There are times when an album suddenly loses it’s magic to you. It’s really quite unavoidable; it may be caused by excessive listening, going without said album for an extended period of time, or just an extended taste in music you’ve gained over the time you’ve had it. All three seem to be the case in point when I think about Good Appolo, I’m Burning Star IV: Vol I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
.It’s not as if there is any particular thing wrong with the album. Sure, the drumming’s more than a little weak (it’s downright dreadful for the most part), but with the other musicians all putting excellent performances, it really doesn’t show that readily. I have to say, the biggest gripe can only be one thing.
Wait, let’s not get negative quite yet. For, even in my suddenly changed view of the album, there is still far more good outweighing the bad. Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever’s guitarwork on here is easily their best, as not only do they attempt full blown solos for the first time (not anything spectacular in itself, but something conspicuously missing from their previous efforts), but their riffs and lead lines far surpass most of what they had previously written. The guitar interplay on songs like The Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
[/b] is astounding, with the interwoven guitar parts melding perfectly, as they do for the most part on the album. There are some stumbles, such as the annoyingly bad guitar tones on Crossing the Frame
and the cheesy mandolin on Once Upon Your Dead Body
, but the level of playing here (The Willing Well I: Fuel For the Feeding End
is an astounding piece of music in this aspect) more than makes up for the self indulgence they often go into.
Claudio and Travis, essentially, carry the interesting aspect of Coheed on their shoulders. While those two attempt to do interesting things with their parts, even if they aren’t particularly original or inventive, the rhythm section instead just kind of…sits there. Bassist Mic Todd has, admittedly, made a huge step up from his previous outings, actually writing fills and basslines that not only compliment the guitarists well, but also distinguish himself as an integral part of the band (his work on the first three Willing Well
’s is by far his best yet). However, drummer Joshua Eppard seems to have devolved as the rest of the band has evolved, and is at his absolute worst on this album. Maybe he’s just too entrenched in his whole hip hop…thing, but he is continually repetitive, boring, and without any real creativity at all. He plays the same rhythm patterns throughout the album with only a modicum of variation, and then rarely throws in any kind of fill to make a song more interesting. Rarely does he ruin a song, but that’s only because you never care about him enough for him to be able to.
As with most other Coheed albums, Sanchez hits all the high notes, and then goes into lows for the bridges in songs. Nothing too exciting or new. However, due to the major-label budget he was able to acquire for this album, he has now gone all out with vocal effects, and there is not one moment in my mind from the album where there isn’t some sort of effect working on his voice. Often its just reverb or something similar of that nature, but it takes a lot out of the passion of his previous delivery, as it all seems so mechanical. Yes, he’s a better singer than he ever has been, and its far easier to get into him now, but gone is the emotion of songs like Everything Evil
and The Crowing
In fact, his voice now sounds the best on the over-the-top pop songs than anywhere else, quite the opposite form In Keeping Secrets…
. However, unlike on that album, the song quality does not follow suit. Being one of the three main classifications of songs on the album, the poppy numbers are truly the worst songs Coheed has yet to write. The only one of great note is The Suffering
, technically the albums first single and one of its finest moments. It’s over the top, annoying, and altogether loveable; Claudio’s wailing “And are you well in the suffering?” is one of the highlight moments of the album, as is the dueling guitar and bass parts. The same cannot be said for songsl ike nce Upon Your Dead Body
, which is so dreadfully corny and sappy that it’s the least you can do just to sit through it. Yeah, there’s a mandolin. Yeah. Anyways, Wake Up
and Crossing the Frame
don’t fare much better, being overly sentimental and cutesy traipses through whatever conceptual ‘masterpiece’ Claudio is writing on this album. Mother May I
also comes close to being a good song, but…it’s two minutes long, and clocks in barely over four. Story of this album, yo.
When Coheed decides to rock out, the results are far more stable. Welcome Home
is a heavily Led Zeppelin-influenced metal tune (hell, they ripped the riff from Kashmir
), and is a very symphonic and powerful song, until the entirely to wanky solo at its end. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
, is the more menacing of the two Apollo tracks, and is along with its brother the most interesting moment musically on the album. However, due to the fact its said brother both is far more interesting and doesn’t begin with one of the most useless minutes of ambience in history, it’s just a useless track. Ten Speed (of God’s Blood and Burial)
is, however, a perfect Coheed tune, with enthralling guitar parts a ghost-y performance by Claudio and the rest of the band on vox. The fact it also has two rather excellent guitar solos only accentuates that fact, as does the excellent outro of “Cause I’m Ten Speed of God’s Blood and Burial!”
However, it’s when Coheed go back to the prog roots they began to explore on previous outings that the album actually picks up on its full promise. The Willing Well
suite is the most daring Coheed have yet to go, and its arguably their best…for the most part. While the first three are for the most excellent, they all drag on for far too long. The first, Fuel For the Feeding End
, just keeps on plodding along after an outstanding first three minutes, and by songs end you’re just wishing it coulda been a four minute rock song. From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
works better in this regard, as it’s crazy and very video game-ish feel pulls it through till the very end…where two minutes of a single repeated line kills it once again. Finally, we have the second Apollo, The Telling Truth
. More dark and brooding than its sister, this one is actually a tour de force of Coheed, lasting a perfect length and going through nearly every possible aspect of Coheed’s music, even repeating lines and music from previous tracks (often a barbed criticism of their rather blatant recycling of certain ideas, however).
The Final Cut
is the song that most wholly embodies my opinion on the album completely. The guitar pats are excellent, the bass work is consistent, the drumming is under-whelming, and Claudio’s vocals are soaring and epic, but feel detached because of the vocal effects. The song’s final vocal moments ”This is no beginning, this is the final cut (open up/I’m in love)” rivals even the best of moments from The Second Stage Turbine Blade
, but then the horribly toned solo that proceeds it for over two minutes is just a huge attempt at Coheed doing something they just aren’t meant to do. Coheed started by making pop punk, infused with some post-hardcore and progressive tendencies. They were amazing at that. Now, they’ve become some weird amalgamation of metal, pop, and occasional flourishes in progressive that just doesn’t fit the way they write their songs. As evidenced by Good Apollo
, they’re an incredibly talented band with a ton of potential, but they just aren’t on the path they should e anymore. Thus results in an album full of potential, but also full of material that just doesn’t suit the band. Claudio pulls this one out with his combination of singing, shredding and songwriting talent, but whether the next album will be able to follow in this trend and still be up to snuff remains to be seen.