Album Review
Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm... Album Cover

Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm...

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This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Coheed and Cambria
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Columbia Records

{SCORE: 8.7-9.5/10} - see sliding scale explanation in last paragraph

1. Keeping the Blade
2. Always and Never
3. Welcome Home
4. Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial)
5. Crossing the Frame
6. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
7. Once Upon Your Dead Body
8. Wake Up
9. The Suffering
10. The Lying Lies and Dirty Secrets of Miss Erica Court
11. Mother May I
12. The Willing Well I: Fuel for the Feeding End
13. The Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
14. The Willing Well III: Apollo II: The Telling Truth
15. The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut

Where do you begin with an album that boasts a title like Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. Within this one 15 word heading there are fictional characters, made up locations, and roman numerals. That’s a lot to swallow without prior knowledge of where this seemingly over-the-top band is coming from. Yes, their music is eccentric, the vocals are outlandish, their concept is odd, and the lead singer sports an afro. But behind all this mystery and chaotic foreground there is a band with goals, aspirations, and ideas very real, and very important. Some would call them pioneers in the world of rock and roll, others would call them saviors of the classic rock sound, and still some would deem them progressive emo sci-fi nerds. Not everyone has the taste or patience for such a group, advertising these ostentatious (perhaps irritatingly so) designations. But it would be hard to deny the fact that Coheed and Cambria have and are bound to make some kind of transcendent and ultimately memorable mark on the world of rock music that we know today. The band’s latest album is the most recent benchmark along this exciting musical journey, and will coincide with the release of a graphic novel that will tell its story. I am aware that among those who have already heard advance copies of the record, opinions and reactions vary, and many comparisons are being made to Coheed and Cambria’s stunning and unforgettable freshman and sophomore records, The Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, respectively. In my own review, I won’t attempt to mask my violent bias as a huge fan of the band’s work and purpose, but I will account for it and relate to you, as someone who has seen the band perform multiple times from small venues to large, acoustic to electric, and at different stages of their growth, as someone who has followed and studied the story and its interpretations from the start, and as someone who has spent enormous amounts of time listening to and analyzing each of the band’s three records, how and where I feel Coheed and Cambria’s latest creation stands among their catalogue, and music in general.

(Please skip to paragraph 4 for Good Apollo review without background notes/analysis)

The Second Stage Turbine Blade was a strange and unexpected release for its time, and has since become somewhat of a classic for fans. The production had a vintage raw quality, the music was unique and abnormal, the vocals were startlingly high ranged, and the lyrics were out of this world. Truthfully it was unlike anything I’d ever heard, and still stands beyond comparison. Somehow with odd melodies, slightly irregular structure, and weird aspects in all, the album won over a large group of fans and established the presence of Coheed and Cambria and the intriguing idea that the album was the second section of a 4 part, 5 album science fiction tale. It varies among listeners, but some enjoy the existence of the story and others choose to ignore it, but let’s address it for the sake of the review. It is hard to argue that most forms of music find success in the ability to derive pathos from the listener, especially in a genre such as ours that conjures up terms like “emo.” So how does a group of musicians go after this facet of musical composition while talking about characters that only exist in a far off space-age world, or face fictional circumstances? Somehow, someway Coheed managed, and soon had crowds screaming lyrics like “Jesse, just come look at what your brother did,” “Dear Newo Ikkin, how’s Apollo been treating you?” “Norris and Larry, Gloria to nowhere,” and “Evolve Monstar.” Immediately one has to acknowledge this feat as somewhat of a phenomenon.

