The Mars Volta is an abomination of broken glass and twisted metal, the spawn of a tragic romance, equal parts darkness and light, spewed from a manic soul. And despite the continual dissent into a maelstrom of sound, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez continue to chip away at the dinosaur that is modern rock, bashing away with strength and accuracy directly to its stone-cold heart.
Earlier releases were akin to The Exorcist, Bixler-Zavala wailing in tongues, alternating between English and Spanish, while the band spewed staccato riffing with angular accuracy. The Bedlam in Goliath, the fourth long-player for this band that emerged from the ashes of El Paso punks At the Drive-In, continues the path of otherworldly possession, but here, the demons have settled in comfortably, unveiling a love triangle between a woman, her daughter and a man, drawn from The Soothsayer, a Ouija board bought by Omar for Cedric in a Jerusalem shop.
The board plays an integral role in the stories found in the macabre world of The Bedlam in Goliath, speaking in a distorted drawl that is unnerving and unexpected. “Aberinkula” opens the album with a barrage of ferocious sound, spikes of guitar twisting beneath Bixler-Zavala’s howls, before settling into the more straight-forward Metatron, an eight-plus minute prog-rock opus, with one of the few segments on the album that doesn’t bleed desperation. The band even draws out razorblade funk in the wah-wah laden verse of “Goliath,” a hard-edged groove that is overwhelmed by sinister overtones.
Spaciously challenging, air is a commodity here, and breathing room only comes between songs (if at all). This serves as the weakness found in The Bedlam in Goliath, although an astute element in this battle between worlds. Much of the details seem drowned in the wall of layers, exorbitant instrumentation diluting dreadful ornamentation, dulling the edge, The Mars Volta wielding a rusty shiv rather than a killing knife.
Despite its weaknesses, The Mars Volta have created – or, should I say, inherited – a world that most wouldn’t dare to enter, a Pandora’s box opened by The Soothsayer where sonic worlds – good and evil – collide, and the diabolical storyline is battled by the religious themes of Santeria, The Mars Volta fighting to make it out alive. For this band and its fans, The Bedlam in Goliath is a battle worth taking on.
The Bedlam in Goliath is out now on Universal Records.