1. "Aberinkula" 5:45
2. "Metatron" 8:12
3. "Ilyena" 5:36
4. "Wax Simulacra" 2:39
5. "Goliath" 7:15
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
The Bedlam In Goliath Received wisdom has it that to toy with the occult is to enter into a Faustian pact that will bite you on the ass somewhere down the line. Magic, myth and sorcery had been recurrent themes within The Mars Volta’s output for some time and served as the dominant motifs for their previous full length, Amputechture.
So it was almost inevitable that, at some point, luck, kismet, karma, serendipity whatever you want to call the metaphysical forces that exert hidden influence upon our mortal world would visit the group and enact some kind of payback. Whatever debts the group had accrued came due with The Bedlam In Goliath, the group’s fourth full length, and an album whose creation was, in every sense of the word, cursed. The production of the album was regularly scuppered by technical problems that erased whole takes from their computer hard drives, a phenomenon Omar’s in studio right hand man Rich Costey an experienced producer/engineer in his own right found impossible to explain.
Meanwhile, Omar’s home studio flooded and was plagued by severe electrical problems, and at least one member of the engineering staff working on the album quit the sessions after suffering a psychotic episode. At the time, all this accumulating bad juju was ascribed, by the more superstitious members of The Mars Volta, to a ouija board Omar had reputedly pur chased while travelling in Jerusalem and gifted to Cedric upon his return. What is certain is that Omar returned from his travels with tapes of field recordings he’d made in Jerusalem, from his wanderings around the city’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters, which were later mixed into the track Soothsayer, a mystical epic elevated by strings.
The music captured on those field recordings, which opened Soothsayer, inspired Cedric’s lyrics for The Bedlam In Goliath. “I would listen and just sit in this ambience Omar had captured, and try and draw something from that world,” he remembers. “I wanted to write something that pulled you out, that gave you the same feeling you got when you saw Max Von Sydow have his heart attack in The Exorcist. I wanted to make an infernal machine that played on your hysteria.” The characters who populate the songs of The Bedlam In Goliath are all horrific figures, from the Tourniquet Man (“A classic boogeyman type character”, says Cedric), to the anti hero of Goliath, inspired by cult leader Jim Jones. “What greater boogeyman to pull from than Jim Jones, right? His actual in house band would sing that ‘Never seen a man speak like this man before’ part, and it was so fucking terrifying, but also so god damned catchy, so I knew I needed to lift it for the song. And Omar’s riff was perfect it evoked the madness of Jim Jones.
” The music of The Bedlam In Goliath was seething, infernal stuff, their most intense, most heavily loaded work yet. Thomas Pridgen had replaced Jon Theodore on the drumstool, and Omar says he was “writing to Thomas’s strengths”. Certainly, Goliath puts on display the fearsome chops of everyone involved in The Mars Volta nonet, Omar’s unabashedly strapping slate of riffs etched with speaking in tongues sax skronk, avalanches of skin splitting drumming, and inspired vocalising from the group’s frontman. But while Omar acknowledges that Goliath is seen as the group’s ‘metal album’ (more on that in a second), there’s a lot more going on.
“We were listening to a lot of Turkish psych rock back then,” says Cedric. “The ‘Eastern scale’ is all over that record.” The lead single off of The Bedlam In Goliath, the force nine gale that is Wax Simulacra, scored the group their first recognition from the Recording Academy, in the form of the Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy. It’s an honour that the group received with a small amount of ambivalence: “Oh, cool, we’re up against Staind,” grinned Omar, while Cedric admitted he hoped the group would be defeated at the awards, so he could drape a banner reading “We lost to Judas Priest oh well!” from the ceiling at his post Grammys house party.
But it speaks to the skill and imaginative power of The Mars Volta that, even with the combined might of bad karma, juju, kismet and every other form of luck seemingly working against them, the group could return and deliver their most grand, most fearless statement yet. An album at once muscular and inventive, an album given to swashbuckling flash and dizzying depth. Another Mars Volta masterpiece, in other words.
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