It’s been a while since we’ve posted an 8 Track post, so let me remind you what this is all about. The idea is to choose 8 tracks from a band’s career that exemplify their growth and their style for those who might not be aware of them at all or just aware of a very specific part of their career; as such, the series works well for big names, especially those with diverse discographies. Thus, Coheed And Cambria are a natural choice for this type of list. They’re a huge band but also one with a deep back catalog containing work that might not necessarily be familiar or appealing to modern day fans. This also makes this post especially difficult; do you curate it heavily and risk the bias of an editor showing through in the choices, potentially missing parts of the band’s career, or do you let the staff run wild and risk the post lacking a clear narrative?
For this one, we chose the latter. Coheed And Cambria, we believe, are all about wanton abandon and emotions running high and it’s only natural to assume that everyone has their own favorite, whether track or period. Thus, we gave our writers freedom to choose as they will and we believe the result came out well; the choices below represent how unique and special this band is, offering up different styles, ideas and sounds from across their career. Is there a deep cut we missed? Would you have changed any of the selections? Tell us! We love when these posts stir a healthy discussions on what is, at the end of the day, the optimal way of enjoying a band we love.
The Second Stage Turbine Blade – Everything Evil
This is where it all begins. Not with this track, as there were three full EP releases as Shabutie before they thankfully changed their name to Coheed and Cambria, but “Everything Evil” is pretty much as good of a starting point for these guys as you can really get. This track – and this album in general – have a very bizarre flavor to them that’s at once distinctly Coheed but also very different from any of their other material. There’s a weirder approach to technicality, a more metal-aligned sensibility in places, and a much more overt post-hardcore influence than any of their later stuff.
“Everything Evil” is the perfect representation of the origin of Coheed and Cambria as a unit: far from the pristine, defined progressive alt-rock of their later period or the pop-punk inflected tones of the album that followed Second Stage, what we have here is the band as a diamond in the rough. There’s a lot more edge to their music, a lot more emo sensibility, and the progressive rock sensibilities are more, say, At the Drive-In than The Mars Volta, restrained and, in places, only visible if you already know where to look.
Considered as Second Stage in microcosm, “Everything Evil” displays all that there is to love about early Coheed: a catchy verse riff that’s more complex than it sounds on first listen, totally indecipherable lyrics that play into the huge overarching story of their discography but also work on their own, an unbelievably impassioned performance by Claudio Sanchez, more choruses and refrains than most bands of this ilk can work into a whole album, and an excellent climax (that, hilariously, has Claudio yelling his own name). You really couldn’t ask for a better or more appropriate jumping-off point for this band’s storied career.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 – In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
“Hello Apollo, where should I begin?” This is the question that precedes the title track and opening song of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, and a question which mirrored the anxious anticipation of fans waiting to see which direction Coheed’s sophomore release would take them in. IKSOSE3 offers a pretty definitive answer. It showcases a huge, anthemic sound with an intricate structure and lengthy run-time unlike anything fans had heard on their debut record. The epic, progressive quality of this opening salvo is a powerful mission-statement and prepares listeners for the grandeur and complexity of the overarching narrative which is to unfold throughout the record.
Despite the flag it plants, the title track is in some ways unrepresentative of the broader tone of the album, which often tends more towards pop-punk than prog-rock. However, the band remains careful to ensure that it contains an absolute belter of a chorus. The dramatic refrain of “Man your own jackhammer! Man your battle stations!” instills the song with a fierce energy that just demands to be screamed along with, and Claudio’s vowel-bending vocal gymnastics are given centre-stage as he effortlessly slips between eerie croon and powerful high-register bellow.
Although the details of the story contained in the track are too complex to really dive into, the song does represent a key scene in the band’s narrative, in which the protagonist’s brother, Jesse, stages a violent resistance against the villainous Red Army. This is reflected in the impassioned call to arms of the chorus, but the epic spirit of the track is also undercut by dark and gruesome references to cutting the throats of babies and sending men to their death.
Another notable feature of the track is the false ending it deploys 6 and a half minutes in. A conclusive sustained chord wistfully fades away, but the lyrical references to “coming home” prove to be prophetic as the familiar opening notes of the intro melody return to break the silence. They rapidly build back into the main riff, but this time it is accompanied by a chorus of triumphant ‘woah-oh’ gang vocals. The emotional power behind this triumphant return has cemented the track as a fan favourite and frequent winner as an encore at Coheed’s live shows.
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness – Welcome Home
“Welcome Home” stands as Coheed & Cambria’s most iconic song. Having been featured in hit games Rock Band and Madden NFL ‘06, as well as the animated film 9, the 6-minute nu-prog epic land as the third track on Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness following the deceitfully calm “Always & Never” and preceding other Coheed hit “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial).”
“Welcome Home” begins with an anxious acoustic guitar riff before ripping into a driving full band set of chugs. The lyrics detail the delusional memories of a character known simply as The Writer. Recalling a former lover named Erica Court, the writer suffers visions of her dying by his hands until he is snapped from his trance by a broken window and stolen bike (the aforementioned ten-speed).
