Coheed and Cambria - The Second Stage Turbine Blade (Equal Vision) 2002
1. Second Stage Turbine
Coheed and Cambria step way outside of what I usually listen to. However, there is something about this band that holds my attention and demands I come back and listen again. The band is often labeled "emo". Whether this be true or not, I don't know. I am not an emo fan, so I am not the best judge of this. I can say without hesitation that this band isn't the "Rush copy" than many label them. Indeed, Claudio Sanchez 's vocals are of the higher, falsetto style that Rush use, but to me, that's about the only resemblance on this particular CD. "The Second Stage Turbine Blade" is inventive, progressive, melodic, rock with a modern flare. Looking past the label and listening to the music with an open mind, I found the songs to be melodic, enjoyable and full of pop hooks. To some that may be a bad thing I suppose. The lyrics are poetic and a bit harder to decipher. To me, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I often found guys like Ian Gillan and Ronnie James Dio to be equally hard to decipher and poetic. "The Second Stage Turbine Blade" was Coheed and Cambria's debut release. This album is perhaps slightly less progressive than the follow-up. As with "In Keeping Secret of Silent Earth", I did a quick check on Amazon to see what fans of the band were saying. Apparently I am in the minority in my opinion that this one is less progressive, but to me the song writing seems slightly more simplistic. However, the band does pack lots of tempos, riffs, and emotions into each song. OK, so let the cries of "sellout" begin. Indeed Coheed and Cambria are not a metal band, and they do have a modern flare, but I like them. To me that's really all that matters. Enjoy!
There is an unlisted, hidden track at the 7:36 mark of track 10.
Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secret Of Silent Earth 3 (Columbia) 2003
1. "The Ring In Return"
I heard a Coheed & Cambria song on a local radio station that sounded pretty cool. I decided I would check these guys out, despite what I had read about them and the fact that they seem to be the new 'cool' band among Hot Topic shopping teens. Some have labeled them prog-rock for emo geeks. A quick check on Amazon.com backed the opinion that these guys are the flavor of the month. This album alone has over 100 customer reviews, most of which are glaringly positive. I've never cared much for popular opinion, nor do I give a rip what the "flavor of the month" band is. I only care about music that I enjoy. Well, I finally scored the copy of "In Keeping Secret Of Silent Earth 3" through LaLa.com for a mere $1.75. Sweet! So was it worth the $2? Indeed. As I suspected the one song I heard on the radio is pretty representative of what you will hear on their album. Unfortunately, however, Coheed's songs all sound a bit alike, although not so bad that I got bored on the first listen. The band incorporate somewhat complex arrangements, helium high vocals and dark, sci-fi imagery. Many have compared the band to Rush. I think these comparisons are somewhat true. Indeed the vocals have a similar quality as Rush's Geddy Lee. Also, have you ever heard another concept album about a post-apocalyptic killer? "2112" anyone? Despite these comparisons, the music isn't really all that Rush like. The band uses a lot of modern guitar riffs that I describe as up/down strumming. It's almost punk-like in quality. Personally this style of guitar playing doesn't appeal to me as much as the more precise style or picking and chord progressions used in other forms of hard rock and metal. In some tracks, such as "The Crowning" the band also uses that stop/start groove style guitar riffs that bands like Pantera and Korn made so popular in the 1990's. There are also hints of 70's and 80's style rock and pop as well. On "Blood Red Summer" for instance, the band moves away from progressive hard rock into a sound that emulates bands like Slade and Sweet, complete with hand claps and female backing vocals. I also hear comparisons on this song to modern pop bands like The Killers, a band my 15 year old son has driven me nuts with. Coheed & Cambria are indeed good musicians and offer some catchy progressive songs with pop leanings. Overall, "In Keeping Secret Of Silent Earth 3" is an interesting listen and the band shows some promise. I doubt they will ever be a favorite of mine, but I'm still going to hang onto this CD for future spins.
