By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – In a time when consumers struggled with the age-old conundrum of whether to spend their hard-earned entertainment dollar on records or comic books, a hero would emerge. Make that two heroes. Enter Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon; star-crossed lovers destined to sacrifice themselves to heal the future and bring joy to consumers across the galaxy. Conceived by guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Claudio Sanchez, this interstellar power couple gradually became the locus of the band named in their honour.
What began as a side-project penning fantasy comic books became reality as Sanchez’s Amory Wars saga burst forth, completed with the help of his bandmates guitarist/vocalist Travis Stever, drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Josh Eppard and bassist/vocalist Zach Cooper. Translating his mercurial graphics and prose into exhilarating yet poignant prog rock anthems, Sanchez has succeeded in bringing an epic library of images and characters into the recording studio.
Setting the stage with their debut album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade (Equal Vision Records) in 2002, Coheed and Cambria introduced audiences to the main characters and their harrowing plight. The epic Amory Wars installments continued with complimentary comic books and novels.
“Second Stage Turbine Blade was very conceptually driven, but this is conceptually driven more than any album we’ve ever done,” Stever elaborates. “Conceptually and story wise it’s precise. It’s really awesome edge-of-your-seat story and it’s just going to continue from here. It’s an honour to be a part of it, to have those extra media outlets and those extra miles that people can run with it. There’s a whole world that people can get into. And that’s huge!”
A true passion project, Sanchez’s otherworldly vision has become a key element of his creative lifestyle. The journey of story weaving and song crafting is something he enjoys sharing with the world and more importantly, with the people closest to him.
We were writing off of the musical atmosphere more before, but now it’s kinda there already. Claudio’s wife Shandra has been working on writing the story for a long time now. They do it together, but she’s the main writer on this. Basically, what is happening is the songs were built lyrically to coincide with the story that they were already brewing. And the songs themselves were coming from what the storyline is,” he says.
“There were a couple of songs that we thought might just be bonus tracks, but then they just worked. “Love Protocol” was one that turned out to be my favourite on the album! “All on Fire” was a song that musically turned into something that everybody was really excited about and lyrically works perfect within the story. He adjusted the lyrics so that they were perfectly in line with the story. Those are the songs that are like examples of building blocks that he could put in there, but then there are songs like “The Dark Sentencer,” and “Old Flames” where it’s so crucial to the storyline.”
Focused on delivering emotionally loaded and musically complex bursts of energy where it counts, Coheed and Cambria has occasionally deviated from the Amory Wars plotline. 2015’s The Color Before the Sun was the band’s first non-conceptual album. But true to their alien nature, Coheed and Cambria have returned to form and the stage with a new battery swashbuckling space tales. Vaxis ñ Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures will be released in October of 2018, and continues the stellar narrative and the tradition of ponderously long names that fans have come to adore.
By any name, there are few things sweeter to Coheed and Cambria’s ears than the sounds of this self-produced album, which is a true landmark for a band that’s already accomplished so much.
When we went into the studio initially it was just try out a few songs we self-produced with longtime friend and engineer Chris Bitner, who had worked with us on previous Coheed albums. We really wanted to go and try it out and just see how it turned out for us to do it that way. We did “Unheavenly Creatures” and another song called “Toys” and showed them to Roadrunner Records and they were like ‘Great! Let’s do this!’ So, that was like the test run for us to do it ourselves.”
Given free rein to construct the album of their dreams, the collaborative group came to appreciate the true value of time they spent together, being present in the moment and putting their fingerprints on every detail.
Of course, you get into the studio and everybody starts adding different flavours to the songs. Like the scientist’s chemical lab where everybody’s adding something,” Stever recalls. “But being able to do it ourselves was such an honour, because we were able to work on the communication of being able to center on each other in parts. We give direct opinions, cuz it ours and we’re getting together.”
Coheed and Cambria perform September 14 at Shaw Conference Centre (Edmonton), September 15 at MacEwan (Calgary), September 16 at O’Brians Event Centre (Saskatoon), and September 18 at Burton Cummings Theatre (Winnipeg)Burton Cummings Theatre, Coheed and Cambria, MacEwan, O'Brian's Event Centre, Shaw Conference Centre