Coheed and Cambria continued their trend a little more than a year later with the highly anticipated follow-up album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. For months fans anxiously paced their floors wondering a) What’s next with this radical story? And how will it be communicated musically? b) With a larger field of support and a drastically larger fan-base, where will Coheed and Cambria take their oddball trademark sound? In Keeping Secrets answered with 12 songs that suddenly changed the highlight adjectives from eerie and bizarre to… yup, you guessed it… dun dun dunnn... EPIC. Ohhhh, epic… today the word is almost synonymous with Coheed and Cambria, but we can be indebted to the sound established on the sophomore comeback for first spawning the description. As the fantastical orchestration led the album into the 8 minute juggernaut title track, no one was unmoved. The moody hypnotizing open riff birthed a cacophonous roar of battle echoing power riffs and violent lyrics. An instrumental call to arms it was, and it marked a new epoch for Coheed’s music. Song length and degree of “epicness” were added to the myriad of factors that make a song distinctly Coheed. Though some were discouraged by scattered lighter listening pop singles on the album, the overall feedback was highly positive, and the standout tracks coupled with the progression of the story (including priceless flashbacks to Second Stage) and lots of newly improved musicianship, made the record well worth experiencing and falling in love with. In terms of sound, In Keeping Secrets was actually quite a departure from Second Stage. I would say the ratio of completely new material to old influences was about was something like 70/30. To sum it up, entirely different production, more rock and roll based guitar work (the appearance of extended solos particularly), a comparatively deeper tone to Claudio’s voice, more discernable and comprehensive lyrical standard (though still poignantly abstract), and experimentation with new sounds (“woah ohs” in Blood Red Summer, the Latin vibe of Faint of Hearts, the relaxed ballad-like pace at the start of The Light and the Glass, and the completely jagged 2113) all accumulated to make the record a very separate entity from its predecessor.

Keeping the Blade. Coheed and Cambria’s monstrous and glorified third record begins with what is now recognized as the dazzling and dramatic theme song for their Bag Online Adventures of Coheed and Cambria series, under which title, each chapter of their story falls/rises. The cinematic opener offers the same luscious thrill as say the soundtrack in Lord of the Rings when the infamous emblem first appears out of the darkness. The title and ornate orchestration on Keeping the Blade serves as a no-less-than perfect motif to stand atop the tracklisting. The name incorporates words from the titles of the band’s previous two albums to form a new one, and the breathtaking overture implores thematic tunes, also from each prior release, and unites them with a stream of new composition. This conglomerate of past work bonded by new creation, no matter its original intention, exists as an almost perfect representation of the direction in which the band’s sound is currently situated.

Whereas the variation from Second Stage to In Keeping Secrets appeared to be around a 70/30 ratio of new sound/old sound, the degree of new sound/old sound from In Keeping Secrets to Good Apollo is a variation quite obviously closer to 55/45. Whether in the form of complaint, or simply critique, the greater measure of similarity has certainly been a foremost observation this time around, thus I want to confront it firstly. The question of how much a band should change or evolve their sound from record to record is one without answer. Some fans are turned off by drastic change, hoping for a return to the glory of a band’s earlier work, and others embrace it with an open mind when a band makes a record vastly different from where they started, while still many appreciate most a midpoint between the two. On Good Apollo, Coheed have no doubt tried out a slew of new vices and faintly altered their songwriting technique, but it is undeniable that the totality of the sound is extremely akin to their last record, and some have even deemed it In Keeping Secrets Part 2. I agree, but to an extent. As I said, the development is not nearly as radical here as it was between the first two releases, but Good Apollo is by no means an exact replica. Sure there are chants, “hey hey”s, a few vocal trails, and one or two guitar riffs that seem to recall parts of In Keeping Secrets, but to focus on these minute details that are only the tiniest percentage of the music present is a blind tactic. For the first time ever Coheed and Cambria have integrated full fleshed drawn out solos, descript and clear lyrics (well… almost), orchestra effects, full-on acoustic songs, synthesizer fills, released a headstrong hard edged single, mixed in mandolin and lap steel, continued a song on two separate tracks, and written a predominantly straightforward rock record. If you want to cavil on about those few rehashed moments, be my guest, but a smart listener wouldn’t deny themselves all the sonic pleasures available.

