Coheed & Cambria
Often successful groups aren't the result of a master plan but rather the happy outcome of persistent trial and error. Take Coheed & Cambria. The band's genesis came in '95 as a trio called Shabutie. This pop Rock/Indie Rock iteration didn't connect as hoped. So in '01, Travis Stever (vocals/guitar), Claudio Sanchez (vocals/guitar), Michael Todd (vocals/bass guitar) and Josh Eppard (vocals/drums/keyboards) moved to progressive Metal.
The following year Coheed & Cambria's debut, "The Second Stage Turbine Blade," was released by Equal Vision Records. '03 outing "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3," with the single "A Favor House Atlantic" (one of the best Rush knock-offs ever made) was recorded in Japan in between tours with The Used.
Returning to North America the group opened for Thursday and AFI before showing up on the '04 edition of Vans' Warped Tour. "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes Of Madness" hit in '05.
"No World For Tomorrow" dropped two years later. It was the final release in a four-part series. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) played drums on the album following Eppard's departure. Chris Pennie received the permanent assignment.
"It's certainly the end of the saga," said Sanchez. "With (original bassist) Mike (Todd) back and Chris on drums, it really feels like the beginning." The group launched a North American tour in Toronto.
'08 could have been called Coheed & Cambria's Kerrang! year. The group headlined the British music magazine's 2008 Kerrang! Tour in the U.K. Then they group covered "The Trooper" for Kerrang!'s Iron Maiden tribute, "Maiden Heaven." But there was more. Coheed & Cambria were nominated for Best International Band and Best Music Video (for "Feathers") at the '08 Kerrang! Awards and won Best Music Video.
Taking a break from being Kerreng!'s house band, Coheed & Cambria played concerts in New York, Chicago, L.A. and London, with each show featuring one of their albums. These performances were culled for the '09 release "Neverender."
The group's fifth studio album, "Year Of The Black Rainbow," was the prequel to "The Amory Wars" tetralogy (a compound effort that was made up of four distinct works).
A novel, co-written by Sanchez and Peter David, accompanied the album which made its debut at #5 on the Billboard chart. Also, the tracks, "The Broken", "Guns Of Summer" and "Here We Are Juggernaut" were released on the Rock Band music store.
In August, '11, the band announced that Todd had left. "After a lot of thought, introspection and discussion, Coheed & Cambria will be continuing our journey without bassist Michael Todd," the band said in a statement. "We have spoken to him and this is a mutual decision between both parties. Michael was a great contributor; our hearts go out to his family and to all those who appreciate his talents."
Zach Cooper was named Coheed & Cambria's bassist in April, '12. Then came "The Afterman: Ascension," the sixth studio album by Coheed and Cambria, continued the "Amory Wars" sci-fi saga. Containing "Mothers Of Men" and "Key Entity Extract III: Vic The Butcher," the album is the first part of a double album. The second volume, "The Afterman: Descension," is due in February '13.
2002 The Second Stage Turbine Blade
2003 In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3
2005 Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
2007 Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
2010 Year Of The Black Rainbow
2012 The Afterman: Ascension
Coheed & Cambria have been called a "kinder, gentler Mars Volta." That's a perfect example being damned by faint praise. As their album titles illustrate Coheed & Cambria are overblown and excessive to a fault. There's some interesting stuff here but the listener who is not stoned, an art student (wait isn't that the same thing?) or otherwise impaired, has to travel through a lot of noise to get to it. On the other hand, if you are stoned, or plan to be soon, it might be a good idea to pick up Coheed & Cambria albums during your more lucid moments.
"Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow" (the 'official' title) brings us to the end of the four album cycle. Actually, it's one that has little to do with the storyline the group has been fostering. Rather, Coheed & Cambria have made the transition from Mars Volta-lite to Rush clones. Good move.
Skip "The Reaping," with its acoustic guitar and thunder sound effects, and the title track, a near miss at creating an arena ballad. Things pick up considerably with the '80s injected "The Hound (Of Blood And Rank)." Sanchez gets into Geddy Lee mode on "Feathers" and "Running Free." "Justice In Murder" unleashes the guitars. Can't argue with that. But "The Fall Of House Atlantic," an over-wrought sequel (to "A Favor House Atlantic"), the tedious "The End Complete" and dissipated closer "On The Brink" are obvious rough spots. "No World For Tomorrow" doesn't so much end as run out of energy.
At this point, people either buy the storyline or they don't. Having concluded their tetralogy, it was either time to retire, invent something new or jump back to a place before the beginning - clearly the easiest route. And that's what Coheed & Cambria do on "Year Of The Black Rainbow." Amazingly, this set is uncharacteristically focused with "The Broken," "Guns Of Summer" "The Shattered Symphony" and "World Of Lines" leading the way. That they channel their inner-Rush on "Pearl Of The Stars" is expected but the slice of E.L.O. on "Far" is not.
"The Afterman: Ascension," the first of a two part saga, has Prog Rock exhibitionism and sci-fi drama. It may be a new story, in the Amory Wars arc, with "The Afterman," "Mothers Of Men" and "Key Entity Extraction I-IV" (Domino The Destitute, Holly Wood The Cracked, Vic The Butcher and Evagria The Faithful) but it's still Coheed and Cambria with all their crash, thunder and vocal acrobatics.
Got six hours to kill? Big Coheed & Cambria fan - make that fanatic? If the answer is "yes" then the live box set "Neverender" is perfect.