As of 2005's brilliant Frances the Mute
, The Mars Volta appeared to be the shining light in progressive rock and the band capable of carrying the torch deep into the new millenium. That was then, and this is now.
Unfortunately, The Bedlam in Goliath
, much like last year's Systematic Chaos
by Dream Theater, is everything wrong with progressive music. The songs (if you can call the tracks on here songs) are prog- for-the-sake-of-prog exercises in self-indulgence that are more concerned with vocal and guitar pyrotechnics than creating memorable pieces of music. While Frances the Mute
showed the myriad of influences the Mars Volta draw from, The Bedlam in Goliath
serves only to show that they have loads of talent but seem to have forgotten how to use it.
From overambitious opening number "Aberinkula" through overdramatic album closer "Conjugal Burns", damn near everything on this album feels forced. There are moments of brilliance on just about every song, but they are so mired in the off-kilter time signatures and indecipherable shrieks of voice and instrument alike that you're unwilling to listen through the crap to find them. Unusual instruments are used completely annoyingly and are totally forced, whereas in the past TMV had a use for every second of time they occupied with their sound.
Maybe the saddest part of this album is the drastic decline in Cedric Bixler-Zavala's vocals. In the past he could channel equal parts soulful and frantic, but now he seems exclusively concerned with proving what high notes he can hit, and how well he knows how to use his effects processor. Alas, gone is the beauty of "The Widow" and the controlled chaos of "L'via L'viaquez", replaced with a dog-whistle singing deliberately obtuse lyrics. And if you liked the Mars Volta's flirtation with Latin-flavored music, both in their Santana-esque interludes and Spanish lyrics, kiss that goodbye as well.
It is a sad day when one of the finest bands in prog puts out a piece of overly technical tripe with virtually no replay value, but I have to be honest in my reviews, and honesty requires me to recommend this album only to collectors and fans. Even then, meh. This will probably turn out to be my biggest disappointment of the year.