Welcome To Their World

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

When punk rock emerged in the late 1970s, one of the musical styles that the new wave of young bands rebelled against was progressive rock.  With their short, high energy, angry songs, the punk bands were the antithesis of groups like Genesis, Rush and Jethro Tull, who could easily fill a whole side of a vinyl album with just one or two songs.  Gone too was the notion of the concept album, where all the songs centered around a theme or told a story.

Now, New York based emo band Coheed and Cambria is turning the whole punk ethos on its head by embracing the notions of prog-rock and the concept album with a vengeance.  With the raw guitar sounds and emotional intensity of punk, plus the intelligence and refined musical stylings of 70s rock, this innovative group has been tipped by several critics as “the next big thing.”  The band’s 2002 debut album, “The Second Stage Turbine Blade,” told the story of two fictional characters named Coheed and Cambria, a husband and wife who must eventually sacrifice their children to save the universe.  The follow-up, “Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3,” released in October of last year, continues the story, basing itself around a premonition that one of the characters has during a dream.  A series of graphic novels, due to be published later this year, promises to reveal more of the story.

Coheed and Cambria evolved from a band named Shabutie, started in 1995 by singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez.  However, the band lacked a sense of direction.  “It was always in the back of our minds, ‘Yeah, let’s go make records and try to get signed to a label,’ but it was never something we… had the momentum or motivation to pursue,” said Sanchez.  “So that band played, like, a wide variety of just weird things.  Like it was combinations of funk, metal – just weird.”  Audience reactions to Shabutie were lukewarm, and after some lineup changes, Shabutie found a new direction and a new name.

After submitting several demos to Equal Vision Records, the label took an interest in Coheed and Cambria, and it was at about this time that the concept album idea really began to develop.  The result was “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” and a grueling six month US tour.  This tour was nearly the end of the band, the pressures of being on the road causing the members to return home to rest, unsure of whether or not they wanted to continue playing together.

After a break, however, the members of Coheed and Cambria decided that they did indeed wish to continue, and since that time the band has toured the US three times in addition to writing and recording the new album.  “I think what has made the difference is that now we exist more like a family than a band,” said Sanchez, “and that has brought us all closer together and made the highs and lows just a part of our lives and not the end of the world.”

The band’s fans are certainly happy that they are staying together, and eagerly await the next installment of Coheed and Cambria’s adventures.  You can go and immerse yourself in their world this Friday at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, January 22, 2004

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