There are eleven tracks of silence after track eleven. Each track is titled "A Lot of Nothing: I", "A Lot of Nothing II", etc. Track 23 is titled "2113", which is uhhhh, pretty funny considering my Rush comparison above.
1. Keeping The Blade"
I'm pretty sure this album contains the song that introduced me to Coheed & Cambria. Around 2005 I heard a song on the radio that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately the DJ didn't say what the name of the song was, even though he did say that he thought Coheed & Cambria were one of the better up and coming bands. I purchased several of their CDs but not until I received this disc did I recognize that song. It was "Welcome Home", a heavy, progressive rock song that combines the heaviness of Metallica with an opening riff that reminds me of Focus. This is actually a good description of the entire album. "Good Apollo...Vol. One" combines some of the modern heaviness of bands like Metallica, with the melodic song-writing and dynamics of the classic 1970's progressive rock bands. One thing that seems to interest most people about this band is that their albums are a string of concept albums, each one telling more of the story from the next. Frankly, I haven't delved into the story line much, nor do I really care to. It's the music I am most interested in. A great story may add to the appeal, but if the music isn't there, I don't really care about the story. Coheed & Cambria employ skillful solos, melodic song writing, memorable vocal melodies and choruses. They have a modern rock vibe, but they also incorporate a lot of classic rock and metal elements that keep them from simply being a "modern rock" band. This is just good rock and roll.
Coheed and Cambria - No World for Tomorrow (Columbia) 2007
This was the first Coheed and Cambria album that I picked up as a new release after first getting into them in 2006. As such, I have been listening to this CD non-stop for weeks. I think the band have found the perfect mixture of progressive song writing and commercial/pop appeal. The first three songs alone have enough hook to catch a killer whale. The overall sound isn't ultra heavy and certainly isn't something I would label as heavy. Rather "No World for Tomorrow" is just quality hard rock. "No World for Tomorrow" does offer some technical tendencies but there is no denying the pop hooks of "No World For Tomorrow". "Running Free" or "The Hound (Of Blood And Rank)". While the band maintains a modern sound, they evoke a lot of classic rock appeal as well. "Feathers" recall Uriah Heep's classic "Easy Livin'" without coming off as a rip-off. I know I will garner the wrath of some with this comment, but I also hear some Thin Lizzy influences throughout. However, anyone who accuses this band of being a Rush clone now, simply is not listening. The only comparison I could make to Rush that both bands have successfully figured out how to balance progressive rock with memorable song writing and pop hooks. The album finishes with a five-part, twenty-five-minute, epic track titled "The End Complete".
It's also notable to mention that with all the band's CDs up to this point, the band is telling a crazy, sci-fi story that is set to span five CDs. Frankly, the story line isn't of that big an interest to me quite as much as the music itself, although it does add to the overall appeal.
My only real complaint is with the packaging. There are two versions of this CD available. I purchased the regular version on Amazon.com. Unfortunately the "regular" version comes in a cheap cardboard sleeve with no lyrics or booklet. This sort of ticks me off. Had I know that I would have spent a couple dollars more and purchased the "Deluxe" edition which has the booklet and is housed in a jewel case. This is the second new album this year that has been released in this cheap packaging. Ozzy Osbourne's "Black Rain" was also packed in a cheap cardboard sleeve.
2. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute (7:51)
3. The Afterman (3:11)
4. Mothers of Men (4:11)
5. Goodnight, Fair Lady (3:23)
6. Key Entity Extraction II: Hollywood the Cracked (3:26)
7. Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher (5:47)
8. Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful (6:22)
9. Subtraction (3:07)
10. The Homecoming [demo] (3:00)
11. Goodnight, Fair Lady [demo] (4:04)
12. The Afterman [demo] (7:59)
"The Afterman: Ascension" is part one of a two part concept release. As I understand it, both releases were recorded at the same time, but are being released separately on the band's own independent label. While I have read some complaints from fans about this not being released as a double album, I can certainly appreciate the logic behind releasing the album this way. One of the keys to holding the attention of the listener, despite lengthy songs, is brevity. Had "The Afterman"been released as a double CD, instead of in two seperate releases, it may have been overload. As it stands, "The Afterman: Ascension" clocks in at just under forty minutes and leaves the listener wanting for more.
