Art-rock band Mars Volta are known for being abstract and obscure but the band's fourth album, The Bedlam in Goliath, is especially out there. That's because, if their story is true, it's partially written by a malevolent spirit. The Bedlam in Goliath story is one of a strange gift and spiritual meddling, as it all began with a fortune-telling game guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez purchased for lyricist and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. As they played with it, a sinister story began to emerge, with consequences that convince the band that there was a nasty spirit influencing their lives.
The Bedlam in Goliath - the resulting cursed album - is one of the band's most interesting. Its dark lyrics and haunting music are matched by moments of levity intentionally put there to balance to album's eerie energy. If any band can pull of a demonically influenced album, it's The Mars Volta, and the backstory behind The Bedlam in Goliath only enhances its unique sound.
The Mars Volta Encountered The Spirits Through A Spirit Board
The Mars Volta's contact with the spirit called Goliath began through a spirit board but it wasn't a Ouija board. Rodriguez-Lopes had purchased it from a curio shop in Jerusalem for Bixler-Zavala, and it was something the band hadn't seen before. They called it "The Soothsayer." The band didn't get all into the creepy atmospherics most people do when using spirit boards. They played with the lights on, and at first assumed that they were responsible for the planchette's movement.
But as Bixler-Zavala began to write down what the board said, things turns sinister - he believed that the spirit had became aware of what he was doing and wanted to stop him.
The Album Was Inspired By Conversations With A Spirit Named Goliath
According to the band, the spirit board, which they called "The Soothsayer," connected them with a spirit named Goliath. This spirit may have been made up of three total figures - a man, a woman, and her daughter - that were involved in a love triangle. The hostility these spirits felt may have manifested in the strange experiences the band had during and after their conversations.
Bixler-Zavala said that the male spirit would often talk over and suppress the voices of the two female spirits, which became part of the inspiration for the album. He turned their conversations into lyrics and the underlying story, a tale of a woman, her daughter, a man, and an honor killing.
The Band Found Poetry Attached To The Board
While examining the board, Bixler-Zavala found poetry hidden underneath a decal. He tried to hire a translator - it was written in languages like Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic - but the first one quit, giving the band their money back and refusing to have anything more to do with them. A second translator did translate the poetry, much of which had a sing-song tone like nursery rhymes.
However, the translator didn't explain what it really meant, telling the band they'd "figure it out in time."
The Band Played The Soothsayer Out Of Boredom
The Mars Volta began using "The Soothsayer" during their 2006 tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. During long stretches with nothing to do, they would bring out the board and chat with Goliath. It was also a way to escape from the crowds, who often asked the band for passes or other favors to get closer to the headlining band.
With Bixler-Zavala experiencing a creative dry spell, the spirit board provided creative stimulation as well as an escape from boredom.