“Welcome Home” literally has it all when it comes to encapsulating what Coheed and Cambria is. On top of the acoustic intro and a handful of iconic riffs that permeate throughout the entire song, Claudio Sanchez’s exemplary vocals laying down The Writer’s thoughts add an extra layer to this bullet that will undoubtedly get lodged in your head. Changes in cadence and tone keep the song interesting, as well as the ebbing and flowing of the song’s overall pace before culminating and exploding into a guitar solo that lasts just over a minute. As “Welcome Home” says its goodbyes, a chorus of voices accompany a lead guitar riff that can honestly only be described as “epic” until a softer, less menacing keyboard echoing the main riff of the song takes us to the end.
It’s weird to think that any band with a body of work as expanse as Coheed and Cambria could be reduced to one song, but if there were any doubts that “Welcome Home” could be that, all it takes is a single attentive listen to erase all apprehension.
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow – The Hound (Of Blood and Rank)
Up to this point, Coheed & Cambria have managed to uphold a new standard in progressive music. The very nature of their band being an interwoven high concept sci-fi tale. Foregoing the old school prog-rock ethos of rudimentary techniques and overtly complex songwriting. There’s an intimate look at the psyche of Claudio Sanchez and his troupe of immensely talented bandmates behind each release. There’s a desire for a higher form of artistry. Becoming more than the sum of album art, put to a compendium of songs with lyrics and themes to match. Until Good Apollo, Volume Two this seemed to be the band’s main focus. A detailed study on the concept album, with Claudio taking the step even further on Good Apollo Volume One to write himself into the album, making the band of Coheed & Cambria canon in the physical form we can experience them within the universe of the conceptual story (see “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial)”).
Having achieved the success of taking a concept so entrenched in the music beyond a cult status with “Welcome Home” breakout status, Coheed and Cambria try to one up themselves. Can the quintessential “Concept Band” successfully pursue a radio friendly sound?
I think the answer is a resounding yes, as practically any track on Good Apollo, Volume Two would be right at home in a 70’s era classic-rock block or early 2000’s Much Music Top 10 countdown. Having spent close to a decade culminating to the point where their only adversary is the appeal of masses. While the album is riddled with tracks that could be cherry picked for this list, “The Hound (Of Blood and Rank)” embodies the ambitions of the band in a noteworthy fashion. Particularly how the lyrics allude to a battle fought by an ensemble of characters in the narrative with the emotional climaxes of this battle being charging headlong into an unwinnable foe, and thanking the people who saved your life and rebuilt you. Intentional or not, this mirrors the next level of success that’s being aimed for, while sincerely resting on their laurels. It’s uncanny.
The track itself a simple romp. Perhaps the first time Coheed & Cambria fully embraced the completely standardized song structure Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus, with standard instances of bridges, pre choruses and guitar solos. It’s hardly worthy of praise, succumbing to this style of songwriting. But Coheed & Cambria’s execution is impeccable. Featuring monster hooks, downright great riffs and an always rambunctious rhythm section. Sparse with keys and reverb-laden guitars, the track is accentuated with prog rock influence, rather than typically being driven by it. This track is achievement incarnate of radio-friendly Coheed & Cambria, short of hearing it everywhere commercially.
Year Of The Black Rainbow – Here We Are Juggernaut
Coheed and Cambria are known for their sprawling multi-part epics. However, their music has succeeded first and foremost on an emotional rather than intellectual level. As the shortest song on this list—by a significant margin—“Here We Are Juggernaut” constitutes the best of everything the band has to offer in its most concentrated dosage.
True to its name, Year of the Black Rainbow has a reputation for being a bit of a black sheep within Coheed and Cambria’s catalog. Until The Color Before the Sun it was the album that arguably departed the most from their trademark prog-rock template—delivering shorter, simpler and notably more immediate numbers in place of the sprawling, multi-part epics that characterized their sound up until that point. Yet, just because the band were trying their hand at something different didn’t mean they were any less brilliant at it.
The track feels so much larger than it actually is, not only because of the broad terrain it manages to traverse over the course of its deceptively brief run-time, but because also of the sheer scale of its composition. The song immediately grabs your attention with its thick, distorted bass riff, and frantically builds up momentum before launching into its gigantic chorus. When Sanchez explodes into the songs colossal refrain, it’s as though the track has reached critical mass—accelerating ever upward until all its pent up energy has expanded, before cathartically collapsing back into its basic elements, only to start the process all over again.
The song is a perfect sonic encapsulation of the defiant themes that run throughout Year of the Black Rainbow. Michael Todd’s sporadic talk box bursts lend a visceral edge to lines about “bodies breaking” and “bury[ing] burdens in blood”, while the song’s sullen mid-section adds an air of regret that drives home the album’s emotional message, even if its complex and hopelessly convoluted narrative remains obscure. The record contains no shortage of brilliant, punchy, hard rock anthems—not least of which are the frantic “World of Lines” and ominous opener “The Broken”. However, it’s “Here We Are Juggernaut” which stands out as the album’s crowning achievement.
