Release Date: Jan 29, 2008
Record label: Universal
It can't come as a surprise that the Mars Volta's fourth album opens with a bang -- sonic terrorism is one of the only things listeners can count on from the band -- but it's genuinely novel that The Bedlam in Goliath never lets go of its momentum, not even after a full hour's worth of unrelenting war on silence, the wrapping paper for a concept album about the power of the occult. On their first three proper albums, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez played games of quiet-loud-quiet (or loud-quiet-loud), sneaking around stealthily for minutes at a time before detonating another blast of thrash metal riffing and piercing screams. The Bedlam in Goliath is simply loud-loud-loud, virtually every song played at maximum volume and tempo.
Review Summary: One of the first album-of-the-year contenders, "The Bedlam in Goliath" is for the most part The Mars Volta performing at their highest caliber yet.To be quite mother fucking honest, I‘m a pretty large fan of the Mars Volta. You know what my favorite part is of being a fan of any band (besides cries of “YOU ARE NOT OBJECTIVE”)? Whenever a new record is released by whatever band you are a fan of, reading the opinions other have on it. It makes me immensely happy to see people say that the new Mars Volta album, The Bedlam in Goliath, “made them love” TMV again, or they say its “fucking awesome”, or that “this shit rules”, I can’t help but smile.
It’s not the bloated Tales From Topographic Oceans sequel that the waterlogged Amputechture (2006) turned out to be, but the Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath finds the band still immersed in the regressive progressive rock and sledgehammer funk that has grown exponentially more bombastic and parodic since their promising 2003 debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium. Cedric Bixler Zavala’s paroxysmal vocals are still careening through a Geddy Lee’d bombast of bilingual, hyper-octave melodrama, and though bandleader/guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has thankfully dropped his interminable excursions into momentum-killing ten-minute ambient lulls, he’s countered by shifting the song tempos into a numbing, adrenalized extreme. Further, Rodriguez-Lopez still drives the band through lead-foot funk and Cliff’s Notes fusion (where random sax squalls and brassy throbs become free jazz) -- the same superficial eclecticism that began on their debut as a tic and has now erupted into a grand mal of sonic epilepsy, with the frenzied (albeit technically virtuosic) shuddering never slowing until the album’s final, twisting roar fades into raw-ear silence.
When the At the Drive-In split divided fans between Sparta’s white-boy emo and the left-field prog practices of Mars Volta, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala definitely represented the more adventurous faction. And 2003’s De-Loused In The Comatorium, though exhausting, showed immense creative promise. Three albums and 700 guitar solos later, they sound like a band becoming a bit too comfortable in their niche.
"Follow me into oblivion," shrieks vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala during the hypercharged funk meltdown "Ilyena" on The Bedlam in Goliath. Anyone who's followed the Mars Volta knows the El Paso-bred ensemble has been rocketing through space like a lethal meteor since 2003's debut full-length, De-Loused in the Comatorium, but the band's fourth LP marks another quantum leap. It's a black hole of esoteric expressionism, as baffling as it is brilliant.
To critics and haters, the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez will forever be known as “the guys from At the Drive In.” Which is unfair, really, especially considering they’ve been crafting specious neo-prog since the turn of the millennium. Pegging Zavala and Lopez to their post-punk past fails to take into consideration the pop-cultural sea change that allowed acts like Coheed & Cambria to trade emo earnestness for over-the-top indulgence. An entire generation of kids too young to remember Asia has embraced the musical showboating of today’s proggers.