The only thing that's really "progressive" about Coheed & Cambria is the fact that their combined output has "progressed" enough to result in the release of this terrific new album. And, progressively speaking, the band has greatly improved with each new release.
This is the second volume in the fourth and final chapter of The Armory Wars saga. Those unfamiliar with the band may find that the titles seem like gibberish at first. But bear with them: Coheed's storytelling abilities transcend just their music — and if one word could best sum up their output, it would be "epic." And that latter term sums them up perfectly, both musically and lyrically.
Each song is like a chapter. (If you download the music, it's essential to go to their Web site to also download the lyric book that comes with the album.) Each song here is like an individual chapter, concluding with "The End Complete," essentially a five-song coda. And unlike many "progressive" bands of the past, the individual songs work alone. In fact, three consecutive tracks here — "Mother Superior," "Gravemakers & Gunslingers" and "Justice in Murder" — tell an incredible story and work well apart from the album as a whole.
The band has tweaked its sound a tad this time out. This is their first release to feature Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins — but those concerned about his addition to the lineup shouldn't worry. The band rocks harder than ever. There's also a lot of experimentation with organs and pianos, giving the album a slightly different sound and aura than previous releases. The band has described it as a quest to sound like "Ray Charles on Quaaludes." Nevertheless, there are still melodies, riffs and themes from past albums that the listener will pick up on immediately. As a result, the songs flow effortlessly into each other
There are also more guitar solos, courtesy of the band's Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever, than in the past — and they are all off the wall, running from hard rocking to some very sultry and bluesy guitar lines predominantly featured on "On The Brink," the album's closing track. And Sanchez sings his intricate lyrics with such ease and punctuation that it practically boggles the mind. Consider him "the J.R.R. Tolkien of rock."
Coheed & Cambria give the listener so much, both musically and lyrically, it can almost be overwhelming at times. Sometimes the music rocks so hard, instrumentally, one doesn't even end up paying much attention to the group's elaborate songwriting.
There have been rumors that this release spells an end to the band, since it concludes the saga. But fear not! There are already talks of a prequel album and even some spinoff stories. Apparently, the Coheed saga involves 78 different planets, offering all kinds of future possibilities.
Coheed & Cambria play at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451.