Ouroborous).

But what's most easily distinguishable is Bedlam's unrelenting loudness. It's virtually quietness-free, all-loud. all-fast stuff. It also has the shortest track-lenghts since De-Loused, with every song under 10 minutes long, an average of 6 minutes and two of them at less than 3! It's one blasting riff after another, backed up by insane, machine-gun-like drumming and filled with layers of noise, effects and whatever Omar could find on his studio.

To make this happen, Omar had to look for a suitable drummer, and we could say he found just that with Thomas Pridgen. I saw TMV live last November and hell, he is indeed endless, fast and furious as hell, he just doesn't have a stop button! And he shows it all over the album, laying down fast and complex rhythm patterns, pounding brutally on those poor drums. It's a good call considering the sound Omar wanted to shape here.

Sadly, this approach has many mixed results. It's OK if Omar thought that 'focusing' was to make things shorter and much louder, ambience-noise-free, but that ends up cluttering the album at some points. On its first half, the concept plays very well despite the usually hard-to-decipher lyrics by Cedric - creating some kind of coherence. But after half an hour of explosiveness, I find myself needing quite a relief, which is Tourniquet Man's (too) brief respite. To make things worse, that song sounds undercooked, and then comes the uninspired Cavalettas, who coincidentally is the longest song on the album. So at the middle of the album there's a double-double-whammy, to put it into words.

The whole thing about making things shorter doesn't help the album at certain points, despite the focus. It took me some time, but after that I realized that the long *ambient noise* parts in Frances The Mute did have a purpose and helped with the flow of the album. Amputechture sounds a bit cluttered because of its cut-off endings. Here, I find both the two 2:39 songs sounding a bit underdeveloped, playing more like experiments than like proper songs, and also a lack of quieter moments that help the intense things, well, being properly intense. Have you noticed, for example, how Tournqiuet Man starts so intriguing? Because it comes all quiet, comparatively low-register from the avalanche of fire that's the end of Goliath. The same thing about Ouroborous well-crafted stops. To be intense, you need to be the opposite at times so you can define what's intense. Here, the album's solely quiet track apart from Tourniquet Man is Soothsayer, which is clumsily executed because of Pridgen's nonstop drumming, which clutters the song. He just can't drum slowly, something that Theodore handled very well. It's just not his thing, and you can notice it.

Cedric suffers much from this approach to the music. He sings well, quite higher than in previous albums, but he gets trapped under another avalanche: the one made up of vocal effects. There's just too many of them all over here, from the obnoxious double-octave premiered on Amputechture up to much weirder ones (Tourniquet Man, Cavalettas). The problem with this is that by being so many, none of them have such an impact. Therefore, his performance diminishes in quality and strength, it doesn't sound so intense anymore.

Those are the flaws, but still Omar manages to pull many good things together: Many of these songs (more independent than the songs on the first two albums) stand very well by themselves, and the shorter track lengths are welcome in a way since they force him out of the stiffness I found on many parts in Amputechture. Ouroborous, Metatron, Goliath and Agadez have an excelent timing and structure, and parts on many others shine with Omar's distinctive style, now bearing incredible flourishes of many styles, particularly of a middle-eastern flavor. He corrected many of the rough edges in Amputechture, packing a more powerful, punchier sound. Pridgen helps a lot with this, adding a primal, lightning-fast drumming that lifts things up. And despite my criticism of the short songs, I still like them a lot, since they're really intense nevertheless.

In overall, it's a good album, although the choice of pure volume has mixed results every now and then. The Mars Volta are drifting even further apart from any other band, even the prog ones, creating their own rules to make music, and that's what makes it being a nice addition to any prog-music collection. However, Omar's statements about a possible next album left me intrigued: A quiet one, dubbed *the acoustic one*? Got to hear that.

santiagoprog | 4/5 |


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