The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The Mars Volta unleashes fury with live show and new album

It was around 9 p.m. on Wednesday. It was considerably calm and quiet inside the Bren Events Center at University of California Irvine, despite the fact that The Mars Volta was playing that night.

Besides the dimmed lights surrounding the stage and the outer perimeter of the arena, there was only darkness. People could be deciphered, but barely. Black silhouettes blended together in a mass covered by a thin layer of smoke and white noise.

As the mood music played to keep the audience patient, there was a powerful sense of anticipation in the air. There was one thing on the lips and minds of all attendees that night, “Goliath.”

It was on Jan. 29 that The Mars Volta unleashed their new CD, “The Bedlam in Goliath” into the world, their fourth and most complex concoction to date. “Bedlam,” is without question, the most frighteningly thought provoking album I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in many years.

It was early in the 21st century when “Mars” first made contact with earth. Ever since TMV touched down with their tragedy-driven debut of 2001, “De-Loused in the Comatorium,” inspired by the life and death of their close friend Julio Venegas, TMV has been one of the few bands, if not the only, that has been able to find a perfect harmony between the music they make and the themes that surround it.

“Bedlam” is an album that shows this strength and musical prowess more than ever, inspired by various experiences that surrounded the purchase of a haunted Ouija board, aptly named “Soothsayer.”

*Courtesy of Nasty Little Man

According to a press-release issued by TMV in late October 2007, the story of “Bedlam” all began when lead producer and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez purchased this “archaic Ouija-style talking board” for lead vocalist, lyricist, Cedric Bixler Zavala in a “curio shop” in Jerusalem.

While on tour, TMV began to use and fool around with the Ouija board, and it became something of an after show ritual. Eventually, whomever TMV was speaking to through the “Soothsayer” began to speak back, in the form of a “metaphysical quagmire and unfed saint” by the name of “Goliath,” a supernatural entity, whose hunger to return to the world of the living grows more adamant with each connection that is made.

Initially the board spoke in pleas and anecdotes about lust and murder. Eventually it turned into demands and threats directed at the band, so it was buried, but the hex that was placed on TMV was never fully lifted. It was TMV that made first contact with this spiritual monster and it was now up to them to spread the gospel as a means of lifting the curse off their own heads and passing this hex on to us, the lucky listeners.

Suddenly all the lights in the arena went down and a thick blue light was strewn across the stage and ensconced the creepy backdrop. The song “Fist Full of Dollars” by Ennio Morricone, begins to play. At the climax of the intro the players come out, bow and take their respective places and get ready for war on the senses.

Even though all music and lyrical composition is in the hands of Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala, the performing members of TMV are Isaiah Ikey Owen on keyboards, Juan Alderete de la Pena on bass, Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez on horns, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez on percussion, Paul Hinojos on guitar and soundboard, Thomas Pridgen on drums, Rodriguez-Lopez on lead guitar and Bixler-Zavala on vocals.

They start their two-hour plus set with a double barrel blast of sonic boom accuracy and speed with a thunderous rendition of their classic “Roulette Dares (This is the Haunt),” turning what should have been a seven minute song into what seemed to be twenty minutes of raw adrenaline based fury.

After TMV begins to get into the tenacious groove that is the corner stone trade mark of their live performances, they then freely flow between songs using extended guitar and drum solos accompanied by countless synthesized effects and abstract sounds that edge on anarchy, to fill the gaps between the songs.

The astoundingly dynamic nature of the performance is shocking, as the way that the musicians work in tandem seems almost impossible. The chemistry between the players, especially between Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala, is undeniable, and the energy they emit to each other and the audience is infectious.

Through the duration of the show, TMV uncover only a few gems from the past, including an overly extended version of “Cygnus?Vismund Cygnus.” It was during this very unorthodox and chaos driven performance in which Zavala continued to jump on and off stage and in to the crowd, returning with items that ranged from an emergency exit sign, which he placed on the highest amplifier, to an oversized security guard jacket, that was almost immediately thrown back at the fans, where it was torn to shreds.

The highlight of the evening was when “Bedlam” and its sounds of vengeance forced their way through the speakers. Before this night there was an iota of doubt about the sheer intensity and rare capability of this album. After being able to hear bits and pieces of “Bedlam” in the flesh, I am happy to report that the doubts held were unfounded.

After resurrecting the past during the first 45 minutes of the show it was now up to TMV to do battle with “Goliath.”

From the opening guitar hiss and freight-train drumming that is “Wax Simulacra,” to the haunted melodies howled in “Goliath” by Bixler-Zavala, to the live rhythm of the dark and twisted funk composite that is “Agadez,” TMV fought an epic battle that in the end amounted to a personal endurance trial, for the band and audience alike.

But in order to understand the multifaceted nature of “Bedlam,” it is necessary to make a personal offering of one’s self to the album, by listening to “Bedlam” while alone, in a dark room with no windows and no light. Then and only then will you, as a listener, be able to feel the fear, make contact with and understand the spiritual behemoth known as “Goliath”

From the opening discharge and sound surge of “Aberinkula” to the cataclysmic coda and one-breath left escape of “Conjugal Burns,” “Bedlam” is the sound of a band that has sweat and bled its way into the annals of musical history in the new millennium. “Bedlam” is 75 minutes of pure energy that evokes horror and an emotional response that can, at times, be difficult to cope with.

The lyrics and music complement the theme of the album perfectly, dark and morose and relentless. Zavala uses grotesque and divine imagery to help tell the story. With lyrics like “I am the def con of Angora goats, warning all who pass this moat, it’s only a matter of folding time and space, before I become your epidemic,” it is this cryptic clarity that rings true in “Bedlam,” more than any other album produced by TMV.

Despite the fact most people simply lump TMV in with bands like Muse or The Blood Brothers, after hearing an album like “Bedlam” it is hard to deny the fact that the TMV is a band on a mission. Not since Pink Floyd and The Wall has there been such a unique and successful connection between composition and premise.

Unfortunately for TMV, they had to endure what most bands would never chose to go through to make an album as essentially perfect and ferocious as “Bedlam,” but at the same time it is true that no band but TMV could have told the story of “Goliath” and made it out with their lives and minds intact. Thank you, Omar and Cedric, your curse is our gift.

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