Thanks again to Hendrik for the amazing opportunity to talk about this band to such an awesome audience. And thanks to you for reading! This week has been incredible, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings as much as I’ve enjoyed rambling them. There is no other band like Coheed and Cambria, and whether you find any enjoyment listening to their music or not, I think you have to agree that they’ve done some pretty unique and important and fun things in their decade of existence.
Here’s a summary of all of my posts from this week, and below that is another Spotify playlist that I made a few months ago of my favourite Coheed songs. I talked about a large portion of them already, but if you’re a new listener and looking for a quick way to enter into their discography, that might be an easy way for you.
Claudio Sanchez - “2s My Favourite 1” [Acoustic, ft. Chondra Sanchez]
Push towards the dance floor
And together we’ll show them who’s boss
We’ll set a fire once more
I’ll leave you this week with a live acoustic rendition of the final song on the last Coheed and Cambria album - “2s My Favourite 1”.
Claudio and Chondra met while the band were on the road in 2003, and married in 2009. Chondra has performed in Coheed as a backing vocalist on various tours in that time, including their second tour to Australia (the Sydney show of which I attended) and on the Neverender DVD. She’s now a permanent member of The Prize Fighter Inferno, and the two have also collaborated on unrelated comic book projects released on Claudio’s comic publisher Evil Ink. They will be having their first baby this year.
This video is beautiful. I’ve been listening intently to the progression Coheed has taken over the last decade, and along with that I’ve been able to watch the whole band grow. Yeah, the music changed, but look: the introverted, angry young man who created Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 - along with an entire sci-fi universe that he could insert himself into in an effort to deal with his own personal demons - has become happy, adjusted, warm. Claudio insists that his anxiety is still a major problem, so those demons still exist, but they seem to be kept at bay. For now at least.
Love has been a major theme in the Coheed and Cambria universe, but it’s usually a poisonous love: a parents love of their children, one so strong that they’d be willing to murder them to prevent a lifetime of pain and destruction; a romantic attachment so intense it causes severe mental anguish; an impossible love shared between a pair who cannot physically be together. It’s more often a destructive force in this story.
But here we are, after all that, the story complete, and Claudio is singing with the love of his life, confessing:
You were my every wish
I admit that I will never feel alone
Once I call you home
It might sound cheesy, but dammit, this is Coheed and Cambria! You roll with the cheesiness, you fucking embrace it, you enjoy it, and it enriches you. At least, it did for me.
Coheed and Cambria - “Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria The Faithful”
The second-last track on Ascension and the fourth of the five-part “Key Entity Extraction” suite within Ascension and Descension. On most days, “Evagria the Faithful” feels to me like Coheed and Cambria’s greatest post-NWFT songwriting achievement. It sounds like a lost Toto song (a good thing), features acclaimed jazz-pianist John Medeski of Medeski Martin and Wood (another good thing), and contains the catchiest chorus on the record (a great thing).
Despite my appreciation of Ascension and Descension, by the very nature of the split-double-album format they take, it’s impossible not to imagine a more perfect combination of the songs as one singular release. This is a Spotify playlist I made with that vision in mind, an hour long album, sequenced in a way that I think makes complete sense, with 7 songs from Descension and 4 from Ascension. I’ve also included the title-track from the Half Measures EP that Claudio released under the Prize Fighter Inferno moniker, which was written and released around the same time.
THE AFTERMAN: ASCENSION / THE AFTERMAN: DESCENSION
The two most recent Coheed and Cambria albums, released 4 months apart, have almost nothing to do with Year Of The Black Rainbow. And although a lot of the issues that I had with No World For Tomorrowremain present, both albums are a really tremendous return to form. Not only are the band seemingly in a very healthy state emotionally, they’re also creatively the most vital they’ve been since Good Apollo, stepping up their game for the first time in too many years.
In November 2011, Josh Eppard was announced to be returning to the band via this video:
There’s no name, there isn’t even a shot of him. The band knew, all they needed to show were Josh’s glasses and all you needed to hear was a portion of the drums in the intro to “Everything Evil" from SSTB.
Coheed and Cambria - “In The Flame Of Error”
The most redeeming moment on Year Of The Black Rainbow for me is this song, tucked towards the end of the album. If there was as much variation in this tracklist as there had been in prior records, I feel like this song could be the kind of stand-out fan favourite that “The Crowing” is. Unfortunately, I’m sure it got lost in the murky same-ness of the whole thing for most people.
Year of the Black Rainbow is - probably – my least favourite album in the discography. This will be unsurprising to anyone who has heard it.
“The Running Free” was embarrassing to me, but it was forgivable. It was an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise untouchable discography. Every band slips, right? But Year of the Black Rainbow was truly the moment the magic bubble burst – this band became fallible, their flaws incontrovertible. There were skippable Coheed songs in the past, especially in No World For Tomorrow, but never before had there been an entirely skippable Coheed album.
At least, that was my initial reaction. I listened to it for a few years, every now and then, and I’ve come to appreciate a lot about the album through sheer effort. This is a violent, claustrophobic, loud, messy collection of songs, each built on a foundation of pain and anger. Even the ballads on the album like “Far” are drenched in distortion and crunch, the guitar solos stopped being melodic and precise and Claudio’s vocal takes seem imperfect, occasionally weak. Both the pop-punk elements and the prog-rock ambition are all but removed from their repertoire. What we’re left with is, basically, a metal album.
Where their prior albums felt precise, even patient, Year Of The Black Rainbow is urgent and insistent. So many chord progressions fail to resolve, the choruses are massive, and (as always) the hooks are abundant. It gets same-y, but the excellent moments do reveal themselves. “Guns of Summer” and “Where Skeletons Live” are great, “This Shattered Symphony” sounds a little too much like Muse for my liking but still has the best chorus on the album, plus this acoustic version of “Here We Are Juggernaut” is pretty much a different song:
If I sound conflicted, it’s because I am.
Incidentally, I saw Coheed for the third time when they toured this album in 2011, playing a festival sideshow with nu-metal luminaries Stone Sour and Sevendust, as well as 36 Crazyfists. It was a terrible bill and I left the moment the guys finished their set. In retrospect, they performed one of the most interesting and cohesive sets I’ve ever seen of theirs, despite it’s short 7-song length. It was focused on the kind of music that might appeal to the attendees there to see the other bands, so leaned predominantly on their heavier material, and only contained one song from YotBR (“Here We Are Juggernaut”) three songs from IKSSE:3, two from NWFT and one from GAIBS4 (“Welcome Home”, still their go-to set closer).