Review: Coheed and Cambria – Second Stage Turbine Blade

Ever wonder what would happen if you mixed the progressive showmanship of Rush with Dashboard Confessional’s emotional escapism? Me neither, but Coheed and Cambria has been described as that exact mix-up more times that I’d like to recall. While it’s easy to understand the Rush comparison, with lead singer Claudio Sanchez’s high-pitched vocal delivery. The emo label is a little less obvious, the band’s sound may fit into the ’emo’ genre, but the lyrical content certainly does not.

Second Stage Turbine Blade is a concept album. The album contains the first of 4 chapters of a space-age epic featuring 2 main characters, Coheed and Cambria. The tale begins with the creation of the universe, 3 races are created by the supreme force known only as ‘God’; Mage, Prise and Man. Each species was given a certain task, and should they stray from their given trail, God would return and destroy all he created. Soon the lust for power and greed overwhelms the Mages and a war breaks out, many lose their lives and a brutal dictatorship propels the universe into a dark age. Yes, that’s right folks, this ’emo’ band is singing about a sci-fi epic where the fate of the universe depends on the decisions of 2 beings, each holding the key to survival within their very DNA.

Now before you run away from the sheer absurdity and nerd factor of the concept, you should know this: the music is very accessible and melodic; A blend of progressive musicianship and songwriting, as well as melodic poppy hooks. Most of the songs are driven by Claudio’s impressive vocal range, creating a unique sound. The band combines poppy vocal hooks with intricate, progressive guitar work and leaves the listener with a distinct and unique sound that is immediately recognizable.

The album opens with an ambient piece, the ‘theme’ for the album, and soon drops into “Time Consumer”. This sets the stage for the album, solid drumming over sparkly guitars and bass. Slowly the song builds into a heavier, more progressive sound, and sadly this is where the disc’s only downfall comes into play. The recording quality and production falls short. The distorted guitars sound thin and transparent, causing the drums to become far too prominent. However, after listening to a few songs you quickly ignore the mix and focus on Claudio’s vocals, which are spot on throughout the entire disc.

Songwriting is always overlooked in modern music with the formulaic intro-verse-chorus style of writing becoming more and more common (Thanks a lot Beatles!). C&C very rarely use this formula. While they do keep constrained to the same elements, most songs do have defined verse sections, which then blend into a chorus or hook at some point. The music tends to meander around the same musical ideas during the course of a song. Each track will climax into a hook only to fall into an ambient, feedback laden section. The interesting songwriting makes the entire album sound like a single song. Each piece will flow into the next, and since all of the songs are telling the same lyrical story, you could probably argue that the album is in fact a single track, but we won’t get into that here.

If you can manage to get past Claudio’s vocals, you will probably find yourself looking for more and more info on this band. They have release a live DVD/CD that you can pick up to see the band in action. Their live disc sounds far better than the production of this one

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