Review Summary: Claudio Sanchez's debut solo outing provides a nice, varied listen, thought it lacks in many of the areas that made Coheed And Cambria one of modern rock's most influential bands.
Claudio Sanchez has always been something of a mystery. The enigmatic mind behind Coheed And Cambria
, Claudio’s distinctive vocal style and brilliant story writing has made him an icon among young rockers. Which makes the direction of his side project, The Prize Fighter Inferno
, even more surprising. Half-electronic, half-folk, Claudio shatters barriers with this unique and diverse release. Unfortunately, despite the album’s clear brilliance, My Brother’s Blood Machine
suffers from several keys flaws that keep it from being truly amazing.
First off, let me say to all casual listeners: this is a weird album. The mood progresses so indescribably that some times you might actually end up scratching your head about what is really happening. Of course, most fans of Coheed and Cambria will know that, similar to Claudio’s normal album’s, this is a concept album, and revolves around the town of Margretville, a place filled with so many disturbing sub-plots it could be the setting for a soap opera. Claudio so lightly describes tales of rape, murder, insanity, kidnapping, hangings, and torture, it almost makes a chill go down your spine (Who Watches The Watchmen?
, a song supposedly about the torture and murder of a young girl and her brother in a machine designed to rip bodies to shreads, features catchy dance beats, electric keyboards, and hand claps).
One of the most interesting parts of Coheed and Cambria was Claudio’s distinctively high voice. His incredible range always helped improve the material they had to work with. Unfortunately, on My Brother’s Blood Machine
, his singing is far more hit and miss. He is either the highlight of the song (A Death In The Family
, Who Watches The Watchmen?
) or just blatantly average (The Margretville Dance
and Our Darling Daughter You Are, Little Cecilia Marie
). He is still a strong singer, he just needs to learn to use his new singing style more effectively.
The actual musicianship of the album is of course the true highlight of My Brother’s Blood Machine
. The album is divided into three main song types: acoustic folk songs, dancy electronic songs, and slower ballads. In terms of musicianship, each is choked full of memorable sections, and technically proficient riffs, hooks, beats, etc. Rarely does a song not provide solid music, and the brilliant songs more than make up for the weaker songs failures.
In terms of the electronic section of the album, most do fairly well. Who Watches The Watchmen?
is probably the highlight of the electronic songs. Starting off with a classy piano intro, and ambient noise, the song progresses into catchy beats, highlighted by acoustic riffs, piano chords, and fun hand claps. This song also features one of Claudio’s strongest vocal performances on the whole album. His singing may seem strange to Coheed fans who are familiar with his voice, but the song will grow on you more and more with each listen. A Death In The Family
is also a solid track, again featuring a great vocal performance from Claudio. The song is much more obviously electronic than Who Watches The Watchmen, which isn't a bad thing in any way. It's not a standout, but it's still effective
The Margretville Dance
features some of the catchiest beats on the whole album. Unfortunately, this is one of Claudio’s weakest vocal performances. He opts for layered vocals, and sadly, neither layer is particularly well-done; nor do they fit the melody very well. It's a decent song that could have been so much more. The final electronic song, opening track The Going Price For Home
, also features a not-so-strong vocal performance. Even worse, the song is also one of the weakest musically. While it begins to pick up near the end, it’s simply too little, too late. Certainly not the right way to open this album.
In regards to the folk songs on the album, they generally fair better than the electronic songs. The Fight Of Moses Early And Sir Arthur McCloud
is one of the musical highlights of the album. The brilliant interplaying acoustic riffs are accompanied by a lovely string section and a classy solo-ish section near the end of the song. While the vocals could be slightly better, the lyrics are certainly well written, with the beautiful chorus of “Oh Mother Please, they have no need… for your boy” conjuring up some emotion that the album desperately needs more of. Run, Gunner Recall, Run! The Town Wants You Dead!
is without a doubt the catchiest and most fun acoustic song on the album. With choppy acoustic chords accompanying the hand claps (why so much hand clapping on the album?), and featuring some of Claudio’s darkest and lowest vocals ever, the song is a complete toe tapper, and the closing harmonica solo just adds another layer to the song. The only mildly bad thing about the track is the flatulence-like effects over the acoustic solo mid-way through the song. Besides that, the song is definitely a highlight.
Unfortunately, Our Dearest Daughter You Are, Little Cecilia Marie
is almost definitely the albums weakest song. The music is bad, and the vocals are worse. Half the time, it sounds like the vocals were recorded for an entirely different song. Not only that but the song lacks any emotion, and often is uncomfortable to listen to. This track just drags down the album, and because it appears so early, it can often spoil the experience for the rest of the CD. Plain and simple, a terrible track, made even worse because it is placed right between two of the better songs on the album.
The album’s three ballads appear back to back near the end of the CD. Wayne Andrews, The Old Bee Keeper
is a quite solid track, and despite being only three minutes long, it leaves a strong impression on you. The musicianship is excellent, the vocals are good, and the song just plain works well. The Missing McCloud Brothers
is far slower than any of the other songs. It's also clearly the Cd's best ballad. It’s incredibly relaxing, and provides a spacey, almost ethereal feel that will soothe any listener. While the music is far simpler than on most of the songs, the song doesn’t require brilliant musicianship. Instead, it relies on beautiful vocals, strummed chords, and echoes to make another album standout. Unfortunately, Easter
is not nearly as strong as its predecessors. The whispered vocal simply don’t work for the song, and unfortunately, they kill what might otherwise have been a good song. Also, the annoying loud plucking during the chorus constantly interrupts the mood of the song. Another disappointing track.
Of course, there are two tracks that don’t really fit into either of the three categories. Fortunately, both are amazing tracks. Accidents
is the longest track on the album, and starts off with some industrial style noises, before entering a interesting, (somewhat) tropical sounding verse section. The clean guitarwork also helps out the mood of the song. Another relaxing track, and another album highlight. Finally, 78
is possibly the most unique song on the album. Like Accidents, it begins with industrial noises, and then gains electronic beats and guitar lines. This is the only song on the album to feature distorted guitar lines, and they work wonderfully with the song. After two minutes, the song gains a lovely dark “chorus”, which further enhances the song. Then, before you think Claudio can’t possibly make the song any better, we are treated to a guitar solo. And an awesome one at that. It’s so unexpected, but also so welcome. Possibly the best track on the entire album.
Despite the brilliance of so many of the album’s songs, My Brother’s Blood Machine
suffers from a major flaw: lack of emotion. While the ballads seem to try to bring tears, they only either relax you, or annoy you. The whispered vocals also fail in conjuring emotion, and rarely does the CD feel as deep or profound as anything Coheed and Cambria have released. The album is certainly solid, but it doesn’t leave enough of a mark on you. Coming from one modern rock’s most ambitious frontmen, it’s a disappointment that is difficult to forgive.
Overall, My Brother’s Blood Machine
is a very good album, though it is far from flawless. While clearly not quite as brilliant as Coheed and Cambria, the album does succeed in shattering barriers, and providing a varied, fun, relaxing, and enjoyable listen. I wouldn’t recommend this album to everyone, but if you enjoy hearing something unique and different, then you should definitely pick this up and give it a whirl.
Run, Gunner Recall, Run! The Town Wants You Dead!
Who Watches The Watchmen?
The Missing McCloud Brothers
Overall Album Rating: 3.5/5