Everyone has that album that exposes them to a completely new type of music. For most people, its one of the so called “classics", such as II
by Led Zeppelin, Dark Side of the Moon
from Pink Floyd, Grace
by Jeff Buckley (what, it did for me at least), or maybe The Marshall Mathers LP
from Eminem. All are outstanding records to be sure, and could easily change your view on said genre. However, in the summer of 2004, I was just browsing along Target’s new releases section, when I saw a strange little album cover. It was cloudy and dark, and me being the little psuedo-rebel I was, decided that it must be a cool record. Thus, I bought In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
When I first played it, I was stupefied to say the least. At the time, my furthest leaning into any type of complex music was “Classic Rock" radio and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was overtaken by the strange songs and equally strange vocal stylings of Claudio Sanchez, and I was immediately hooked. Upon further research (AKA looking at message boards), I discovered people thought of Coheed & Cambria as “progressive rock." While that may be quite a stretch in my mind at this point, what I have no doubt of is that this record exposed me to what I must now consider to be genre of choice. So, I must be rather fond of it, right? Unfortunately, looking back, this may not have been the best place for me to have gotten a start, even for Coheed.
This album tries to meld many different things at once, to varying levels of success. Coheed wants to keep some of their old hardcore influences, all while integrating more progressive and metal into the mix. At times, the three mixing can be extremely effective; The Crowing
is an explosive epic that combines elements of all three, and does so without sounding forced or tired. More often than not, however, it comes off all to cheesy or underdeveloped. For example, for all the angst and virtuosity the Camper Velourium trilogy attempts to convey, my general impression is one more of amazement at how anyone could take the lyrics “Good night, tonight, sleep tight my gun
", “I have no luck with girls
", and “When I kill her, I’ll have her
" seriously, even in the context of whatever concept Sanchez is attempting to write.
Even more so than The Second Stage Turbine Blade
, there is a serious misbalance of talent in the band. Sanchez and lead guitarist Travis Stever are two of the best guitarists to come out in quite a while, even when the songs themselves are getting tiring and repetitive, you can always switch over to just paying attention to what they’re doing and be content. While there is a lack of any real solo’s, Stever’s still provides some excellent lead lines, even if some may lack complexity (Blood Red Summer
), and Sanchez lays down some killer riffs throughout the album. However, it seems both Josh Eppard and Mic Todd have devolved from previous displays, albeit for different reasons. I honestly can’t point out on standout performance by Eppard here, while he never ruins a song in any manner, he also never helps it. Mic Todd, however, is a victim of mediocre production and general laziness. While he certainly isn’t helped by the fact that the mix makes his bass nearly inaudible for most of the album, he rarely attempts to do anything special (The Crowing
does feature some neat bass licks), and thus forces Sanchez and Stever to carry most of the load.
The album is fittingly summarized by its title track. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
is long, epic, completely driven by guitars, and also collapses in on itself about ¾ of the way through. The beginning is hard rockin’ number, with the chorus being some kind of monster, and it makes you quell at the thought of this kind of goodness for 8 minutes. In comes the bridges, and in comes the disappointment. They try to convey too many different things in the span of two minutes, as Sanchez faux-growls, croons, and tries his best to be operatic as the music fittingly follows suit for his mood. The effect it really has, however, is to make you lose interest about half way through all this, to the point where not even a repeat of the intro can suck you back in. It’s a problem all the long songs here share, as The Light & the Glass
, a rather sweet acoustic ballad, loses you quickly when they decide a repeated chorus of “Liar" is in due order, and you’ll be lost in the hidden track 2113
somewhere in the middle of that mess of a jam session, despite how promising the creepy start of the song was.
Coheed surprisingly achieve far more success when they disregard all that epic nonsense and focus on creating short, to the point pop songs. Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow)
is an incredibly focused pop punk song, with sing-a-long lines and guitars that were just made
to be air guitared along with. It is also strangely just as epic at its end as the any of the 8+ minute tracks on this album, showing that Coheed need not worry themselves with constant mood shifts to accomplish their intended goal. Blood Red Summer
is a huge debating point among fans, some call it poppy trash, while others…say its mediocre poppy trash. However, taken on its own, it’s perhaps the strongest song on the album. With twangy guitar, clapping, cheesy but oh-so-good backup vocals (You got it you got it you got it…
), and the best whoah-oh’s I’ve heard in years, it’s impossible to hate this song. Unless you hate America. Of course, there’s also A Favor House Atlantic
. Yup, its there, it’s catchy, and Sanchez’s voice could make your ears bleed.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss Sanchez’s voice. Personally, I find it to be rather exciting. Despite what some would lead you to believe, Sanchez actually has a rather large range, going from the faux-growls mentioned earlier to the falsetto of A Favor House Atlantic
. It isn’t an accessible voice by any means, and while the whole “You’ll love it or hate it" philosophy people seem to adopt with it is entirely false (I know many an individual who merely tolerates it), there is a large chance you’ll end up disliking it. Be warned, of course, but don’t let the vocals from AFHA be the cause of you not bothering with Coheed.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
is far from being a bad album, just as far as it is from being great. It’s at once unique and accessible, but also disappointing and filled with almost-coulda-been’s. Coheed shows major promise (that they would in general fulfill with their next release, Good Apollo
), and at times fulfills it. While people draw comparisons to both Rush
and The Mars Volta
fairly frequently, Coheed really doesn’t sound like either of them. In fact, Coheed doesn’t sound much like anything around these days, or from the 70’s. They’ve created a unique meld of rock, progressive, pop, metal, and hardcore (the latter fading quickly, however) that while in its infancy here, is still quite an interesting listen.
Three Evils (Embodied In Love and Shadow)
Blood Red Summer