Coheed and Cambria have crafted a surprisingly uplifting depiction of apocalypse.
I wish Coheed and Cambria would go more epic.
Like their other three CDs, No World for Tomorrow tells the story of two characters Coheed and (surprisingly) Cambria in a supposed musical trilogy called The Amory Wars. In this final installment, when the world ends and everyone dies, the storyline is really begging for a canvas more ominous, gigantically overblown and hopelessly morose than Coheed and Cambria are able to provide.
It might also be expected that with a title like No World for Tomorrow, the album would have something to do with an evil empire and a parallel universe version of Iraq. Nope! It’s all a metaphor for them, their struggle to survive as a band since 2005’s regrettably titled Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, and the death of Sanchez’s aunt. Progressive and emo musicians are often accused of being self-absorbed, and it’s easy to see why Coheed & Cambria fit healthily into both genres.
The band is so meticulous in their attention to detail that they’ve even hired fantasy artist Ken Kelley to design the cover art (any idea what this is meant to be? We don't, either). Enough about the conceptual tie-ins, though as it’s not important whether or not you follow, or care about, every minor plot detail to have a damn good time on No World for Tomorrow. The disc sticks reliably to the formula that found them their rotation on radio, trading fluid and flashy runs from guitarist Travis Stever with Claudio Sanchez’s contagious storyteller swoon. He still looks like a huge Messiah Marcolin fan with that hairdo of his, and sounds uncannily like Hayley Williams’ twin sister at times, but his acquired taste swagger is getting easier to bear as time goes on. The effects of this counterpoint create a shining example for modern rock, where real instrumental prowess is interchanged with catchy fare in an instant.
The best of No World for Tomorrow comes when the guitar and vocals achieve a vibrant synchronicity. “Feathers” is as close to a classic as Coheed and Cambria will likely ever get, light-hearted, triumphant and mindless. Stever has both remarkable restraint and intuitive feeling of the right moment to let loose his wild fretting and his solos have a knack for being well timed and totally air-guitarable. The title track is an urgent, compelling opener, hard-hitting enough to stop it from being overwrought, following an intro of rare understatement from the band. Likewise, “Justice in Murder” is a tribute to Sanchez’s aunt, who passed away during the album’s recording.
Proving they have plenty of technical credibility to boot, “The Hound (Of Blood and Rank)” was composed on a Wurlitzer organ. The influence on the final studio cut is next to non-apparent, but it’s hard not to admit what a mighty cool idea it is, and fans will surely hope for the original to show up on a rarities collection one day. Equally as important is that they learn not to get carried away. “Mother Superior” is childish, flaccid, and drags the disc down right in its center, with a sagging six and a half minute runtime.
No World for Tomorrow comes in two distinct halves, harking back to the vinyl format of old. The first half is brimming with a band that is sharp and radio-ready. The second devotes itself entirely to the closing saga of their fairytale, a twenty-five minute, and multi-faceted overture called “The End Complete”, a Floydian opus to please the band’s progressive fans.
In the same way, Coheed and Cambria present us with something of a dilemma. That is, they have some deep-rooted goal to be larger than life. Not content with crossing over on a musical level, they’ve done their best over the course of four records to invent a whole host of trivialities that you have to take into consideration when you listen to them. Yet it’s all too happy and bombastic for you to particularly want to. No World for Tomorrow is not a mature concept album, it’s a science-fiction fantasy. The emo-proggers have a rock side, and then they have a nerdy, comic collector’s side, which explains their broad appeal.
That being said, now that the Amory Wars has reached the end complete, Sanchez has promised their next step will be to record a prequel to the series, a decision that ought to raise copious amounts of eye-rolling. Somebody should probably suggest that they’ve been watching too much Star Wars.