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The Bedlam in Goliath

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The genesis of The Mars Volta’s new album The Bedlam in Goliath is a tale of long-buried murder victims and their otherworldly influence, of strife and near collapse, of the long hard fight to push ”the record that did not want to be born” out into the world. Omar was in a curio shop in Jerusalem when he found the Soothsayer, an archaic Ouija-style ”talking board.” Had he known at that moment that the board’s history stretched far beyond its novelty appearance, that its very fibers were soaked through with something terribly other, that the choral death and desire of a multi-headed Goliath was waiting behind its gates… well, he might have left it at rest there on the dusty shelves. The Upside of That Choice: No bad mojo unleashed. Erase the madness that followed. Erase the bizarre connection to a love/lust/murder triangle that threatened to spill out into the present every time the band let its fingers drift over the board. The Downside: No Soothsayer means The Bedlam in Goliath never would have existed. And it turns out that this demented spiritual black hole of a muse has driven The Mars Volta to produce a crowning moment in their already stellar career. The band names this Ouija board ”The Soothsayer”, as it offers them a story: It’s always about a man, a woman, and her mother. About the lust floating between them. About seduction and infidelity. And pain. And eventually, murder. Entrails and absence and curses and oblivion. To understand the full story….listen to ”The Bedlam in Goliath.”No one has ever accused the Mars Volta of subtlety. But even so, the cyclonic caterwaul of Bedlam in Goliath is the band’s fullest starburst to date. Sure, the songs have titles that seem indecipherable, from ”Aberinkula” to ”Conjugal Burns.” The important thing, though, is the molten, guitar-spiraling, drum-thundering core at the heart of the whole endeavor. ”Aberinkula” opens the album with an unfettered explosion of clustered guitars and a dense keyboard haze pierced by Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s coarse, pitched yowl. A scouring soprano sax solo cuts across the songs’s midsection, and that vibe spreads throughout Bedlam, but so does the most pervasive melding of herky-jerk rhythms, post-punk speed, uber-funk bass, and chaotic riffage that you’re likely to find in rock & roll. If it’s Bedlam you want, you can’t miss here. –Andrew Bartlett

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  • Excellent production and execution. The percussion work lead by Drummer Pridgen is phenomenal! Cedric and Omar deliver their usual superb talent. The song format is a bit different (shorter tracks) to the epic song structure the Mars Volta used in their previous two albums.

    I still like amputecture more than this one but, like any new material from Mars Volta, I guess it probably requires a lot more listening hours for a full appreciation.


    Posted on December 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I usually allow an album a few weeks to settle into my realm before I give a proper critique on it, but considering listening to “The Bedlam In Goliath” has mostly taken up the majority of days lately, I deemed it appropriate to write a review. I am a very big Mars Volta fan, loving every album they have put out almost equally. So, this album is no different in that matter. This is musically TMV’s most complex and challenging album. They range in everything from psychadelia, jazz-fusion, salsa, metal, classic-rock, funk & everything in between. It is a huge 75 minute blast of genre crushing music, and with the exception of “Tourniquet Man”, does not let up for the duration. Considering the first two tracks do sound like they could have easily fit on Amputechture, the rest of the album veers off into a totally new world for Cedric, Omar & Co. This is quite the treat.

