Coheed and Cambria are one of the most popular rock bands of the last 20 years. Their career has so far spanned seven albums (and with the release of The Color Before The Sun in October, an even eight) and a handful of lineup changes.
Today, September 20, 2015 marks the 10 year anniversary of what is widely considered the band’s biggest album, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. Often abbreviated as Good Apollo, the album is the third major release from the band, and marks the band’s rise to prominence backed by its powerful singles and solid orchestration.
Every major rock band of the last 60 years has their one huge hit song: the one that even non-listeners can bring up when asked. Pink Floyd had “Another Brick in the Wall,” The Who had “Baba O’Reily,” Styx has “Come Sail Away,” and Led Zeppelin had “Stairway to Heaven.” These songs transcend the band’s discography and find their place on countdowns and lists of the best rock songs of all time.
Good Apollo gave rise to that song for Coheed, the 6 minute epic “Welcome Home.” The song is, by all definitions, massive: the heavy, guitar-laden track has more than a handful of parts that are perfect for singing out at a concert or with your friends. The song ends with a minute of straight guitar solo accompanied by choral vocals that fade out to a handful of strings. All in all, it’s a great ride.
“Welcome Home” was everywhere for years after this album came out, from video game soundtracks to film scores to television commercials. It’s the one song the band has probably performed more times than the rest of their discography combined.
Contrasted with “Welcome Home,” the album’s other single “The Suffering” gave everyone a catchy, bright musical counterpoint. The video was full of fantastic imagery, with a centaur and a mermaid battling various beasts in a cave. For a lot of people, these are the two songs that encapsulate Good Apollo, and even as a die-hard fan, everyone can appreciate these songs as more than just radio-friendly singles.
However, it’s when we delve into the meat of this album that the band gets to flex their progressive chops, with songs like “Apollo I: The Writing Writer” and “Mother May I” showcasing the band’s ability to play around with odd drum timing from Josh Eppard. There are loud boisterous moments (a la the four-song “Willing Well” suite, culminating with “The Final Cut,” an 8 minute guitar duel over a heavy shuffle), but also songs like “Always & Never” and “Wake Up,” which are dependent on minimal, muted instrumentation to bring forth the full weight of front man Claudio Sanchez’s vocal performance and lyrics. In short, this album has something for everyone, from the casual listener to the progressive rock fan.
I appreciate this album not only from a musical standpoint, but also from where it stands in the story of the band Coheed and Cambria. The band’s two prior releases, Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, are a portrait of a band evolving and changing their sound, and Good Apollo is kind of a musical peak. The band’s sound always seemed like it couldn’t get any better, yet always managed to be as good and as distinct as everything before it.
This is also the last album in which the original lineup are all present: shortly after Good Apollo‘s release, drummer Josh Eppard left the band due to substance abuse issues (Eppard, clean for the last 6 years, has since rejoined the band and played drums on their last two releases and the upcoming Sun). More recently, bassist Mic Todd was arrested hours before the band was performing at Madison Square Garden for attempting to rob a pharmacy for prescription medication.
After Eppard’s departure, the band hired former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie, who due to contractual obligations was unable to record drums on the band’s fourth album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow. Pennie instead wrote drum parts to be played by Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
No World For Tomorrow was a marked departure from the band’s sound on the first three albums, with considerably more studio magic going on, an increased focus on Claudio’s vocals and less focus on lead guitarist Travis Stever’s work. The next album Year of the Black Rainbow saw the band trying a more electronic sound, which complimented drummer Pennie’s intricate linear play style.
Of the first five albums, which form the bulk of The Amory Wars concept the band’s music is based around, Good Apollo is the album I would offer is the truest look at Coheed and Cambria. This album is the original lineup finally figuring out just how huge they could sound and going out and doing it. It’s still as sharp sounding as ever ten years on, and I can pull it out for a listen any time and never get bored.
So on this, the evening of September 20, 2015, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank You” to:
for creating an album that will live on not only in the hearts and minds of Coheed fans, but also in the annals of rock history. With Good Apollo, Coheed ascended into the upper echelon of rock bands.