Spin #12 : The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
Band Members on record: Cedric Bixler-Zavala (Vocals), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Guitar, Synthesizers), Isaiah Ikey Owens (Keyboards), Juan Alderete (Bass), Thomas Pridgen (Drums), John Frusciante (Guitar), Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez (Percussion, Keyboards), Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez (Flute, Sax (Tenor and Soprano), Clarinet -Bass, Percussion) and Paul Hinojos (atmospheric sounds)
The Mars Volta : The Bedlam In Goliath Year Released : 2008 (repress version 2021) Produced by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Label: Clouds Hill Price Range: $75+ AUD Speed: 33 1/3RPM Album Before : Amputechture (2006) Album After : Octahedron (2009) Further Listening : Anything by The Mars Volta! LP : 3 x Black LP ( 2 x LP for the album with additional LP for Mr Muggs single) Mood for enjoying: Frantic, chaotic, fun and relaxing all at once! A mishmash of sounds moulded together on the border of insanity that you will either hate or love it. This album offers creepy vibes and goes well with headphones on late at night (if you dare). Track Listing:
LP 1 Side A
Aberinkula - 5:44
Metatron - 8:11
Ilyena - 5:35
Side B Wax Simulacra - 2:38
Goliath - 7:15
Tourniquet Man - 2:37
Cavalettas - 9:32
Agadez - 6:43
Askepios - 5:10
Ouroborous - 6:35
Soothsayer - 9:07
Conjugal Burns - 6:35
Mr. Muggs - 3:15
Mr. Muggs - 3:15
What's in the Sleeve ? This record is included in the 'La Realidad De Los Sueños' boxset which translates to 'The Reality of Dreams'. It is repressed by Clouds Hill and Omar with so much time and care. The front and back album artwork are by Jeff Jordan and the gatefold is a reverse Quija/spirit board. The original release had the Mr Muggs single in the shape of a planchette but this version has it as a standard 12"LP. Lyrics are on each of the LP slips with further small artworks.
"Maybe I'll breakdown, Maybe I'll try. Circumvent inoculation and I just want a cut. When will I breakdown, Lately I might. Unconnect the fascination, and I just want to touch " ~ Metatron - Side A
Welcome to Spin #12- The Mars Volta : The Bedlam In Goliath
Happy Sunday to everyone and welcome for our 12th spin. I have been holding off on spinning this one because it is such a favourite of mine and I wanted to do it justice. This week I will be spinning the epic 'Bedlam in Goliath' by 'The Mars Volta' which has been repressed by Clouds Hill as part of the 'La Realidad De Los Sueños' boxset. I wasn't lucky enough to get the original presses at the time so when opportunity arose to purchase the new represses, I asked wifey and made the purchase!
For this review I really wanted to hear everything that the band has to offer close up so I have gone with a mix between loungeroom set up and headphones. The reason for this is because the kids wanted to listen to the start before their dinner and bedtime. I'm not going to deprive them of a Mars Volta listening experience so Side A on the platter please.
Drop the Needle (of course means place the stylus nicely on your wax):
I remember listening to this album for the first time through the radio system of my sisters car - we would listen to a lot of music that way and it was via cassette attachment and discman. This band had such a clear impact on me because they were so different to anything that was out at the same time and it stood out. Thank you sis for introducing me to them - my favourite band.
For those who have never heard of 'The Mars Volta' they are a progressive rock band that originated out of El Paso, Texas. The two musicians that you need to know are Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. They are the creators and brains behind pretty much everything this band has put out. I know that Cedric and Omar were on tour after their successful ' Amputechture' album and working on new music in the background when the mythos of this album was started. Basically a spirit board was purchased and used after their live shows to pass the time backstage. During these sessions with the spirit board they made contact with spirits requesting small demands at first.