The richly composed intro should serve to sweep you away and suspend your beliefs for the duration of the album; however it leads to perhaps my biggest personal gripe. On an album as conceptual as any belonging to Coheed, the flow is key and necessary. The first actual song, “Always and Never,” is lovely and touching but has no place whatsoever following Keeping the Blade. Whereas the intro to In Keeping Secrets lead directly into the dissonant opening strings of the most epic track, the cohesion (no pun intended) would be much increased if this record delved right into the first muted pluckings of “Welcome Home.” The orchestral build up is for lack of a better word wasted on the slow and cute acoustic opener. That aside, there is nothing to be said about Welcome Home that hasn’t already been said. It is stand-alone a marvelous rush of rock and roll sure to get adrenaline flowing. “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial),” is another focal point, with Claudio singing in the sinister way that only he can. The soothing bridge is sung beautifully, and my one complaint is that the dialogue found here and also in “Apollo I: The Writing Writer” is very unclear and in that way frustrating. Claudio screaming “God’s Blood!” is an awesome way to close out the track.

Coheed and Cambria make their tracks flourish with two main techniques, progressive single note guitar attacks that usually energize the verses and make them run, and secondly with bridges that come off really uplifting and/or soaring. The former strategy holds up songs like “Ten Speed,” and perhaps the most furiously energized song, “Apollo I: The Writing Writer.” The latter method is the factor has produced the “Dear Claudio-oh-oh!”s, the “Pull the trigger and the nightmare stops”, the “Dear Ambellina”s, and the “Bye Bye Beautiful”s of the past. It is those moments that might bring a smile to your face because they fill you up with a stir of musical delight and passion. I feel Good Apollo is more jam packed with these moments, while all not as immediately memorable as those above, than any other previous release. Most notably I point out the bridges of “Crossing the Frame,” “Once Upon Your Dead Body,” my favorite bridge in “Mother May I,” and a number of segments from the “Willing Wells”. These welcomed changes in the pace and the mood of the music keep it interesting and inspired. Also, as always the choruses are at once gripping and catchy, never weighing a song down in the least.

“Once Upon Your Dead Body,” presents a unique groove in which you can certainly hear Claudio’s been influenced by The Beach Boys, and thankfully so. “Woah oh, oh woah I hope you die right now will you drink my chemical?” is not only one of the most engaging lines in the album but dangerously catchy, so be cautious. The buoyant tune is trailed closely by the album’s true ballad. “Wake Up,” has received mixed reviews, mostly because it is really soft listening, but this has got to be one of the most beautiful songs released this year, and shows the most emotional side of Claudio ever revealed. If you find it overly sappy, consider Claudio’s inspiration:

"'I wrote that song in what felt like one minute” says Sanchez. "I had just gotten on a plane to go back to New York after spending time with my girlfriend in California. The band was getting ready to go out on the road again and I didn't know when I'd see her next. So I was sad, and this song came out. I sent it to her and it made her cry. As to where the influence for something like that comes from, it was really just a case of that being the song I needed to write in order to make it to the next day.”

-Guitar World

“The Suffering,” and “The Lying Lies of Miss Erica Court,” are two strong back to back songs. “The Suffering,” is a good example of the fact that Good Apollo is very much a “headphones” album as some would call it. There are so many production effects and second instrumentals behind the foreground that fill each song to the brim; it really pays off to listen to the album through a good set of headphones to pick up on all these audio treats. “The Suffering,” is sheer genius pop-songwriting, and some of the background vocals are so glamorous, the clips around 1:20 and 2:27 specifically. The apparent story behind this album is that it deals with the life of the man who is writing this story of Coheed and Cambria. In the first 11 tracks there is such a clear struggle occurring in this person’s life, with relationships, loss, love, and even with the characters and the fate of his tale. The interaction between writer and story provides for such intriguing lyrical relationships, unlike any other record out there. For instance, “In my presence you might wake, through this fiction I must fake, your death to grace the face of my character.” This apparent struggle comes to a heartrending emotional peak at the end of “Mother May I,” in the lyrics, “So give ‘em the story they want you to, before you leave me.” Claudio is crossing all kinds of metaphoric boundaries with this now multi-layered story that parallels his real life, and it is going to be such a thrill to watch it play out in the graphic novel and other comic releases. If he can pull this whole plot together, not only will it be a complete saga, but it will raise the payback value of all Coheed’s albums tenfold and add a whole new facet of meaning to the more cryptic sections.

