THE MARS VOLTA – The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal)

If there is one thing that The Mars Volta are not it is conventional. They have recorded one album in Latin, based another on a diary found by a roadie, and for this one they have taken their inspiration from beyond the grave. The apocryphal story goes that the band bought a Ouija board in Jerusalem which turned out to contain the malevolent spirit of a saint called Goliath, which then proceeded to wreck their lives until they buried the board in a mystery location. Anyone else would then put it all behind them, but Lopez and Zavala proceeded to write an album based on the events, using the experience to inspire their lyrics. The accompanying booklet abounds with religious imagery, and while this time the lyrics are in English they are just as indecipherable as ever, which all goes to making this a fairly typical Mars Volta album. Luckily they have not changed the musical style of the band, which means that once again we get the best modern progressive rock around, with pounding guitars and drums, and the tunes twisting and turning at every opportunity through these twelve lengthy tracks. It is hard to pick out individual favourites because, as usual, it is best to listen to this album all the way through rather than cherry picking; just rest assured that every song has something going for it, whether it is the screaming guitar solo on the title track or the outstanding drumming of new boy Thomas Pridgen on tracks like ‘Ouroborous’. If I have to nit-pick, and I am loath to do so with a favourite band, they could have varied the pace a bit, as it does seem to start out on an adrenalin high, and doesn’t really come down until the very last notes are wrung from their instruments seventy eight minutes later. It is certainly an exhilarating listen, but you do feel exhausted when it is over! The special edition CD has their take on Syd Barrett’s ‘Candy And A Current Bun’ as a bonus, but I can’t say that it really adds anything to the original, and at just shy of two and a half minutes it is something of a throwaway which you only need to hear the once. It is the band’s own music which I love, and this album continues their run of four superb albums of progressive rock for the noughties, which despite their lead no-one else has even come close to emulating. I will grudgingly admit that this album was not as easy to get into as their first two, for example, but give it time and its quality will shine through.