Will This Album Curse You?
An overarching concept drives each song on an album from The Mars Volta. With The Bedlam in Goliath, the story goes that main songwriter Omar Rodriguez-Lopez gifted an aged Ouija board for singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala. During the recording of what became Goliath, the band fell into a series of unfortunate events (lost recordings, lost band members, studio floodings) which they felt were all being brought upon them because of (or by) this Ouija board. The aggression of this conflict, and the epic need to prevail, permeates the album. And although the potential of surviving a real-life curse is intriguing, the most interesting thing about Goliath is that it’s a certifiable rebound.Coming off the painful overindulgence of Amputechture, this outing finds Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez edging back towards an economy of craftsmanship. Still encompassing hyper-modulated guitars, Latin percussion, epic organs and banshee-like vocals, the elements are all more artfully placed, each timbre rising to the forefront when mood and thematic relevance matters most. “Metatron” and “Goliath” both establish melodic motif before taking a divergent path, the former with perhaps Bixler-Zavala’s most direct lyric “Maybe I’ll break down / Maybe I’ll cry” and the latter with a thunderous riff and pummeling percussion building to a tremendous blast of “Never heard a man speak like this before / Watch me now.”
“Askepios” features a bridge with an intense solo from Rodriguez-Lopez heralding the entrance of the determined plea, “Help me / come alive.” Vocals caked in flanger accompany a patient, tumbling piano melody on “Soothsayer,” and a haunting organ greets the ferocious call of “Don’t you ever / ever / ever trust my mercy” on “Ouroborous.” Two songs (“Wax Simulacra,” “Tourniquet Man”) even manage to clock in below three minutes and still drive home this same enthralling energy. It’s good to see The Mars Volta can still use their immense talent effectively, without erring on the side of excessive showy musicianship.