Review Summary: Coheed make a few changes and come out with a slightly unfocused effort that is nevertheless an excellent listen
At the time of release, Coheed and Cambria were a band that had firmly established themselves as upcoming major players in the rock scene, with an excellent debut in The Second Stage Turbine Blade
and a near-classic in In Keeping Secrets...
. With Good Apollo I, Coheed decided to slightly strip down the catchy hooks of IKSSE:3 and produced an album thatsimply rocked out more overall, whilst also furthering the ambition that they had shown in more progressive songs such as In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth
and The Light and the Glass
. They suceeded in doing both of these things, but - not helped by the inclusion of a couple of ballads - a side-effect was a blend of styles that lacked cohesion and failed to flow particularly well as an album.
However, even more worrying than the lack of cohesion (and one of its causes), is the inclusion for the first time of what sounds suspiciously like filler on a Coheed album. Once Upon Your Dead Body, The Lying Lies and Dirty Secrets of Miss Erica Court
and Mother May I
are, to put it bluntly, useless poppy rock songs that fail to add anything to the album apart from a couple of half-decent hooks that are put to shame by the album's better moments. Even worse, they are grouped dangerously close together, with the result that the middle section comes very close to dragging. Crossing the Frame
is more or less the same story, but it contains an excellent bridge section that saves it from mediocrity. Along with these sub-par songs, the two ballads Always and Never
and Wake Up
that are presumably intended to provide a change of pace, only serve to drain some of the energy out of the album, and whilst they are good songs in themselves, they drag Good Apollo down rather than imbue it with variety.
Now, so far I have been almost completely critical, but now that the bad is out of the way, the good parts of the album can be explored better. Claudio Sanchez's voice (which is a love/hate thing for most people, and I have always been firmly in the 'love' party) remains as strong as ever, shining in every song and possibly being the only thing consistant across the album. The high-energy single The Suffering
(which is basically A Favor House Atlantic v.2) shows his vocals particularly well, as does the other excellent single Tenspeed (Of God's Blood and Burial)
. These songs are both highly recommended, as they combine the band's rock and pop elements perfectly, in a similar way that past songs Devil in Jersey City
and Three Evils
managed to do so well. Tenspeed
also boasts a stellar guitar solo, a feature that has always been slightly lacking in the band's back catalogue, but which occurs more often on Good Apollo. The other single, Welcome Home
is still Coheed's best known song, and whether or not it deserves to be so, its driving, Led Zeppelin-inspired verses, powerful chorus, dramatic strings and epic outro rock just as hard today as they did when the song played on MTV. Welcome Home
is one of the darker, heavier songs of the album and is a force to be reckoned with.
Now, the real reason that this review is rated a 4 and not a 3.5, or even a high 3, is the final four songs, which form a suite that goes by the name The Willing Well
. Up til now, the album has consisted of a few catchy songs, two ballads that very nearly negate the catchy songs' energy, a good deal of filler,and Welcome Home. None of these songs come close to touching the highlights of the band's first two albums, such as Everything Evil
and The Crowing
, but here everything changes. From the dark, twisted first half of Fuel for the Feeding End
to the soaring outro solo of The Final Cut
, the suite is absolutely solid; a devastating combination of four of the best songs the band ever released. Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
is the winner though, a bizarely happy song with excellent, playful guitar work that gets better and better until it climaxes with the repeated line "No-one runs faster than you can". By this time, the song has a lot of momentum and truely takes flight. A masterpiece. Apollo II: The Telling Truth
is sigificantly better than it's slightly-above-average counterpart, featuring an excellent reprise of Everything Evil and a very fun, energetic chorus. By the end of The Final Cut
, the listener is not thinking of the album's filler and disjointedness, but of its epic, ambitious, cohesive closing suite.
The heart of Good Apollo is clearly the combination of the guitar riffs and leads and Sanchez's unique voice, and although Mic Todd does have a few interesting moments, the bass is nothing special and the drumming is unremarkable. In this aspect, Coheed remains unchanged, so that Good Apollo is just another step forward for a band with a clear trademark sound that they try here to develop and to use differently. Although Good Apollo I is weaker than both the albums that preceeded it, it is a worthy addition to Coheed's discography and an interesting album that is worth checking out.
The Willing Well
Ballads fail to support the other songs
Lack of cohesion as a whole
1. Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
2. The Final Cut
3. Fuel for the Feeding End
4. Apollo II: The Telling Truth
5. The Suffering/Tenspeed