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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

3.52 | 524 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

2 stars Okay, so Bedlam In Goliath was bad...

Usually when I first listen to a Mars Volta album, I think "This is brilliant!" but I know that I will still find more and more in it as I listen to it over time. I've had Bedlam In Goliath for a while now, and it still doesn't do anything for me.

The music is definitely Mars Volta, it still has seemingly random time signature changes, and a scattered chaos of instruments. What is wrong here is that that's all it is. Randomness and chaos. I appreciate The Mars Volta because they seem to structure their chaos. Look at De-Loused In The Comatorium. They are all over the place, but not one second sounds like a mistake, as most of Bedlam In Goliath sounds. Bedlam In Goliath sounds like a parody of The Mars Volta.

Look at Aberinkula, for instance, the first track of the album. What is really going on here? They've layered on effects in order to produce a noise behind the song. The drums are unexciting and monotonous, as well as the guitar. Around 3:30 is the best part of the song, what sounds like a recapture of Amputechture, from there on the song progresses nicely, outside of a recurring saxophone bit where the saxophonist seems to be trying to sound as untalented as possible (this would work in the song, did it not repeat). What is killing me here is that they have good material in there, but they shroud most of the album in random noise and repeat certain lines over and over as if they needed to fill space on the album("Maybe I'll break down" for example).

Metatron is a good song on the album, despite the repeating choruses. It has quality instrumentation and a good melody for the vocals. Out of the 8 minutes, I would say about 6 are enjoyable (the rest is noise blasting and choruses). This song would receive 4 stars.

Wax Simulacra seems rushed, much too rushed. The "don't know, don't know" part at the end could have really gone somewhere. The first minute lacks anything of note, outside of the fact that it is lacking.

Goliath. The title song of the album. The first whiff of the song sounds great. ten the vocals come in and for 4 minutes it's agitating choruses over and over. After that is a faux Amputechture again, as well as it being much too rushed. The lyrics are just embarassing (I mean "I feel a miscarriage coming on"?). The end of the song features inchorent screaming behind the agitating chorus that has been repeated at least 8 times at that point. So there's three sections of the song: Agitating choruses, faux Amputechture that sounds refreshing, then back to agitating choruses but with worse lyrics.

Tourniquet Man is a foreshadowing of Octahedron in my eyes. It is the best piece of the album, though it is plagued by distorted vocals near the end. I just wish it were longer.

Cavalettas is the first real eysore of the album. It goes nowhere, but manages to get there with what seems to be the same drums that have been used the entire album, guitars that horribly misportray the true talent of Omar A. Rodriguez. The song shifts back and forth between several different modes, each featuring some sort of noise produced by an instrument, rather than music (sirens or the guitar biting the same note over and over). Wind instruments appear occasionally, though do not augment the song. In short, it is unstructured and features instrumentation that do shame to each of the players' talent. The end of the song, like most of the songs on the album, is better than the rest of the song. It does well on showcasing Cedric Bixler-Zavala's strength as a singer. However, he's sionging the words that you've now heard a hundred times already in the song. Not enough to float the song above 2 stars (where the greater part of the album resides).

Agadez rambles on for three and a half minutes making the same mistakes as Cavalettas, but this time with a better guitar riff (that repeats over and over with the chorus). After that three and a half minutes, it enters some decent 3 or 4 star music that manages to carry on for a little less than two minutes before another rampaging chorus claims king of the hill and finishes out the song.

Askepios has potential in its opening. The trumpets are fantastic, but then the song just stops and begins again with disastrous results. It never seems to pick itself up again, though adding in the same trumpets (which again stop and the song begins again). This new part (really, they're just repeating the same thing in a different manner) layers effects on the vocals aren't pleasant to listen to. It builds up again, but instead of going back to trumpets (which are the best part of the song), it branches off into a section trademark of the album. "Help me come alive, help me come alive, help me come alive, help me come alive." Rather, the music needs reviving. The song ends on that chorus fading away. Nothing coming out of its potential.

Ourobouros is a treat. It, like the rest of the album, repeats a chorus "Don't you ever, ever, ever, ever trust my virtue," howver, for once, it works. The different manners in which they play the piece are exciting and the fast-paced motion doesn't seem like rushing, but instead fits the mood of the song. It sounds like what the rest of the album was trying to be. There are moments in the second half of the song where I fear it will return to blasting unitelligent noise, but it always picks up again. Admittedly, by the end, the repeating lyrics "It'll be hard to hold" do not hold my attention any longer.

Soothsayer is a slower song, finally. The background is random noises again, but they're soft. The vocals are fantastic... But the guitar... It shrieks and blasts notes nobody wants to hear. However, it only appears in its solo (while stating mostly out of the way the rest of the song). The background noise begins to elevate and eventually overtakes the rest of the piece and suddenly you're in a church setting. Which isn't all that bad, it's oddly creepy, but melodious at the same time (the church choir), but not what I want on a Mars Volta record, though, admittedly, it fits the song a little. A better song off the album, but still not that great.

By Conjugal Burns I'm just glad it's ending. The song simply shifts between different choruses (side note: It's not that I hate choruses, many Mars Volta songs have fantastic choruses. It's that these choruses fill the album. It's about 60-70% choruses. While this does a good job of demonstrating how much range Bixler-Zavala can get, it provides no variety), and at one point it goes into a phase where it seems a dog is barking repeatedly. A vicious one, too. Of course, this is just effects on his voice again. It comes out of nowhere, fills some time space, then back into choruses until suddenly it ends. The sound of silence is glorious.

I love The Mars Volta. This was just a poorly manufactured album. With Octahedron (as well as De-Loused, Frances, and Amputechture) in mind, I can't wait for their next album. I hate to give a two star rating to one of my favorite bands, but only one song was truly good, two more were decent, and the rest were failures. Bedlam In Goliath had many disasters in production (in the actual production, not simply the music. They had some bad things happen). Maybe this album was just a transitional phase for them, or maybe they were trying new things. With all the rushed music, time killers, agitating choruses, ill-thought effects, random noises, random structure, and (crushingly) poor instrumentation, this album just doesn't work.

PorcupineThief | 2/5 |


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