    1.Aberinkula 9/10…Wastes absolutely no time in getting down to business with the chorus crashing through the speakers from second one. A tremendous hard rocking opener with an amazing 2 minute jam for an outro.
    2.Metatron 8.5/10…More or less in the same vein as the first track and at times reminds me of the madness that occurs on “Tetragrammaton” from the previous record. There is alot going on in this song and it can be a little much, but the soft bridge in the middle that leads right back into mayhem is priceless.
    3.Ilyena 10/10…After about a minute of disortion drenched vocals, Cedric’s crisp near falsetto voice greets us with “if you could see..where i’ve been..” with a slinky guitar riff and a funky bassline, makes this the most danceable TMV song since the salsa section in L’Via. Such an amazingly melodic song.
    4.Wax Simulacra 8.5/10…This song nearly comes across as an anti-single, more or less a jab at their record company for craving singles. A two minute song (!) that crams more instrumentation into itself than most bands do on entire records. Pure mayhem.
    5.Goliath 10/10…A rework of “Rapid Fire Tollbooth” off of Omar’s last solo offering, and what a rework it is. A more or less sped up version of the previous, with insane rapid soloing, and a 3 minute outro jam that brings to mind the “Drunkship Of Lanterns” outro and will surely put a smile on your face.
    6.Tourniquet Man 8/10…A very soft melodic piece that I personally feel serves as an intro to Cavalettas, as opposed to most saying it is an “obvious attempt at a single.” Cedric’s vocals are nearly indistinguishable, and I agree that yes the last 40 seconds or so are completely unecessary, but I think it actually assists the flow in contrast to disrupting it.
    7.Cavalettas 9.5/10…Another track that has been taking quite the lashing for no good reason. I can understand that people would like a little more variation out of a nine and a half minute song, but once the song keeps fading in and out trading off with a stellar staccato riff and Cedric crooning oh so melodically, I can’t help but love this song.
    8.Agadez 10/10…A prime example of their aforementioned departure of their old sound. The verses consist of a very funky/jazzy vocal delivery while the chorus pummels you with Thomas Pridgen making his cymbals his slaves. The song gradually leads to an amazing climax.
    9.Askepios 8/10…Enter the most interesting track probably in the Volta catalogue. A very hard to track to describe, but the inital verses drag by with Omar’s slow strumming accompanied by Priden’s insane echoed drumming. And right when you’re about to hit the skip button, the song transoforms into a whole nother beast. The last 2 minutes with Cedric desperately crying out “help me..come alive!” confirms that the record wouldn’t be the same without this strange bird.
    10.Ouroboros 10/10…Opens with a near metal riff and pounding drums and leads way for probably the best track on the album. Just amazing in all aspects, and pardon my contradiction, but this song seems like it could have came straight off of De-loused.
    11.Soothsayer 8/10…The other quite unusual track on the record. It contains lush strings, minimal guitar, hold for Omar’s very jazzy solo in the middle, Cedric’s often distortion laced vocal, and a prayer (?) that carries out the last two minutes. This song is hugely epic and soars majestically at parts, but other times seems like it doesn’t know what to do with itself.
    12.Conjugal Burns 10/10…I never thought I’d see the day that TMV would make a closer that would rival the greatness of “Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt”, but my worries are quickly suppressed. Begins with a simple riff and Cedric’s obnoxious vocal delivery, and slowly builds out into freakout mode and then leads way for the catchiest part on the entire record. When Cedric sings “all of this time, bedsore containment, where am i now that the music has faded?” you know the Volta have done it again.

    Do yourself a favor and pick this gem up, and the rest of the catalogue for the matter if you don’t have them. Such an amazing record should not be missed, and along with Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” gets my early vote for record of the year.

    Posted on December 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I have had the pleasure of owning this album for 2 days now and, it just keeps on growing on me. I’ve been a fan of TMV since ‘De-loused’ but found ‘Frances the mute’ and ‘Amputechture’ to be a little pretentious. Not the case here. ‘The bedlam in goliath’ runs right out of the gate and does not let up. Before i delve into this review i must confess that i am a huge king crimson fan and an even bigger Tool fan so, TMV fit right in with my musical tastes.

    I didnt even know that this album was out until the drummer in my band texted me and told me so. I immediately jumped out of bed and showered, hopped in my car and drove to coconuts. I proceeded indoors where i found a copy then walked back to my car. Now, as with all new releases i must soak it all in. So, i continue home, pack a battie and pop in ‘Bedlam’. BAM! right away they barrage you with a full on assault of twisted sounds and then cedric hits a register higher than the almighty himself. I am not going to give a track by track review since people seemed to have covered that already. The concept behind ‘The bedlam in goliath’ is, omar was in jerusalem in a curio shop and came across a ouija board which he brought home. The band say they used in night after night and the same spirits would come through. The short of it is, the band claims they were haunted by these spirits which interferred with the making of the record. All hub-bub aside, this is an amazing release and MUCH better than what i had expected from them.

    Also worth mentioning is the new drummer, forgive me for not knowing his name off hand. He manages to out-shine jon theodore in many aspects of the music and feels like an overall better fit for where they seem to be venturing. If your a fan of progressive/space/experimental music grab this album and prepare to shift into hyper-drive.

    Posted on December 10, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Bedlam definition: disorder resulting from a failure to behave predictably. And thats exactly what this album is all about. While trying to avoid repeating the more obvious elements of this album I must say I was a bit nervous about buying the Bedlam in Goliath. Why? Because while Frances the Mute and Amputechure were both better albums than Green Day or Fallout Boy could even imagine pulling off, yet they both reflect the challenges of a band trying to follow up after the smashing success of De-Loused in the Comatorium while loosing a key member of the band and often overlooked Jeremy Ward. While having many highlights both Frances and Amputechture both feel like bloated eps that could have benefited from more editing (like the 2 plus minutes of tape noise after “The Widow” and does anyone ever listen to the entire “Cassandra Gemini”?) and better mixing (More Ikey, and what happened to the drums in Amputechture?). Then exits John Theodore, who disliked playing live shows, yet was an amazing drummer. Whats next?

    Bedlam more than surprised me because I liked so many of the tracks on first listen as previous albums including De-Loused grew on me. This album is a return to form, literally! Somehow a nine minute song like “Soothsayer” sounded like it was three minutes long. The song structures are tighter on Bedlam, less experimental (a la Frances), more structured and shorter solos, less turn on a dime tempo and mood changes (a la Amputecture), sections connect more effectively, less meandering, and overall more accessible. But put into context Bedlam is as accessible as sushi! This is not mainstream music. Now that TMV is an octet this recording retains an amazing clarity and thanks to Rich Costy nothing gets lost in the mix. And don’t worry about the new drummer, Thomas Pridgen, an alumni of Berklee college of music. I was pleasantly surprised with Pridgen’s intensity and technical control of this complex music.

