Unwelcome Spirits Haunt 'The Bedlam in Goliath' When The Mars Volta purchased a ouija board in a Jerusalem curio shop and began to use it, the band had no idea how much it would affect its recording. Listening to The Bedlam in Goliath, the paranormal talk might not seem like such a publicity stunt.
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Unwelcome Spirits Haunt 'The Bedlam in Goliath'

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Unwelcome Spirits Haunt 'The Bedlam in Goliath'

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Unwelcome Spirits Haunt 'The Bedlam in Goliath'

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Critic Tom Moon says when you listen to the music, all that paranormal talk feels eerily real.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOM MOON: As origin stories go, this one's a doozie. While on tour, The Mars Volta bought an Ouija board at a Jerusalem curio shop. The board was just a game, just part of the band's after-show wind-down ritual. Then, according to guitarist and songwriter Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, things got strange.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Through the board, the same spirits visited The Mars Volta night after night. Rodriguez-Lopez says their communications partially inspired the lyrics and even the sounds the band had been developing for its new album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "TOURNIQUET MAN")

CEDRIC BIXLER: (Singing) Let me be your tourniquet man. Let me keep you as a favor.

MOON: When The Mars Volta went into the studio to record, chaos ensued. Rodriguez-Lopez says the messages coming through the Ouija board got scary. The studio flooded. There were a series of weird equipment malfunctions. Fearing that the spirits were behind the problems, the songwriter says he broke and buried the board, so the band could finish the album. It sounds preposterous, but spend some time with "The Bedlam in Goliath" and those visitations begin to seem almost plausible.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "METATRON")

BIXLER: (Singing) In the dead plot you dream in, ten go away, ten born of pray, ten go away. Folding wormholes. My time is riding in the alphabet.

MOON: At times, it does sound like The Mars Volta is getting paranormal assistance from some of music heaven's luminaries. On this tune, an eight- minute head spinner called "Metatron," there are collisions of instruments that modernist composer Charles Ives would love, and hiccuping odd-meter high jinks straight out of the Frank Zappa songbook. And check out this transition. In a heartbeat, The Mars Volta goes super-fast rock into a Charles Mingus-style prayer-meeting gospel groove.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "METATRON")

BIXLER: (Singing) Eye of Fatima, I've kept all your dreams in a waking isolation of indictment. Maybe I'll breakdown. Maybe I'll try. Circumvent inoculation and I just want a cut. When will I breakdown? Lately I might unconnect the fascination.

MOON: When Rodriguez-Lopez hears the album now, he says he's taken back to its fitful birth, those 37 straight days he spent in the studio without seeing the sun, and the unwelcome spirits that were flying around the room while his band was trying to work. That's audible. "The Bedlam in Goliath" is thrilling and a little bit terrifying at the same time. It's like some kind of sinister amusement-park ride. You get in and discover that Satan is at the controls, and he's smiling and has no intention of slowing down until everybody is screaming at the top of their lungs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: The CD is "The Bedlam in Goliath" by The Mars Volta. Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

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