Coheed and Cambria journey into space and solos
By Ramon Ramirez
Photo Courtesy of Big Hassle
Left to right: Chriss Pennie, Travis Stever, Claudio Sanchez and Michael Todd play under the name Coheed and Cambria. The band is named for two central figures whose story is told on the group’s various albums.
Coheed and Cambria are dead.
Coheed and Cambria are central figures in an elaborate, sweeping science fiction epic invented in the labyrinth mind of Claudio Sanchez, who is the singer and guitar player for Coheed and Cambria, a popular, shred-heavy, prog-oriented rock band based out of New York.
But Coheed and Cambria, the characters, died at the outset of the tale. Each album since 2002’s The Second Stage Turbine Blade is about their son avenging his parent’s death.
“Yeah, the comics are supposed to clear everything up,” said guitarist Travis Stever, who, contrary to popular belief, isn’t all that into science fiction. “It’s just how Claudio chooses to write his lyrics, his style; but a lot of the things are really personal narratives, and confusing unless you know the personal history, despite the fact they’re wrapped in a fictitious story.”
Here’s a prime example: Coheed’s latest, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, fresh on the heels of 2005’s open-ended, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, is dedicated and shaped by the untimely death of Antonia Cristiano, Sanchez’s aunt. There’s nothing intergalactic about this sobering bit of real life, especially when said loss comes at the hands of Alzheimer’s. Cristiano was a psychologist who helped the band stay together when confronted with early career failure; she inspired “Justice in Murder,” a vital track on the new record. This personal, relatable, inserted emotion helps Coheed’s audience expand beyond the Comic-Con crowd.
Like many of you, I’ve been down with Coheed and Cambria since 2003’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, and its gorgeously aching, infectious single, “A Favor House Atlantic,” vaulted the quartet onto the national radar through its arena-tailored theatrics and major label funding. And like many Coheed enthusiasts, I could care less about the band’s embedded, progressing, inter-galactic tale. Travis Stever is just fine with this. He prefers it, in fact.
“We want people to think about us as a band first and foremost,” he says. “The comics and graphic novel are resources for bigger fans who want to dig deeper, but we don’t care if you aren’t into the concept.”
Also, the high concept chronology of the albums has its limitations. For example, recreating the works live, even now that Coheed is in possession of the material resources with which to fully manifest their vision, is a tall order. The linear, cinematic experience of their albums simply can’t translate into an hour-plus set list.
“The set list is just about making the crowd happy,” Stever said. “This time around we have cool props, there’s a visual aspect tied into the album art, but we just play the songs we have fun playing.”
As the band evolves, it seems to become a question of whether or not they’ll become a victim of their own ambition. To begin with, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow concludes the story. A prequel centered on Coheed and Cambria’s early years is planned, but then what?
“It could go a number of different ways,” said Stever. “There’s so many untapped resources in the mythology that Claudio developed in the Coheed universe. Hell, we might just release a rock record.”
That may also be a problem. While the respective members are constantly fighting the notion that they “all love comics and shit and sit around playing ‘D&D,’” their longtime bassist and drummer departed last year. Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters filled in for the No World for Tomorrow sessions, and the technically virtuous collective is still working to build up a chemistry with the newbies. The immediate future is uncertain, to say the least. And from speaking with Travis, inner dissent regarding Claudio’s vision could become a recurring issue as side projects pop up left and right. Stever himself has two other bands.
“We’ve had some rough trials and tribulations lately,” Stever said. “I’ve known Claudio since we were 12, the ideas have always been there; we all respect that he’s the storyteller as the lyricist. We all decided to keep going.”
Where exactly Coheed trucks onto from here is anybody’s guess, but it’ll probably involve outer space, lots of hair and face melting guitar solos.
The Where & The When
Coheed and Cambria
Saturday, 5 p.m.
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