Coheed and Cambria Keep Prog Alive

Coheed and Cambria Keep Prog Alive
When punk rock first exploded in the 1970s, it came very much as a reaction to the bloated, pompous progressive rock of the day; as an attempt to counter the overindulgent epics of bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Pink Floyd.

So the notion that 25 years later a band would fuse the most obvious elements of prog and punk would be something of musical sacrilege. Maybe so, but someone forgot to tell Coheed and Cambria, who despite their striking similarities to Rush have found favour with emo-rock kids worldwide.

On their sophomore disc, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, the suburban New York quartet continues the fantastical post-apocalyptic love story that began on their Second Stage Turbine Blade with even more resplendence and variety. Several songs clock in eight or nine minutes each while others stick to a simple pop formula.

"We don't like to settle on one thing," offers front-man Claudio Sanchez. "We don't like to be pigeon-holed into being this kind of band or that kind of band and we're not writing music to please an audience, we're writing music to please ourselves. It's like we're down with metal, let's write metal songs but at the same time we're down with the cheesiest of pop so why not write a pop song.

"That's the thing with the greatest progressive rock bands of all time; there are so many different elements and all the songs aren't exactly the same. My love has always been those progressive rock records like later Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I'm also very much a fan of science fiction and horror movies. There came a point where I wanted to put these two things together."

The result is the second part of a four-part story of love among the ruins in a future world gone mad. But in keeping with the band's science fiction affection, they are taking a Star Wars approach to the story. The first album was part two, this disc is part three and the next album will be the fourth and final part. A fourth album will go back and tell the first part of the story. Got it?

"Coheed and Cambria are the main characters in the second and first part," Sanchez explains. "The story starts off with them and their end and the aftermath of their being. The fourth record, which will be the first part, is the essential love story before all the tragic stuff happens in parts two, three and four.

"Originally it was only going to be three parts but in writing In Keeping... we realised there was no conclusion to the story so we had to stretch it to four records. We're just going to take it as it comes until one day we think we've got the song that ends the whole thing."

Given how ambitious an undertaking the project is and how clear the game plan, it almost didn't make it past the first record. After the first disc took off, the band found itself in the midst of a relentless and gruelling tour schedule that took started taking its toll.

After sitting down with a mediator — a therapist in the form of Sanchez's aunt — they managed to keep it together.

"We had a group session and realised that the thing we want to do is in our hands and why ruin it?" he says. "We just took on too much at once and it drove us to place we didn't want to go and we ended up almost breaking up. But not many people get to do the thing they love for a living and I love to say that. We completely mended that break and here we are."