If it takes ambition to put together swirling fantasy rock operas spread out over a five-album arc, then Coheed and Cambria might be the most ambitious band on the planet, or at least the only one with a record deal. There aren’t too many bands these days whose music harks back to the grandiose, proggy rock of groups such as Queensryche and Rush, but Coheed and Cambria have the sound and the style nailed.
There’s a sprawling, sometimes silly sci-fi mythology embedded in the songs conceived by singer Claudio Sanchez, and the Warped Tour vets surround Sanchez’ upper register vocals with epically deep riffs and hooks. “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow”—which debuted this week at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart—has two tracks that clock in at more than 7 minutes and a third almost that long. To top it off, the saga (collectively “The Amory Wars”) is being recorded out of order—“No World for Tomorrow” is the second part of the fourth chapter, with the first chapter to be an as-yet-unrecorded fifth album.
No World for Tomorrow
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two
(Equal Vision; US: 23 Oct 2007; UK: 22 Oct 2007)
The good news is that the lyrics also work on a superficial level for those not in the know, and the music is memorable and enjoyable from a technical standpoint, particularly the metallic dueling guitars played by Sanchez and lead guitarist Travis Stever. (Although the “Guitar Hero” franchise missed the boat and the indie nerdcore cred by ignoring Coheed songs, it will have a track in upcoming video game “Rock Band.”) Stever, who founded the band with Sanchez, is excited about last week’s release of “No World for Tomorrow” and the accompanying tour.
Do you worry about the “Amory” story line at all when it comes to your set list?
Really it’s just about the music for live shows. Some of the backdrops and props are related to it because it all ties in. Our symbol, of course, the Keywork, has to do with the story, so the symbol is up there behind us and we’ll have a pretty interesting setting onstage this year for this tour coming up. But none of the music is related, you know what I mean?
We put together a set that the crowd will be happy with because the story’s there. But the fact is, we are a rock band and we can be enjoyed purely just for our music in the first place. It’s really just an addition for fans who want to get involved and have a really cool thing to look into with the story line.
How was it making the album this time around?
We went through quite a few trials and tribulations in the past year. There was a certain point where we basically just left a tour that was booked, and our drummer and bass player just kind of split because of their own issues and things that were going on with them. When that happened we had a big question mark hovering above our heads as to whether this was going to be a band anymore. But Claudio and I have been playing in bands together since we were like 12. So we decided that either way, we were going to continue to play, whether it be Coheed and Cambria or not.
How did that change the recording process?
For the first time in a long time, Claudio and I literally would sit down and put songs down together. A good example is “The End Complete.” We just sat and wrote that song together, just sitting there, like the music was all put together like in a day. And then, of course, Chris the drummer had a big part in it because we would have these song ideas and we would strike them and Claudio would just send them over the Internet to him and he would lay down drums and send them back and then we’d get together and we’d have something to rehearse. A couple of songs were like that, just working together, which was really cool for us to revisit that side of our friendship where we could just sit.
So what happens after Coheed and Cambria releases the fifth album? Is that the end of the story and the band?
We have a lot of choices. There are so many different parts to this mythology that Claudio has with his story that we could still go in that direction and continue in some other way. Or we could just release a rock record. Or we could go in some other direction. I’m not worried about it. I know that this band will be able to do whatever we want to. I know the people that enjoy our band, the hard-core fans, will be happy no matter what because we’re going to still continue to do what we do.
Does Claudio ever come to you with a piece of the story where you just want to ask him, “What IS this?”
To be honest, especially now, with everything that’s on this album, I went through everything in the past year. So it’s like, when I know what experiences are coming out in the lyrics that tie into the story but are so close to the reality of things that have gone on, I completely understand.
Because this album really has so much to do with everything we’ve been through in this past year, and everything that he’s been through. And because we’ve been friends for so many years, I can tell what he’s talking about. And I can even tell from prior albums because when you’re really close to somebody, you know when they’re talking about themselves.