– Joshua Bulleid
The Afterman: Descension – Gravity’s Union
The Afterman albums have quite a few amazing songs on them, but none of them have the emotional impact or staying power of “Gravity’s Union”. Telling the story of a horrific car crash and the aftermath, the track sees Sirius Amory, the protagonist of the Afterman duology, wracked with guilt and regret over his actions and failing relationships. Claudio delivers some of his best vocal and guitar work on this track, with the chorus in particular hitting hard while still enticing you to sing along. This is one of Coheed and Cambria’s darkest songs, but also one of their most catchy, serving as an excellent showcase of the band as a whole.
While the first part of The Afterman duology was relatively bright (by C&C’s standards, anyway) and fun, Descension is much darker, perhaps more in line with the band’s previous album, and this track is possibly the darkest on that album, both thematically (detailing a terrible car accident, infidelity and a miscarriage. A great time for everyone!) and tonally, featuring a chorus that doesn’t soar so much as it crashes (for lack of a better term) and a middle section detailing a medical operation to save the life of one of the characters, sees Claudio using a vocal style not present on the rest of the album. Certainly not an uplifting song, but still a fun one and possibly the strongest on either Afterman album.
The Afterman: Ascension – Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
It’s impossible to disconnect Coheed and Cambria from the storyline running through their albums; the Amory Wars, both comic books and album backdrop, are the pulsing heart of the band’s career. Thus, when it became clear that The Afterman would be a prelude of sorts, giving a lot of answers fans had been waiting for, spirits were high. The promise of finally getting more information on basic ideas like the Keywork was tantalizing; luckily, the albums more than delivered on that promise with plenty of information and a fresh take at the band’s sound.
At the basis of this new perspective is a departure from some of the musical roots of the band in favor of more grandiose influences from progressive metal. The overall feel of The Afterman is that of Coheed writ large, both in production and in composition. No track better exemplifies this than the first proper one on the album, “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute” (except for maybe some of the later takes on the second album, one of them selected above). In this epic tale, our hero encounters the first “entity” contained within the Keyword (which is a type of afterlife; we won’t dive into the lore too much here). This is Domino, a man whose own insecurities were finally his downfall.
The music follows his bout for the championship belt with his own alter-ego, the imagined perfect man, a self made person who is the envy of society. The music represents this internal/external struggle; the vocals often taken on the melodramatic timbre of a stage announcer, charging the track with narrative and momentum. The instruments are accordingly over the top, all massive riffs, echoing drums and otherwise “large” sounds, which set the stage for the epic, internal conflict between a man and his demons.
Thus does the track also capture the essence of The Afterman, which in ways departs from the often didactic narrative style of previous albums in favor of more subtle and internal monologues. It is an album about self discovery and this track, while also containing many of the signifies of this new approach for the band (which would interestingly be missing from the next album and thus might be seen as a culmination of that chapter in the band’s career), also does a great job of introducing us to many of the themes and ideas which will run through the album(s).
The Color Before The Sun – Here To Mars
One of the most endearing and engaging things about Coheed and Cambria is their sonic versatility. As we’ve discussed, the group most certainly has a multifaceted sound that allows for massive crossover potential that has put Coheed in front of metal, prog, post-hardcore, and pop rock crowds alike. They’ve utilized their diverse discography to weave a science fiction space epic through these riffs and soaring choruses, which in turn, created the most dedicated set of music dorks on the planet.
The band attempted the unthinkable and released what is so far the first and only album without a conceptual narrative tied to their Keywork saga with 2015’s The Color Before The Sun, and while reception from the fanbase was a mixed bag compared to the groundbreaking Afterman series, it did spawn some would-be Coheed staples. There were no shortage of crowd pleasers and anthems — “Island” has been a live staple and it’s hard to not get into the spirit of “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid” — and the band did tease at some heavy progressive rock with “The Audience.” However, the album’s heart and soul — and certainly a solid contender for quintessential Coheed — lies with the power-pop love song, “Here To Mars.”
The track sports understated-yet-kinetic riffing and propulsive drumming as a backdrop for some inspired space-rock guitar melodies for a haunting yet upbeat instrumental. As always, Claudio’s knack for melody and lyrical phrasing propels the track into the stratosphere with a sense of emotional honesty and vulnerability that is absolutely heart wrenching. Claudio sells his adoration for his wife and family with an affected scream during the bridge while playful bass lines and fuzzy synth tones ascend to the final chorus.
This is Coheed at its best, sporting a subtle flair for progressive and experimental musicianship with larger-than-life hooks and heart. Though simple in structure, “Here To Mars” is deceptive in its accidental summation of everything that makes Coheed such a legacy act worthy of such a dedicated and diverse set of fans. If, for some reason, you’ve skipped over this album due to its poppy disposition and have therefore not given “Here To Mars” its due diligence, give it another shot.