For those new to The Mars Volta, they were formed after the demise of At the Drive-In by members Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals) and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar). The remaining members went on to form Sparta. The Bedlam in Goliath is The Mars Volta’s 4th album in 5 years (not including their debut, the EP Tremulant). While the band gets credit for being so incredibly prolific, this album, as well 2006’s Amputechture, sounds unfinished and rushed.
The loss of drummer Jon Theodore, probably one of the best living drummers, is what really kills The Bedlam in Goliath. It feels like new drummer Thomas Pridgen was too anxious to show off his talent behind the kit. He overpowers most of the songs, especially on the album’s 2nd half, by constantly and choatically hitting every drum in his kit for fast, punk like rhythms that in many cases don’t fit well with the song. There is no middle-ground for Pridgen, he’s either not drumming at all, or bombarding you with the double bass and an onslaught of random cymbal crashes. And to add insult to injury, the production on the album is again lacking, making it, at times, incredibly difficult to listen to any individual parts. Moments of many songs come across as pure chaos, and on certain tracks it almost doesn’t seem like any of the band is paying attention to one another.
The album has its moments, and The Mars Volta have always had a very unique sound and are still great songwriters. However, some of their originality is lacking, and there is no stand-out track. One redeeming quality is that, unlike past albums, Goliath features a few 3 minute, At the Drive In-esque songs, a nice contrast to the typical 8-15 minute Mars Volta opus we’re used to.
If you’re new to The Mars Volta, listen to De-Loused in the Comatorium or Frances the Mute first.