Coheed and Cambria are one of the strangest groups I know. Claudio Sanchez is as big as Kerry King yet sings like a five year old that just got hit in the balls. They’re not content unless their album names are at least four decent-sized words long, and their entire discography to date follows the story of two fictional characters, Coheed and Cambria, and their descendants. Or this is what I am told - the story is almost indecipherable from the lyrics, which are hard to understand anyway because of Claudio’s voice.
Coheed and Cambria are also annoyingly unclassifiable. Not only do they blend a strange but somehow appealing mix of punk, prog, metal, rock, emo and pop, but in each album they tend to bring out different sides of their eclectic mix. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth, for example, was much pop-punkier than their previous effort, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Which brings me to the first thing about this album; Coheed and Cambria have shifted again, although ever so slightly. Good Apollo I’m Burning Star is definitely an exercise in metal - more so than their other albums - with the boys from Coheed occasionally bringing in the symphony for that extra drop of prog grandeur.
There is nothing like A Favor House Atlantic on this disc. Those who enjoyed its poppy accessibility may be disappointed, as this album lacks the mainstream appeal of that song and its companion single, Blood Red Summer. This is not to say that Good Apollo lacks the legendary Coheed and Cambria catchiness, because it doesn’t. Lead guitar lines intertwine seamlessly with Claudio’s tight riffing: only this time those riffs are palm-muted, downpicked and metal-edged. Not Children of Bodom style brutal, but they’ve got some bite. Guitar solos abound, and they’re good ones, too.
For those who are used to such things, here is a not-particularly-detailed Track by Track.
The album opens with Keeping the Blade. For the first time, the opening song on a Coheed album is not a collection of strange sound effects. Instead, this is a symphonic reprise of the melodic “theme” that Coheed has used often before. This gives way to Always and Never, an acoustic track with sound effects of children playing the background. It’s very gentle and calm, and probably introduces Coheed and Cambria’s children.
Next up comes Welcome Home, the 6 minute long first single from the album. Coheed again open with an acoustic part that soon is transferred into a blisteringly metal lead guitar line. Then they hit you with the strings and the operatic choir and you know Coheed haven’t lost their progressive elements. The second thing you notice is that Claudio shows no sign of ceasing to ingest vast amounts of helium before every recording: although to be fair, the vox here are a lot more tolerable. The song continues in its ridiculous pomposity, through a well-crafted if not extremely technical guitar solo, and fades out with the choir chanting the signature “Woah oh oh” of Coheed and Cambria.
Without further ado, Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial) thunders in. Catchy as all hell, with classic Coheed lead lines over a punk-style power chord riffage. Something I should mention at this point is that Claudio’s lyrics are simultaneously impenetrable and evocative. You don’t know exactly what’s going on (what does “Ten Speed, God’s blood and burial” mean") but you get a broad idea (“Believe her, you’ll leave her, you’re leaving more”). This is more punk-style than the previous track, as is Crossing the Frame, the next track up. To be honest this is just more of the same that you heard from Ten Speed, with a killer lead line at about 2:15.
Apollo I: The Writing Writer provides a welcome change at this point, opening with soft, ambient synth and strings. These and other strange noises continue for about a minute before a little bass lick opens the song proper. This is a sign of things to come; the bass in this song (at least in the verses) is much more prominent than previously seen on Good Apollo. This is a good thing: the feel is a little funkier and laid back than on the first few tracks. The song devolves into a creation of vocal and musical samples, before picking back up again to the close of the track.
At this point the album begins to shed some of the energy it had built up. Once Upon Your Dead Body is slower and sparser than anything that has gone before, with a minimal rhythm guitar line under a weird-sounding but strangely melodic lead guitar. Wake Up is an acoustic track that is placed squarely in the middle of the album. The best way to describe it would be pretty; it’s soft, fragile, and Claudio’s voice fits somehow. It’s a well-placed break in the album.
The Suffering is the following song and it’s nothing special. The second single, it’s much inferior to Welcome Home, almost reverting back to In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth days. It picks up in the middle and at the end with a decent vocal line, but overall it’s nothing to write home about. The Lying Lies And Dirty Secrets Of Miss Erica Court is much more high-energy, courtesy of an attention-grabbing lead line in the chorus. However, its companion in the verses is rather annoying. An on-and-off song.
The first part of Mother May I is rather laid back. Devoid of the wall-of-sound qualities of parts of the other album, it’s more relaxing than frenetic tracks such as Ten Speed. However, the texture picks up again in the last section. A solid song.
The last four tracks make up the final song, The Willing Well. I won’t review this song as it goes for half an hour. Suffice to say that it’s still Coheed: prog blended with punk, rock, emo, and general weirdness. Long-winded, but then, so it should be for the closer to an album as pompous as this.
Good Apollo isn’t perfect. It would have ended up a lot worse than it turned out if not for the well-thought out structure of the album. Wake Up is not only one of the best songs on the disc, it’s a rest point, a refresher for the last half of the album. Overall, though, the first half of Good Apollo is better than the last half, with the first four tracks all being killer. The Willing Well is definitely worth your time, though.
Different from other releases
Claudio’s voice is less immediately annoying
Good structure and individual tracks
Can be repetitive at some points
Claudio’s voice is still annoying
A solid effort from the boys of Coheed and Cambria.