There are some returns to the fold on this release. Drummer Josh Eppard, who played with the band from 2000-2006, is back. Also, co-producers Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner who produced the band's first three records have returned. Musically, Coheed and Cambria continue to deliver a mixture of elaborate progressive rock, yet they do so in a way that is accessible and memorable. While each song may have numerous key, time, and riff changes the band haven't forgotten to make the songs catchy and memorable. A prog-metal number like "Key Entity Extraction III: Vic The Butcher" may be musically adventurous, blending different influences and musical styles, but is also downright catchy. The band's influences seem to range from more modern "alternative"-type rock bands to classic 70's and 80's heavy metal and rock bands. For example, "Goodnight, Fair Lady" borrows heavily from Thin Lizzy, right down to the twin guitar leads and vocalist Claudio Sanchez emulating Irish rocker Phil Lynott's vocal phrasing.
As with much of Coheed's material, "The Afterman: Ascension" is a concept album. Instead of just one narrative, the album is built around several, focusing on different character profiles and varying events. I've not taken the time to to delve too deeply into the storyline. From what I have read on-line, the character from past albums, Sirius Armory, travels back to his past and sees life through different characters eyes. Though I can appreciate interesting lyrics and storylines, I listen to the music for the music and the storyline isn't as important to me. A great storyline with boring music is still boring. Thankfully, "The Afterman: Ascension" isn't boring in the slightest. The album left me wanting for me and I couldn't wait for part 2, "The Afterman: Descension".
1. Pretelethal (3:21)
Released months after "Ascension", "The Afterman: Descension" is part two of the story of Sirius Amory. As with part one, my interest in the story is minimal. It's the music I care about and they definitely deliver a solid album with "Descension". As with part one the songs and musicianship are stellar, and offer plenty of variety while maintaining the Coheed sound. Somehow Coheed & Cambria are able to blend genres seamlessly and manage to sound both like a modern rock band and like a classic progressive rock band at the same time.
The album starts off on a dark and somber tone with "Pretelethal". Musically this track seems like it should be buried deeper into the album's track list rather than being the lead off track. However, taking into account that this record is actually part two of an album that was intended as a double album, it makes sense why the song was chosen. It just seems odd on a stand-alone disc, especially when the next to songs, "Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant" and "The Hard Sell", are so strong. "The Hard Sell" should be released as a single, if it wasn't this song features of monster groove and a big hook, whereas "Key Entity Extraction V" is a slightly more melodic, though just as hooky. The sound is built around a bouncy bass riff and drum beat and has a great chorus. On a song like "Number City the band explores a sound that if far outside the norm for them. The song is funk based and features horns and some electronic elements that remind me of old Krafterwerk. "Away We Go" is another departure and is a melodic, pop-rock song that combines elements of The Police with Thin Lizzy. (If these guys aren't big Thin Lizzy fans, I'd be surprised. I'm a Lizzy fanatic myself.)
As is always the case with this band, the vocals are a big centerpoint of the band's sound. Claudio's vocals are certainly unique, though I've heard people compare him to Geddy Lee. Indeed there are some similarities in their helium-injested tones, though they have fairly different styles. Regardless of comparisons, I like his charismatic vocal style and appreciate the emotion that he brings into the music. In other words, he's not your average, every-day cookie cutter modern rock vocalist. The combination of memorable songs, varying musical influences and charismatic vocals is what makes Coheed & Cambria so irresistible. Combined with "Ascension", this two-part release is easily some of the best progressive rock to come out of any modern band.