    “Wax Simulcara” would have been a great first track. Perhaps the most radio friendly track, and TMV recently performed this track on the Dave Letterman Show. Wax shows Pridgen in command on the percussion duties while driving a hard and intense rock out that ends in a blissful freak out acid jam that on previous albums may have lasted till next year.
    “Soothsayer” is an outstanding track, haunting, very effective, and is in a ten/four time signature. The heavy echo laden guitar sound that dominated De-Loused which I much enjoy is back on this track. I wonder what some sitar and tablas could have added to this and my personal favorite track. The added string section enhances the depth of this song. Bravo to Omar for his opening guitar/sitar phrasing, and outer space effects!
    “Goliath” has a catchy guitar riff, while Cedric’s high end vocal screams are able to conjure ancient spirits. The screaming near the end is violent and scary.
    “Aberinkula” has a blistering saxophone solo, this track has moments that remind me of Viscera Eyes, which is not a bad thing.
    “Metatron” almost resembles Tetragrammton yet being shorter by 7 minutes (phew!) and has a killer bass line!
    “Ileyna” is a pleasantly funky tune perhaps inspired by the Red Hot Chili peppers.
    “Tourniquet Man” is an odd track that seems to fit well in it’s short 2 and a half minute span. Perhaps the most mellow track, a kind of oasis.
    “Cavalettas” has a lot going on, more focus on form, and interesting sound manipulations that do not become overdone.
    “Agadez” rekindles ideas from “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt” and could have also served well as an ending track. Hey I can hear Ikey on this one!
    “Askepios” is an interesting song which feels like two songs.
    “Ourboros” has moments that seemed influenced by System of A Down. With its soaring chorus, and heavy syncopation, this tune contrasts well between smoother and more intense sections.
    “Conjugal Burns” has an almost humorist, Halloweenish bass guitar sound from Juan Alderete. The scream near the end has to be Cedric’s most intense ever!

    Hearing this album the first time was like reading a novel that you couldn’t put down. The intensity and creativity of this album keeps me captivated for the duration, which few albums as a whole can do. One can read about the storyline/concept of this album elsewhere. Keep in mind that Cedric and Omar have repeatedly stated that the message of their music is meant to be obscure, you are free to interpret it any way you want! But go ahead and blow your mind by researching and investigating the meanings of the song titles, words, and artwork. For every answer you find a new question emerges. Less is more, and more is less at the same time. This is music that almost defies description with words, you just have to hear it. And if your open minded, and like De-Loused you will not be disappointed that you did.

    Posted on December 10, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • (The Bedlam in Goliath” by The Mars Volta)

    On their fourth studio album, The Mars Volta have definitely decided not to take it easy. From the very moment it starts until its ending 75 (!) minutes later, the band works in full steam ahead hyperdrive mode, rarely stopping for breath. One could be halfway through the album before realizing the first track is even over. On the upside, it shows a band determined to prove they’re now the hardest working men in show business; on the downside, the songs tend to blend together into a massive rush of LOUDERFASTERNOW!!! Although working with the same prog-punk blueprint they’ve been developing over the years, here they seem to reject the more jam-band approach of Frances the Mute or Amputechture. All of the songs on the new album fall below the ten-minute mark, which for them is concise (disgruntled fans of the first album may want to check this one out). Their love of latin rhythms continues, however, aided ably by new drummer Thomas Pridgen, who gives the impression he’s actually two men. The twin guitar attack of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and (former Chili Pepper) John Frusciante, while using every style they can think of (including feedback noise), here they at least stick to the song at hand. This is not to say they’re not coloring outside the lines, but they play it at such light-speed that the impression one gets is of Miles Davis’ On the Corner interpreted by meth-addled robots. Meanwhile, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala sticks mainly to the upper registers of his voice and lets the words tumble out at such a rate thay a lyric sheet is necessary to know what they are. This is not to say “understand,” though, “The Bedlam in Goliath” is billed as (what else?) a concept album about a seemingly cursed ouija board that the band acquired in Jerusalem. Hey, I don’t make the news; I just report it. If any of this sounds a bit daunting, that’s probably because it’s supposed to be. The Mars Volta obviously don’t appeal to casual listeners; in fact, die hard Rush or Tool fans may even run screaming from the room. One of their major inspirations, Carlos Santana, would probably also be baffled. Still, if you’re already a fan of the band, or just want to test your fortitude as a music fan, this is the album you’ve been longing for. Though one wishes they’d slow down sometimes–this album is all crescendo, all the time–this is no return to the form of their earlier work but another creative level entirely. With their maximum-firepower approach, if The Mars Volta aren’t the best band ever, they’re certainly the most.

    Posted on December 10, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now