I have no idea if Volta had a different album direction at the time or if they changed mid-process but the spirit that came through was known as 'Goliath' and this album is about the bedlam it caused in the bands lives. Cedric was requested to give his body over to 'Goliath' as a vessel in which he refused and the spirit didn't like that. Cedric and Omar attempted to get the inscription on the board transcribed and the first person returned their money and refused. The second didn't translate word perfectly but said that writing is in the form of a song or poem and will be known to the band soon enough. Super helpful.
The spirit board was given the nickname 'The Soothsayer' by the band and because they stopped feeding into the spirits demands, the spirit became angry. Horrible and unlucky things affected members of the band in the coming months - even people who didn't know that the spirit board was being used by the band were affected. After having enough bad luck, Omar thought that if he destroyed the spirit board that the curse would be lifted. He broke it in half and buried it in an undisclosed location.
If you are brave enough, come on this Spin journey with us as we try and hear what songs were influenced by 'Goliath' and see if the curse has now been lifted.
As I take the LP out of the sleeve I notice that the etchings are very faint and it's difficult to locate Side A and B. The stylus hits the wax and the quality in this press is noticeable straightaway as Cedric's vocals near blast our heads clean off. 'Aberinkula' doesn't give us as listeners much of a chance to put the cuppa down before getting into the track. In the best possible way and with knowing the back story - you really feel the band is battling something here. Cedric did mention that he enjoyed the lyrics laid out to him from 'Goliath' sometimes more than his own and I'm very interested in trying to pick out what lyric is from spirit or man. Halfway through this song it breaks into a sound that wouldn't be misplaced on Mccoy Tyner's 1972 output 'Sahara'. It's weird but it just works. The horn arrangements and execution by the band are top class.
Our daughter is cruising along the lounge as we listen to this and she has an absolute fascination with the glowing off button on the laptop. Is it 'Goliath' summoning her to make sure I don't finish this review? More than likely no. The next song just flows so nicely as the ending of 'Aberinkula' has a long outro that flows into the straightaway lyrics of 'Metatron'. Every time I hear the name it makes me think of the Supernatural television series in which Metatron was the scribe of God. 'Metatron' is a longer song that doesn't have a slower change of pace until after the 3 minute mark. "Water thirsting when will I drown?" and then the music direction changes again. I love the drums on this album by Pridgen and if you want to check out some of his drumming techniques, he does a lot of videos on youtube. Click here to check Pridgen out!
The song has some creepy lyrics and I suggest you follow along as you listen to this music, "Folding wormholes, my time is riding in the alphabet. Folding wormholes, my time is writing on the wall. Debase by your sentence, I fell in the trap. What door slid behind me? I can't see it anymore". Grab your snorkel as I found out something interesting - the song leads into what is also Helen Mirren's real name, 'Ilyena'. The song starts off with a silent and slow distorted voice that sounds very creepy in the headphones.
Rumour is the spirits would adjust all the bands sliders in the mixing studio and they just went with it to add more effect to the finished product. This song was written to add more light to a very dark record but lyrically it is quite the opposite. "Taking everything I've got, please let me in, in, in, in....I need a brand new skin, Incarnated debts. Incarcerated when the deeds are left to purchase". I like the slower approach of this song with the haunting horn arrangement and sounds that play in the background of the band. So far I can't fault the pressing and Omar and Clouds Hill have done a superb job. 'Ilyena' has a ethereal ending in which the sounds and mixes just seem to have a life of their own as Cedric's vocals disappear.
Side A comes to an end and the first song on Side B comes to life, 'Wax Simulacra' - which was a standout track at the time of release. I have the headphones on now at this point and face into the loungeroom when listening. I used to lean back in the chair and look out at the opening between the bedrooms and the hallway but wifey ruined that. One night she just rushed out of the bedroom and quickly down the hall - with headphones on and no indication of someone walking it did startle me. Especially when she has her long dark hair out similar to the 'Ring' movie girl.
