That hurt to write.
I’m gonna try writing negative reviews of albums that I absolutely adore…for fun?
The Mars Volta’s Bedlam in Goliath is by far the Texas-based progressive rock band’s worst effort. As a fan of their earlier projects, this album is just jarring, loud and nonsensical. The biggest offender is the new drummer Thomas Pridgen, who, simply, does too much. I will delve more into him and his style in greater detail later.
The first thing you hear is Cedric Bixler-Zavala unintelligibly yelling at you in a weird high-pitched, electronically treated howl on the opener “Aberinkula.” For me, you can get the idea of the entire album by the first thirty seconds of the first song. It’s all pretty much one note. Very little variance in dynamics and tempo. Oddly enough, many songs have different parts or ideas that sound like they don’t fit together. In addition to all of this is the aforementioned screeching of the singer. It’s all in a super high register and you can barely understand what is being said. Basically, on top of all the noise (instrumentally or otherwise) you get another constant noise throughout every track.
The Mars Volta is influenced heavily by their Latin roots and on older projects this is abundantly clear. On Bedlam, we get the end of “Agadez”…… They also always offer a ballad that, on this project, should serve as a break for the monotonous noise. We are presented with “Tourniquet Man,” a strange, droning song with watery vocals, sparse drums and woodwinds. Eeeeehhhh. So what’s wrong with this project in comparison to older albums. Is the lengthy song times? Nope, fans are used to this. Is it the electronic sound effects that permeate the sound landscape? Nope, that’s a TMV staple. The problem is that there is no soul, no depth and too much of everything else.
Speaking of too much, the drumming is an egregious and indefensible error. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, eccentric mastermind and lead guitarist, introduced us to this young “phenom” Thomas Pridgen. We go from groove master and tastefully aggressive Jon Theodore to this supercharged, pocketless, fill machine. I’m not sure how much Pridgen’s style influenced the music but his style definitely changes the entire feel of the band’s music. I honestly don’t know who to blame. Omar is notoriously controlling over his creations but Thomas played the instrument. How would Bedlam In Goliath sound with another drummer? Would it even exist?
A few positives include the mixing. You can hear EVERYTHING clearly. The levels and clarity are pristine; smaller things like horns and ambient noise are not drown out by guitars. While annoying, even the vocals sit right in the middle of the mix. Also, out of context, the drumming is mind-blowingly impressive from a technical standpoint. Their Grammy-winning, “Wax Simulacra” is a blurb of drumming wizardry that honestly can’t be ignored. Otherwise, the song is a mess.
You know what, fuck this. I love this album. I love the aggressive musicality. I love the technical, balls to the wall drumming from Thomas Pridgen. Somehow between all the craziness, each song offers some quality, stank-faced, head noddingness. This album blew my mind and changed my life. Maybe I’ll review it in earnest one day.