Progressive rock isn’t just for nerds. Mostly for nerds, but not exclusively. I jest, but if a series of rock albums following the narrative of a comic book about an epic interplanetary war is nerdy then I’ll gladly accept my honorary pocket protector.
Welcome to another Freegal album review. This month we’re examining the debut album by Coheed and Cambria, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. If you haven’t heard about the library’s free music streaming service Freegal, you can read all about it in my blog post here.
The Second Stage Turbine Blade is a concept album and the second part of a tetralogy chronicling the Amory Wars, a science fiction series developed by the band’s lead singer and front man, Claudio Sanchez. The band itself is named after two prominent characters from the series first introduced in this debut album. If you’re not one to analyze lyrical content that’s okay, you don’t need to dive into the sci-fi narrative to enjoy Coheed and Cambria’s music, but a little background on the series helps make sense of some of the song titles and themes.
Coheed and Cambria are an interesting blend of prog-rock, post-hardcore, and emo which makes it difficult to put their sound in a neat little box. While sharing aspects of these sub genres, Coheed and Cambria sound very distinct from their influences and peers. Expertly combining the more intricate and subtle songwriting craft of prog-rock while maintaining a youthful and energetic hardcore drive, the band excels at writing complex rock anthems that stick with the listener. Claudio’s high vocal range and unique voice make the band’s songs immediately distinguishable, daring the listener to sing along, and the intricate guitar leads add another technical level to the band’s sound.
Like many first releases, The Second Stage Turbine Blade is a little rough around the edges both in terms of production and songwriting. Tracks feel incongruent and sound effects and arrangement make some transitions awkward. However, there’s a lot of good material and the band’s potential is on full display. Coheed and Cambria’s sophomore release, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is a fantastic follow up that perfectly illustrates a band finding their stride and crafting a particular sound. This would continue onto their third album, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, which features the absolutely killer song “Welcome Home”.
Best tracks include “Hearshot Kid Disaster”, “God Send Conspirator”, and “Devil in New Jersey”. All three feature great soaring choruses and ripping guitar leads. I can’t listen to “Hearshot Kid Disaster” without it getting stuck in my head for days and “Devil in New Jersey” is an incredibly upbeat jam contrasted by its bleak lyrics. If you haven't checked them out yet login to Freegal and give them a listen, and next time you're in the library tell me what you think.