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Mars Volta, The: The Bedlam in Goliath

Progressive rock's breakthrough darlings The Mars Volta are back with another melting pot of chaotic and varied sounds & styles on their latest The Bedlam in Goliath. Perhaps one of the things that makes this band so appealing to so many people is their ability to mix prog, funk, jazz, punk, and rock styles within the framework of each song, creating what is often times a nearly impenetrable wall of sound that is dissonant yet melodic at the same time. After the successful Amputechture, which continued to gain new fans for the band yet divided many longtime listeners, the band seems to want to up the ante here, as The Bedlam in Goliath is a bold step forward into even more varied and adventurous territories. The opening 1-2 punch of "Aberinkula" and " Metatron" provide roughly 14-minutes of guitar chaos, cluttered keyboards, and squonking sax work, with the vocals of Cedric Bixler-Zavala providing the bravado and theatrics. There always seems to be a heavy funk vibe with this band, and it's ever present on these two cuts. Wah-wah guitar licks from Red Hot Chili Pepper mainstay John Frusciante and plenty of crazy drum fills from new skinsman Thomas Pridgen permeate "Ilyena", while "Goliath" is just a seething, boiling cauldron of nasty Zappa-ish styled arrangements and Cedric's scorching high-pitched vocal attack. I hate to keep bringing up the heavy funk element, but you gotta love the Bootsy Collins influenced fuzz bass licks that boom throughout the mix on the epic "Cavalettas", and coupled with screaming wah-wah solos will have you instantly scratching your Parliament/Funkadelic itch.

The band goes for a 70's prog stance on "Agadez", complete with ominous Mellotron and Yes-styled guitar work, and go for a Red era King Crimson vibe on the creepy "Askepios", littered with bombastic Wetton influenced bass lines and some scrorching Fripp-ish guitar shards. The last two tracks are pretty intriguing-"Soothsayer" kicks off with some Middle Eastern tinged violin before Frusciante comes into with an effects laden guitar solo, eventually giving way to some mysterious vocals from Cedric. At over 9 minutes, this one takes you on many twists and turns, and also features another blistering and supercharged Frusciante solo at around the five minute mark. The closer "Conjugal Burns" sees plenty of Mellotron and synth sounds creating some spooky atmosphere, Cedric's vocals matter of factly instigating some Yes-meets-Crimson guitar noodling and intricate drum patterns, making for a very proggy ending to this rather noisy, unsettling, raucous, yet fascinating release.

Chances are if your've never been a fan of The Mars Volta, The Bedlam in Goliath won't necessarily convert you. Their latest will certainly take a few listens for all the musical mayhem and nuances to sink in and make sense, and as always the lyrical content is pretty dense as well. Still, there's no band out there today that caters to both the progressive rock and alternative crowds quite like these guys do, and they've been doing it for years now. Highly recommended stuff here, give it a chance and be prepared to be wowed.

Track Listing
1. Aberinkula 5:45
2. Metatron 8:12
3. Ilyena 5:36
4. Wax Simulacra 2:39
5. Goliath 7:16
6. Tourniquet Man 2:38
7. Cavalettas 9:32
8. Agadez 6:44
9. Askepios 5:11
10. Ouroborous 6:36
11. Soothsayer 9:08
12. Conjugal Burns 6:36

Added: November 28th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: The Mars Volta Website
Hits: 2651
Language: english

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Mars Volta, The: The Bedlam in Goliath
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-11-28 00:08:06
My Score:

Main members Omar Rodriguez Lopez (music, arrangements, direction) and Cedric Bixler Zavala (vocals, lyrics) formed The Mars Volta in 2001 when their former band At The Drive In broke up. On this record The Mars Volta Group consists of no less than nine members and if you are at all familiar with the band's music you know this will not be an easy listen. Like no other band that I currently listen to, The Mars Volta pull out all the stops rarely taking their feet off the gas. This is a heavy record folks and not easily digested but that is what we have come to expect from this band of talented musicians. The band is able to take psychedelic sounds of the early seventies along with plenty of dissonance and come up with a record that is fresh and exciting with enough aural intensity that should satisfy those looking for an invigorating musical fix. The band's blending of pop, rock, jazz, avant-garde and fusion makes for a progressive listening experience. This is not to say The Bedlam In Goliath is completely original as the band does rely on the past for inspiration, but what they do they do very well.

This is a concept album, and a weird one it is. Upon a visit to Jerusalem, Omar Rodriguez purchased a Ouija board from a shop thus setting in motion a series of otherworldly events caused by the spirit of Goliath. However unbelievable that sounds it makes for an intriguing story and the band is able to capture the mood throughout these twelve songs. Setting aside the conjuring of spirits and demons you may be wondering how it all sounds.

If you are a fan of the band it is safe to say you will likely enjoy this offering. Plenty of aural assaults, angular rhythms, free form drum extravaganzas and the varied falsetto of Zavala. Zavala also shows restraint when the mood arises reigning in the falsetto and taking a more subdued approach. Their take on funkadelic heavy rock may be strongest felt on this release especially when you consider Red Hot Chili Pepper alumnus John Frusciante makes his presence felt all over these songs.

The album starts hard and heavy with the intense "Aberinkula" featuring piercing guitar rhythms and frenetic drumming courtesy of Thomas Pridgen. Some wildly discordant saxophone provides a Middle Eastern theme. "Metatron" continues in a similar vein but with a more funky groove and the fiery guitar laid over a pounding rhythm section really sets the pace. The incredibly weird opening to "Ilyena" includes some of the strangest processed vocals I have heard and leads into a funked up rave that is a real toe tapper. Included is some psychedelic lead guitar work and a pretty nice melody to boot. "Wax Simulacra" is one of the album's shortest songs but offers an intense ride all the same with tasty drumming, heavy riffs and Zavala's piercing shrills before ending with some experimental sounding saxophone.

One of my favourite songs is "Soothsayer" filled with ambient textures amidst processed vocals, dissonant guitar work and violin sounds making this one of the album's more tranquil moments.

As a whole I would have liked a few more ambient interludes to break up the intensity but overall this is still an excellent piece of work that sits nicely beside previous efforts. Recommended for all fans of adventurous music.

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