I think that Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez’s mind would be a scary place to visit. It’s probably filled with androids and guillotines and killers named Al and Monstar viruses. That sounds pretty dark and depressing, but there’s probably a clear blue sky and a shiny sun over all of it. If there was an award for having the biggest imagination in music then Sanchez would certainly be one of the front runners to receive the award. Or maybe he just ripped off every other sci-fi story ever written. It certainly doesn’t matter to me either way; the guy writes some of the best music I’ve ever heard.
We’ll Have You Dead Pretty Soon…
Combining a dark story and dark lyrics with some incredibly light-hearted melodies and catchy music in a way that channels the late great Warren Zevon, Coheed and Cambria are one of the most original bands out there right now. In a world of carbon copies, they’ve managed to hone and refine their own unique sound and they continue to put out great records. Part of their “unique” label is the fact that all of their albums are part of the same story, a sprawling sci-fi epic tale that will take five albums to reach its end. The story is far too long and involved for me to describe in any great detail, so I will not attempt to confuse those of you reading this by getting into it. Anyway, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is my personal favorite of the band’s material. While it’s undoubtedly their most catchy and pop-influenced album, it still retains an overall dark mood. Driven largely by Claudio’s fantastic lyrics and songwriting ability, the album is an exciting roller coaster ride of emotion.
The thing that makes most people dislike the band is Claudio Sanchez’s voice. There isn’t much that I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. It’s pretty high-pitched in the style of Geddy Lee, but not to the point of being whiny or grating. It’s the kind of voice that does not seem like it should fit the music that Coheed plays, but somehow it works perfectly. Claudio’s singing is full of emotion, not to mention he has a great range. As displayed on their latest release, he’s shown that he can indeed sing at a much lower pitch then he does on the majority of this album and their debut, but he can also let loose and belt out the high notes. I can’t really give a definite vocal standout from the album because there are so many great vocal moments. The chorus in “Cuts Marked in the March of Men” where Claudio sings Chase, it’s you I want
, the final two minutes of “The Crowing,” and all of “The Velourium Camper II: The Backend of Forever” (where Claudio shows off his lower range), are the ones that come to my mind most readily. Claudio is a beast vocally, and as I said, essentially the whole album is a vocal standout.
It is a difficult endeavor to comment on the lyrics specifically, as they are all part of one big storyline, so one has to look at the lyrics from the perspective of what purpose they serve in the story. The lyrics are not generic; they are at times dark (“Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow”), at times epic (“The Crowing” and the title track), and at times slightly quirky (the “Velourium Camper” tracks). It seems like a lot of times when someone reviews or talks about a concept album, they will justify bad lyrics with “Well it fits the story.” There is no need for such justifications here because all of these lyrics are very well-written, as well as fitting the story. If it’s a daunting and difficult task to write such a sprawling and intricate storyline and fit parts of it into four minute songs, Sanchez certainly doesn’t show it. Deftly displaying lyrical skills such as the use of metaphor and allegory, he’s one of the few people I’ve seen that can actually make a concept album work flawlessly.
Musically, the band is, for the most part, extremely talented. Claudio and Travis Stever are both excellent guitarists, and although they don’t solo too much on this album (they would start to do so more regularly on Good Apollo…) they write fantastic riffs and leads. They often reinforce choruses with higher range leads that add to the music immensely, and the opening riff of the title track is one of my favorites of all time. I think it should be emphasized that when they do
let loose on this album on “The Light & The Glass,” the result is a fantastic shredding solo that never seems out of place, as solos often do when they appear in music where their presence is uncommon. Drummer Josh Eppard and bassist Mic Todd, who are no longer with the group, were definitely the lower rung of talent in the band. Mic Todd is a good bass player, as seen on their live albums and DVDs, but he doesn’t live up to the standard set by the guitarists, and you just can’t hear him on this album. While this would be slightly rectified on their latest album, it counts for nothing here. Josh Eppard is a very basic drummer, and he doesn’t vary his beats too much. He does bust out some nice fills though on songs like “The Crowing” and “Backend of Forever.” It’s probably a good thing that they’re no longer with the band. Even so, the subpar performance of the drums and the inaudibility of the bass don’t really take away from the album at all. Of course, if you’re looking for a great drummer, you’ll have to settle.
I do have one problem with this album, and Coheed and Cambria’s discography as a whole, although the problem isn’t really with the music itself. As I stated, the story is a long one, and at times it just seems too big and grandiose to contain in five minute songs. While Claudio and company do a great job with this difficult task, the story can seem a bit confusing if you just go off of the lyrics. This won’t be a problem for most people, but for those who are looking for clarity and a clear-cut storyline, they won’t find it here. However, one must remember that this is poetry, and even though all of the lyrics relate to one story, the listener can still interpret them how he or she pleases. Apart from that, and the inaudibility of bass and the simplicity of the drums, I find no flaw with this album.
Coheed and Cambria are one of my favorite bands, and I am very interested to see what they will do with their next album. The inclusion of drummer Chris Pennie is what I am most excited for; a Coheed album with some technical drumming very much excites me. Until then, I am very content to listen to their first three albums, which are all fantastic pieces of work. Claudio Sanchez’s lyrics and singing are top notch and the music is equal parts dark and moody, and insanely catchy. Truly a unique band, Coheed and Cambria will remain a favorite of mine forever.