Finally we come to the four part, nearly 30 minute grandiloquent, mesmerizing, transitional, frantic, surprising, and enthralling finale: The Willing Well I-IV. Together these four pieces sit along side classics like 2113, Junesong Provision, The Crowing, and Everything Evil, as the most dramatic and entertaining work this band has done. “The Willing Well I: Fuel For the Feeding End,” should instantly appease those deterred by the more straightforward first half of the album, with its completely sporadic structure and constantly changing tempos. Personally I am in awe of this song, where each transition is better than the last. Let’s go through this: 2:11- the hardest hitting and most angry clip on the album (“Run little maggot!”) with intensely dark vocals 2:39- as light as air, Spanish lyrics float over happy power chords 3:15- jumpy guitar strokes backed by a shrill guitar tone and emphasized by empowered singing (“Why would you deny my answers?”) 3:43- suddenly presents a seductive and technical atmosphere (“The curve of your body, how I want, how I want”) which explodes at 4:05 into a sweeping mixture of solos and single note riffs over down stroked chords (“The bitter end of all to come, the truth be known here one by one”) (etc. etc. etc.). This entire composition blows me away, and “The Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” only continues the hypnotic rock and roll onslaught, with a somehow poppy prog-rock aura until 3:41 when we are blessed by the most passionate bridge of the album. If you aren’t moved by this practically theatric outburst, than you are numb, or this is utterly not your brand of music. “The Willing Well III: Apollo II: The Telling Truth” makes a bold move in completely recalling the earlier Apollo I but comes out completely successful. The summoning of a tune from the earlier portion of the record, serves as a key demonstration of how events in the writer’s life and his actions now take their toll on the story portion (Willing Well I-IV). Furthermore, the reappearance of a riff from In Keeping Secrets’ “Blood Red Summer,” and lyrics from Second Stage’s “Everything Evil,” highlights the significance of past events. This reflection gains even more mystery and worth if you watch this short clip from the Second Stage recording sessions. Interesting huh? Regardless, this flashback moment has become a staple for Coheed albums and offers a fun thrill for fans every time. The last 8 minutes of the album present to us “The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut”, aptly titled as a conclusive track and also as a tribute to Pink Floyd. Here we find an emotionally distraught character at the very brink of sanity screaming at the one who betrayed him which bleeds into an impressive elongated blues solo, leaving the official end of the album in an ominous and dismal haze of to be continued-ness. I talked earlier about Claudio’s ability to evoke pathos even within his bizarre sci-fi opus, and the roller coaster ride in these last 4 songs is a perfect testament. The listener is dragged around each and every bend, thrown through the ups and downs, and as one listens it is clear that a story of epic proportions is unfolding before their ears! The Willing Wells are a literal adventure, and a true rock opera, a whole different echelon of music. The bonus track found afterwards is a country bluegrass theme known as “Bron-Y-Aur,” (a tribute to Led Zeppelin), which to me sounds like an implication of a return home, perhaps in the sense of going to heaven. The last sound we hear would prove to be good old Apollo himself, saying his farewell. Until Volume II….

