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I’ll admit right away that sometimes music doesn’t make sense. Anyone who has listened to a single Mars Volta song (taste a little of Eriatarka or The Widow), a Tool album, or myriad other progressive rock bands has come in contact with spectacular musical ability with only marginal clarity. In fact, progressive rock has made its hallmark in bombastic lyrics and pretentious musical arrangements. However, this approach to music allows the subgenre to breathe and expand, allowing a new band to go up against the old juggernauts of the industry – like six-stringed samurai.

Coheed and Cambria is not quite that band.

coheed-and-cambria-poster.jpgCoheed and Cambria, formed around Geddy Lee-esque lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez in 1995, has cranked out three solid albums to date. With Travis Stever on guitar, Josh Eppard on drums (though he has been replaced by Chris Pennie), and Michael “Mic” Todd on bass (who has been recently replaced by Matt Williams) , the band has released Second Stage Turbine Blade, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, and Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume I: From Fear through the Eyes of Madness. They are one of the most mainstream progressive rock acts at the moment- which is why many progressive rock fans are willing to disown them.

coheed-and-cambria-second-stage-turbine-blade.jpgSecond Stage Turbine Blade (2002) was indeed a success for a freshman album, selling moderately well and producing the single Devil in Jersey City. Funnily enough, it was the last Coheed and Cambria album that I bought, but it still holds that odd spell of nostalgia over me as if it were the first I had listened to. Perhaps this is because it only takes one listen to each of the three albums to place this as the first attempt to make a cohesive album and exploit the technology available through a record deal: there is a low-fi hissing sound in the background of almost all of the tracks, and the beginning of “Junesong Provision” (acoustic) plays a sound clip from Evil Dead. Regardless, there is something very personal and emotive about the album, even though there is very little downtime within it.

Co&Ca’s next album, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (2003) iscoheed-and-cambria-in-keeping-secrets-of-silent-earth-3.jpg the one deemed semi-cool by my friends, but only because of one eight minute song – “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth.” This sophomore effort actually made two singles, “Blood Red Summer” and “A Favor House Atlantic.” Exposure from the two singles gave the band a launch into the mainstream with over 500,000 copies sold. However, these two songs were used to light the torch and guide the pitchforks of all of the prog-heads. Ultimately, it’s not hard to see why. Hardcore progressive rock fans are just as pretentious as their rock gods and are ultimately (and often justifiably) suspicious of mainstream success. It didn’t help matters that “Blood Red Summer” and “A Favor House Atlantic” were in many ways Pop, the pariah of prog-rock vocabulary. Both songs featured catchy lyrics, repetitive chord progressions, and very odd “wuh-oh-wuh-oh-ohohoh” choruses. Even so, the rest of the album featured intricately written progressive rock songs, or at least prog influenced songs.

200px-coheed_and_cambria_good_apollo.jpgThe third and most recent effort is also the most long-winded – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume I: From Fear through the Eyes of Madness (2005). Good Apollo is also the longest and most polished of the three full albums released. This time with three singles, “Welcome Home,” “The Suffering,” and “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial),” the album sold over a million copies worldwide. Having written most of their music just under the acceptable scope of radio playability, Good Apollo finally fell into that niche. “Welcome Home,” the band’s hardest single released to date, allowed people my age (but not too much older) to come around to the Coheed way of doing things (even though they still complain that Claudio sounds like a girl).

But Co&Ca is more than just obtuse lyrics and 15/8 time signatures. Above all, Claudio Sanchez is a storyteller. Whether or not he’s a good one remains to be seen.

One (of many) complaints I hear about the band is that their lyrics just don’t make sense (these are the non prog fans). The reason they don’t make any sense is because each song is a scene from a story the four to five album story (parts 4 and possibly 5 are yet to be released). The Second Stage Turbine Blade introduces Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon and Coheed’s brother, Jesse. The album explains the situation of Coheed, a man infected with a virus that could destroy the galaxy. The songs are the chronicles: the macabre “Time Consumer” tells of Coheed killing his children to save them from suffering; “Everything Evil” describes the Monstar virus in Coheed; “Delirium Trigger”second-stage-turbine-blade-comic.png whispers Coheed’s evil deeds against a spaceship crew from the view of the helpless victims. Endless examples can be listed from each album. No song is without its lyrical purpose within the boundaries of the story, though it is still completely and utterly confusing. Nevertheless, fans spend the years between albums filling in the blanks with excited and anxious guesses. Claudio Sanchez, maybe realizing how obtuse his story had become, has actually written two comic books, a graphic novel, and an explanatory sketch book through Evil Ink Comics, and even a solo album under the name Prize Fighter Inferno entitled My Brother’s Blood Machine, which seeks to give even more backstory through folk, electronica, and synth rock.

Coheed and Cambria is not my favorite band, but they are currently the band I most admire. They may not have the most talent, but they have an ambition to tell a story through music. Add to the mix that they survived a jump to a major record label (Sony) and two of the four band members leaving indefinitely, the fact the band has been able to survive at all becomes the epic all on its own.


Awards and Recognition

Echoes in the Coil


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