Shortly after the New Year began, progressive rock group The Mars Volta released their fourth full-length album, The Bedlam in Goliath, with the intention of letting their listeners partake in cryptic mysteries and curse-reversing songs.
This concept was manifested by superstitions surrounding a Ouija board game bought by guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez as a gift for vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The game was associated with a string of bad luck during the album production (e.g. studios flooding and band members leaving). Whether this notion is true or false is questionable, but the fact that the album is chock-full of metaphoric coincidences leads one to think that there will be some deciphering involved.
Although The Mars Volta is commonly thought of as a group who likes to combine different genres of music into a unifying concept, this album displays an attention to the technicality and other fine details of that endeavor. This is unusual, because the album only took a little over a year to finish since their last LP, Amputechture, which lacked creativity and a unifying notion.
The first track on the album is an ideal example of the enigmatic messages contained within the album. "Aberinkula" showcases a driving rhythm section accompanied by mystifying falsetto-style lyrics and a psychedelic guitar riff. Ironically, an aberinkula is a drum that originated in the Santeria culture of Nigeria. Santeria is not mere devil worship, yet it is based on expanding and contracting forces that it says make up the universe.
The lengthy second track, "Metatron," also encodes aspects that relate universal forces. Metatron is the name of a heavenly scribe that garners the same respect as deities because of his occupation, and is mentioned in many religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This complex album also offers a few songs that express more clear coincidences and connections concerning conspiracy. For instance, as the wailing guitar and puncturing drums amplify on the track "Goliath," one can almost imagine the stage being set for a battle between beast and man. As the song builds, the heavy tempo sends the percussion section into chaos and Rodriguez-Lopez darts up the neck of his guitar as if there is no way the man is going to defeat this unbeatable monster.
Therefore, even if the proposed concept of this album is completely made up, there is still an enormous amount of creativity and originality involved in the production of The Bedlam. There are apparent themes and metaphors that weave in and out of each song, as well as vibrant album art that corresponds to each track. The musicianship is impeccable and features help from Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante once again. For those who like well produced, detailed concept albums, this album will provide weeks of great listening and deciphering.