If The Bedlam in Goliath, the fourth studio album from psychedelic rock warriors the Mars Volta, proves anything, it's that inspiration can come from dire circumstances.
In May 2006, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez bought an old talking board at a curio shop in Jerusalem as a gift for frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The pre-Ouija board quickly became the band's source of entertainment during a subsequent world tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But it's all fun and games until someone summons Beelzebub. The band began receiving menacing messages from the board about a dark soul named Goliath who demanded to switch places with them. Suddenly, equipment inexplicably malfunctioned, friends fell gravely ill, recordings vanished into thin air, and studios were flooded. The evil chaos that surrounded the band manifests itself on The Bedlam in Goliath through the frenzied drum pummeling of new wunderkind Thomas Pridgen, the Vocoderized vocals of Bixler-Zavala, and the aural blitzkrieg of Rodriguez-Lopez' multilayered compositions. Opening with the ear-piercing banshee screams of Bixler-Zavala, "Aberinkula" is driven by a chugging, guttural rhythm and twin-guitar attack led by Rodriguez-Lopez and frequent Volta collaborator John Frusciante of Chili Peppers fame. With its dancefloor-ready vibe, "Ilyena" may be the closest thing to a pop song the band has dropped since "The Widow," while street recordings Rodriguez-Lopez made in Jerusalem give "Soothsayer" some Middle Eastern authenticity. The Mars Volta sounds like a band on the brink on The Bedlam in Goliath, its very sanity at stake.