Ok so 'Wax Simulacra' starts with a flurry and some haunting lyrics that will stay in your mind as you listen - "I crawl along the ceilings in your room, the cold is spinning thread to answer you. I need something made of freewill". The song is quite short compared to everything that has come before and flows into the next song after some frantic horn playing.
'Goliath' is just another standout for me and the band really hit their strides on this track. Lyrically and musically it just comes together nicely. The bass is mixed really well on this and goes well with the bass sound of Pridgen's kit. Cedric eerily sings "Give me that corpse please, the one that tore nightly, I really want it now. Fold the arms slowly, Don't want you to hold me, If fits just like a glove". I like the change in styles between a Volta song and the ending of this one works so well into 'Tourniquet Man'. It's a slower track that plays around with distortion vocals, keyboards and atmospheric sounds. The ending is quite odd especially if wearing headphones with the sound loud.
The next song is 'Cavalettas' which starts with quick guitar and drums before Cedric vocals kick in. It's the longest song so far and has a lot of changes musically. I particularly like the part where Cedric is singing and the static is coming through so badly that he re-sings that part once the recording becomes clearer. Like "ok spirit I see what you are doing and it doesn't bother me". It's a nice finish to LP1 and it's time to lift the stylus and swap the records over. The artwork on the front of the album is called 'Agadez', which is the first song on LP2. It has such a good drum intro by Pridgen before the vocals come in. Probably has my favourite lyrics to sing to on this track just in the way that it makes you get involved in the song. "I got distance, don't let it close, Gotta let me know, you just gotta let me know. Because forget which way is out now, Gotta let me know, you just gotta let me know". It's the slow jazz style of this song that pulls me in. Once again the change of pace and style halfway into the song makes you feel you are into another song. The song tapers out into some strange distortion before the second song on LP2 starts.
'Askepios' is a moment for the band to get some energy back. It isn't a bad song at all, just a chance to slow things down even more. I like the softer vocals with the starry sounds music covering the background. It wants to build and build but the climax of the song just isn't there as you'd expect. It is as if something is stopping the song from growing into something bigger. The last song on this side is the drum heavy, bass heavy 'Ouroborous'. The title, although spelled differently is the symbol of serpent or ancient reptile eating itself. Think of a ring but the serpent is eating it's own tail. I like the highs and lows of this song that go well with the lyrics before the "demon" sings over the top in a distorted voice " Of all the warnings that you gave me. With all components in the fault. Have you ever heard me scraping it will be hard to hold".
LP2 is ready to be flipped and Side D, 'Soothsayer' is the second last song. Now remember this song is the name given to the spirit board that Omar destroyed. It starts off like you are walking around the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul before the music rolls in. Interestingly Cedric doesn't talk about the actual board in his lyrics during this song. It's over 9 minutes and has some nice moments especially for Owens, Pridgen, Omar and Alderete. They have some different vocals on this song that make you think upon first listen that there might be two vocalists. "Calling me she's calling me. This it may have come to falter. We have become these pleads". The ending has an echo class room audio in which I cant make out exactly what is being said.
The last song on the record is 'Conjugal Burns' and the song has a mixture of quick, sharp lyrics. Cedric embellishes a bit between the chorus but doesn't over do it. This song is the final battle between Cedric and 'Goliath' attempt at possession. 'Conjugal Burns' does a nice job at wrapping up the album and hopefully stopping the curse that they brought into the world.
The final song on LP3 is called 'Mr. Muggs' and its a instrumental composition pressed on both sides of the LP. It is a combination of organ, sound effects and string instruments that just add to the overall creepiness of the album. Definitely don't recommend playing this one late at night with headphones on.
Whether this album works for you or you believe the backstory, the band did struggle to put out another great album after 'The Bedlam in Goliath'. Within 4 years of making this album they did break up as a band and sadly have not reunited for new music at the time of writing this. This album took a toll on the band members but hopefully they resolve their issues soon.