Album Reviews: Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV... by Coheed and CambriaCoheed and Cambria are easy to dismiss. They play a hybrid of two of the most maligned genres in the history of recorded music -- metal and emo -- and have a lead singer (Claudio Sanchez) who sings elaborate sci-fi tales in a voice that can sometimes be charitably compared to Alvin & The Chipmunks. To cap it off, the band, riding some strong MTV and mainstream love, made the oft-lampooned jump to the majors.
To attack Coheed and Cambria for any of this, though, misses the big picture. Listeners either like metal and emo or they don’t; the latter group shouldn’t be poking around C&C anyway. If anything, like Avenged Sevenfold, the jump to the majors has just made the band retreat into a more vintage-inspired, less of-the-moment sound. But Sanchez is a tougher hurdle to clear. His affected, pinched vocals do give him some separation from his same-sounding peers, but, for the bulk of a general audience of non-converts, will be nearly unbearable when stretched over a run time of around 70 minutes.
To be fair, Sanchez and his cohorts aren’t lacking ambition and, again, don’t make concessions to their newer and broader fan base when it would have been easy and profitable to do so. They’re still chasing their vision, but it seems like the vision is bigger than the music; the ambition backfires. There are some decent rockouts and creative flourishes on Good Apollo (especially on the EP-length “Willing Well” quartet that closes the album), but it so plainly aspires to be something momentous that it begs to be judged in that light; and underneath that lighting, Coheed and Cambria show plenty of flaws. The geeky conceptualizations of their albums, sprawled across multiple discs and featuring cumbersome titles and detailed accompanying artwork, are really just camouflage for music that rarely transcends or expands upon the same ol’ song and dance that’s been going on for 25-odd years. Lyrics are printed, but they’re best left alone; for a supposedly intellectual band, C&C spend an alarming amount of time playing the part of overwrought, overgrown teen-boys -- heartbroken misogynists.
The orchestral bombast of Good Apollo rarely transcends the gravitas or ingenuity of something like Metallica’s ballsy but ill-fated S&M -- certainly not a bad band to model your career or your chops after, but just as certainly the wrong album to use as your reference point. - Adam McKibbin
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