Coheed & Cambria? More like Coheed & SHAMBRIA LOLOLOL
That was a god honest reaction I got from someone after mentioning Coheed & Cambria to them for the first time. Although he was joking with the lol's - (at least, I think he was), that's a sentiment that would be shared by many in today's music world. And of course, there is really only one reason for it: Front man Claudio Sanchez's extremely high singing voice. Nowhere is that voice showcased in all its glory than on their debut, Second Stage Turbine Blade. However, is that any reason to hate the album, or the band? Why don't we find out, eh?
The obvious strong to point to all Coheed's music is their incredible guitar work. You'd be hard pressed to find a better pair of guitarists than Sanchez and lead Travis Stever anywhere near the radio these days. Although Stever isn't nearly as developed as he is on their following two albums, and some of Sanchez's riffs get a little tiring (See Devil in Jersey City and Neverender), it's still undeniably their record. Getting back to the vocals, it's honestly a complete matter of opinion. I find them to be great; Sanchez belts out by far is his most emotional lines on songs such as Everything Evil and Junesong Provision. However, there was an obvious problem with his low range singing at this point, as the opening vocals for Time Consumer and certain parts of the hidden track IRO-bot show. It can make the album inaccessible for some people, but if you can stand Geddy Lee of Rush, Jon Anderson of Yes, Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta, or to be frank, high pitched female singers, you probably won't have too much of a problem.
The bass work on the album is far more hit or miss: At times, Mic Todd is effectively inaudible; whilst at others he's stealing the show. Although not nearly as dead as the bass on In Keeping Secrets or most other bands today, it's still a disappointing output. However, songs like Neverender and Delirium Trigger do offer highlights for Todd, even while DIJC and Everything Evil see him following to close to what Sanchez and Todd are doing to be considered worthwhile. The final, and perhaps weakest piece, of the puzzle is drummer Josh Eppard. The mix on the album forces the drums into a more prominent position than they would normally be, and unfortunately, Eppard just isn't varied enough to pull it off. Although his best drumming is arguably located on this album, he acts as a metronome throughout most of the album, with unimaginative fills to complement it. However, one thing he does do extremely well is hold the songs together, and it could be said something would be lost if he was a more technical musician.
However, how is the music itself? It's very good. Time Consumer may not have been the best opening choice to me, it starts off far too slow for the album, and even when the pace picks up, it might be a little too spacey. The solos are pretty delicious, however. Devil In Jersey City finds us in a poppy, yet rocking, number, with a slightly repetitive riff and soaring vocals. It's just varied enough to keep from any staleness, and with a little more backing, probably could have been a bigger hit than anything else Coheed has put out as a single. Everything Evil is a fan favorite, and it's a good song. The opening verse is the perfect tension breaker, and the slight breakdown at the end is an excellent lead in to the chorus, but that's where the song falters. It's unimpressive, as is the rest of the song until the final bridge, where the most memorable line of the album is sung, but you should all already know that line by now.
Delirium Trigger is by far the standout on the album, with everyone putting in great performances. It's dark, sometimes frightening, somewhat creepy, and the unorthodox song structure lends even more to the mood. It's a great song, and a must download for anyone who has heard Coheed and gone 'huh, interesting'. The next song, however, is not. Hearshot Kid Disaster starts off interesting enough, with a quick and goofy guitar line a scream from Sanchez, but it quickly dissolves into a silly mess. Granted, the lyrics are fun and bouncy, but come on, 'I need mayo'? Sanchez must have been hungry writing this, which is hard to doubt considering how beastly of a man he is (I couldn't believe it was him at first sight, that voice is just unnatural for a man his size). 33 keeps that energy going, and has the most promising opening on the entire album. It's a great pop-punk song, but it lacks compared to most of the album, but it's still excellent to rock out to in your car.
The final trio of songs begins with the apex of the energy that's been building, Junesong Provision. Featuring the most killer riff on the album, and the most varied vocal performance by Sanchez, it twists and turns through many different sounds, starting off with that same pop-punk feel, then turning into a soft ballad, and then into a balls to the wall hard rock song. The ending is a raucous and still sweet chorus, but it may go on too long for its own good. Then we have Neverender. Oh, how I loved thee. The opening bass line is great, but the song quickly becomes boring. The bridge is pretty nifty ("Point your gun in another direction/Now that you've cried yourself to sleep"), but the song just won't catch many people's attention. Luckily, Godsend Conspirator is a throwback to the songs prior to it, and it's the happiest sounding tune on the album. It slowly devolves into something more raw, but it's done so sublimely, you can't help but dig it. The hidden track afterwards, IRO-bot, is a decent acoustic track, with so many effects abounding, you may think Sanchez's Star Wars influence may have gotten the best of him
Personally, I think this album is great. Despite all the fallacies I see, nothing on here is unmistakable. Sure, Hearshot Kid may be a mess, and Neverender may be the musical equivalent to Master And Commander, but it's still a great listen for any Coheed fan. It's when taken out of that context does this album falter. Newbies frankly should not start with this album. The singing is just too high to ease the transition, and the lyrics are so out there it's difficult to connect with them, something far easier to do on Good Apollo and to a lesser extent In Keeping Secrets. But all in all, it's a very good album, with some great moments and guitar work that will make your mommy scream "Oh no, I have to change my panties."
Good Apollo has some catchy tunes (Ten Speed, Crossing the Frame, The Suffering), yet also has their finest work (Welcome Home, the Willing Wells), so I'd reccomend a start there. In Keeping Secrets is much the same, however with a more melancholy edge to it. I'd pick up Good Apollo, and then move on from there.
I would start where it started, as "Good Apollo" IMO still is their weakest album to date.
Good review, though I can not understand why you dislike "Time Consumer" that much. I think it's a fitting opener. Not in anyway comparable to the great opening of "In keeping Secrets of Silent Earth", but still good
I'm sure it's all explained in better detail in the comic book they made, also called Second Stage Turbine Blade, but it's a hard thing to find... well, harder if you don't have a credit card and access to their website...
I'm not much of a Coheed and Cambria fan, but your review was excellently written. Interestingly enough, I love all three of the singers you mentioned sounding like Sanchez's, yet I still dislike his voice.