Coheed & Cambria – The Second Stage Turbine Blade

Coheed & Cambria
The Second Stage Turbine Blade

With all of the cut-and-paste “emo” bands coming out of the woodworks these days, a breath of progressive air is totally welcome. This bit of unchecked originality in the face of the status quo comes courtesy of Coheed & Cambria. C&C is a concept band whose songs center around an ongoing saga entitled the “Bag Online Adventures,” a sort of post-apocalyptic science fiction love story. That’s right. No thick glasses. No songs about breaking up with your high school sweetheart. Nothing that sounds remotely like Weezer.
What makes Coheed & Cambria a true original isn’t just the concept the band is based upon but also its original, unmistakable sound. Falling somewhere in between emo-core and prog rock, this band unites two genres that are seemingly miles apart on the musical map. The guitars are often complex, use multiple effects, and help to paint a vivid picture of the world of C&C. Sometimes the instrumentation is sparse and minimalist and at other times its skillfully-layered and complex. As ambitious as this may sound, everything fits together amazingly well and remains accessible and even *gasp* catchy. Coheed & Cambria has a real penchant for making offbeat and quirky pop melodies that are based mostly on lead singer Claudio’s seemingly limitless vocal range. Singing both male and female parts, his ability to be legitimately androgynous isn’t too far away from Placebo’s Brian Molko. Even though he concentrates on hitting soaring highs, Claudio can also deliver guttural growls and piercing screams with the most tortured emo-core vocalist.
“Time Consumer,” the album’s first true track, is a spacey bounce with an epic-yet-poppy chorus. This song features the guitar-stylings of the “legendary” Dr. Know of Bad Brains fame. As cool as it may be to namedrop, Dr. Know’s contribution is indistinguishable from the normal guitar work on the rest of the album. “Devil in Jersey City” alludes to C&C’s previous incarnation known as Shebutie. This track is more apparently poppy and features a moment of Ramones-style “oh-oh-oh’s.” “Delerium Trigger” is the album’s best track, a dark, brooding song that culminates in an epic explosion.
As accessible as their sound may be, the story the band is supposed to be telling is very vague. Maybe being easily understood isn’t the point, but lines like “Hold in your last breath and stare / Assure me your metronome left arm stick shift is stuck on the right works in your ear / Could you hear me loud and clear?” doesn’t paint a very clear picture. However, this is only a minor complaint in the face of a truly great concept.
Since Coheed & Cambria shares the names of the two main characters that its music focuses on, just what is it anyway? Is it music? Well, obviously. Is it literature? Partly – they are telling a story after all. Because of the storytelling aspect of their music, C&C’s live show would have the potential for stage theatrics. With such an ambitious concept, C&C run the risk of having many things go wrong. It wouldn’t be hard to be cheesy, and it’d be very easy to be overly pretentious. Despite all the potential for getting it wrong, The Second Stage Turbine Blade is a perfectly crafted album that defies traditional musical concepts while remaining accessible.