Monday, 4 February 2008

Review - The Mars Volta / The Bedlam in Goliath / 2008

Cast your mind back to 2003 – remember any albums that stood out that year? If you are into the same types of bands I am, and indeed, Colin is, you might be thinking of one release in particular; Deloused in the Comatorium, the debut LP from The Mars Volta. Its exploded in a way that only keen progressive rock fans could understand, and for the rest, bemusement at the unusual song structures, the rather crazy and seemingly plucked from a dictionary lyrics. But underneath this bubbling mental scape of sound, was melody, music, and technically gifted musicaians enjoying a chance to show off, creating some the best stand out tracks in a long time.

Long intro paragraph, but for the last two Mars Volta albums, they have used that too using sound and noise to create walls of static, that to be honest, make me slightly annoyed to listen to Frances the Mute (2005) or Amputechture (2006) as this slightly indulgent use of sound to extend tracks beyond 6 minutes breaks up a flow of an album rather quickly. Goliath has no introduction. It blows away the cobwebs with a simple “Have you seen the living?...” shouted in alien voice so recognisable, and a drumsguitarbass implosion.

So, Bedlam in Goliath, is a return to form, if you feel they ever lost their form. They have no over arcing catastrophe, but the story plays out like a long winded fairytale, or an Indiana Jones film. The static is gone, and in it’s place is a groove so delicate in some, but so crashing in Cavalettas, that you suddenly feel like there is different songs here. Metatron is shocking as it uses melody, something they had seemingly forgotten about when it came to Amputechture, and by accident or design, no track is longer tan the prescribed 10 minutes, though Goliath and Cavalettas do come close to breaking the boundary.

This leaves us with an album of stand out tracks – Agadez sounds at times like At the Drive-in and others, like the short and sweet Wax Simulcra and Tourniquet Man are welcome respites in the rather ragged landscape given by frantic drumming and vocals distorted beyond comprehension.

So, I am enjoying it. It is very solid, cohesive, and feels like an album of ideas, rather than one idea stretched over 12 tracks, and 78minutes. It is a step back into the Comatorium days and that could be seen as a step back into an identity that they had banished, but the natural progression of a band cannot be faulted, especially the natural progression of a progressive rock band.


Try Metatron and Cavalettas.

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