{SCORE: 8.7-9.5/10)

I scored this album on a sliding scale from 8.5-9.7. Essentially, I just couldn’t choose a number that would accurately convey the appeal of the record, because it really depends upon the listener. For myself, as a devoted fan, I throw up the 9.7 without hesitation but I realize my bias, and this scale is meant to compensate for that. Empathetically, I could very well see why someone who is not as passionate about the vision and music of the band wouldn’t consider this a mind-blowing release, but to try and deny its scope and greatness is an oversight. Don’t compare this album to The Second Stage Turbine Blade, it is useless. The type of rock music on Good Apollo is so far from what you hear on Second Stage that each record could literally belong to a different band. Second Stage won’t be repeated. Instead focus on the here and now. Good Apollo is spectacular and a perfect addition to the Coheed and Cambria catalogue. The unique musicianship and out of this world premise that constitutes the band’s art makes for such a realm of excitement and intensity, and if you’ve ever seen the climactic conclusion of a Coheed show, where Claudio solos with his teeth, sings into the pickups of his guitar, plays behind his head, and finally aims the neck of the guitar at the crowd and fires his weapon of rock and roll, you know what I’m talking about. This is no beginning, this is the Final Cut. Be prepared for the beginning of the end…
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 25
12:10 AM on 02/20/06
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holy crap you said everything.
10:34 PM on 02/25/06
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live.love.die's Avatar
What can I say. Coheed is just amazing. Although I am not a huge fan of their lyrics and some will throw this back at me and disagree and tell me the whole story behind all their albums and all that jazz that I have heard a million times now. This record I find to be repetitive with the lyrics. Everything else was exceptionally a Coheed and Cambria record and sound and was amazing. Although I have to say that this is my least favourite album by the band. Also, "The Suffering" has to be my least favourite track on the CD. "The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut" has to be the best most PHENOMINAL track on the record. In my opinion, In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 was their best album, then their previous album and then last this one. I give this album an 8 out of 10. This is not a review, simply just a statement. If you want to know why I think this album was not their best or why I gave it what I gave it, or just want to know why, just ask. This is not my review, it is to the very knowledgeable man who wrote this. I know the band also, but I didn't write the review.
03:28 PM on 03/22/06
a speedo model
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a speedo model's Avatar
good album.
08:46 AM on 03/23/06
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ThisIsAName's Avatar
its a good album... and they are good live!
09:32 AM on 04/30/06
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this album is an easy 100
10:24 AM on 04/30/06
Mr. Himself
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Great album. Coheed is amazing live.
12:51 PM on 12/07/06
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oshyjay's Avatar
Simply Amazing.

All Coheed albums are like that...they have their own way.
I'd been jamming to the previous two (and completely in awe) and I felt a bit disappointed by this one...but I think it takes a different set of ears to truly appreciate this album. The first two are geared more towards that "instant gratification" (if that's even possible, with an 8-minute opening song) than this one; not because they were any less "mature"; but because Coheed is an entity that, with all it's different forms, is beautiful no matter which way they're trying to sound.
It's not Second Stage, it's not In Keeping Secrets, and yet they're all distinctly Coheed.
Amazing CD.
One of my all-time favorites (along with their other two releases).
11:47 AM on 12/30/06
bippity boppity
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Praetor's Avatar
Good review. Long, but good.
05:49 PM on 03/14/07
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cadavermine's Avatar
best band ever!
07:34 AM on 06/16/07
Not that easy to confuse
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Poochemist's Avatar
Whoa dude, good review, although you say more than what needs to be said for this album specifically.
05:38 PM on 06/26/07
The liberty to serve
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speakhandsforme's Avatar
what happened to the ratings?
10:41 AM on 07/31/07
don't you quote me!
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industrialbelt's Avatar
best review i've seen on this site so far.
04:59 PM on 08/26/07
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guitarhead913's Avatar
out of all of the coheed albums, this one has the best production.
plus i think welcome home is probably up there in top three best songs they've ever written
07:55 PM on 09/17/07
Everything Evil
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Gumbyjag's Avatar
Easily the best review I read on this site. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

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