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As I’ve spent the last couple months slowly digesting The Mars Volta’s latest album, The Bedlam in Goliath, I have come to the realization that one of my favorite modern bands can be very fruitful for contemporary theological discussion. Periodically, when listening to Bedlam during my daily commute, I would pick up theological and/or philosophical terminology that is usually privy only to those who have done a fair amount of study in these areas. Volta’s 2006 album, Amputechture, contained songs with the titles Vicarious Atonement, Tetragrammaton (YHVH), and Day of the Baphomets (Baphomet is a demon/idol used in occultic worship), all featuring theologically astute lyrics (even if highly ‘blasphemous’); and their latest album makes a reference to the Talmudic voice of God, Metatron (Remember Alan Rickman’s character from Dogma? That’s Metatron):

I’ll never get a distance shot
Heard vesper pure
I never want to see your face
Until the word is made flesh
You’d better ask Metatron
Those flowers that withered away
In the pages of your book
For one day
They won’t block your route

How does lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala intend for us to take these cryptic theologisms? I haven’t the foggiest idea, but here is what Zavala said regarding Amputechture:

“This album’s a commentary about the fear of God instead of the love of God, which goes hand-in-hand with Catholicism,” he said. “To me, religion is the reason there is so much conflict in this world, and I think it’s just so unnecessary to believe in this blue-eyed, white-bearded, white-haired God. Amputechture is my personal way of describing enlightenment…”

I have a feeling that Zavala may be referncing the song Tetragrammaton, which I understand to be a sort of bizarro Passion Play.

Glossolalia coats my skin
Glycerine and turbulence
Stuffed the voice inside of God
Mirrors to the animals

Wait till I get my hands on you
I won’t forget a face that lift me
Just you wait
Till I get my hands on you
I can’t forget you
You won’t remember

Unwrap my corpse
And let it thaw
In the eye of the needle
I can’t get out

They’ll check my wrist
I’ll faint a pulse
I’m not the human
You thought I was

If you pet the night
Sixth pentacle dice
If you roll the seven
St. Michael dies

They’ll be no ransom
Don’t shut my mouth
I scald the answer
You’re afraid of

Sounds like a bit of a dig at the institutionalized church, eh?

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