Welcome, dear readers of It Djents, to another episode of A Scene In Retrospect! We’re already reaching double digits here, since this is the tenth article of the series. So come one, come all, for we (read: our PR/social media manager Inter, our Editor-in-chief Landon, our writer/editor Tyler, and of course yours truly) will talk about a very special record today: Coheed and Cambria‘s third full-length album Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness. What a mouthful, am I right? Anyway, please enjoy the ensuing ramblings!
Coheed and Cambria fascinated me from the early beginning. I always loved conceptual records, and to get into a band which is a concept in its core was an amazing and exciting experience. I won’t lie, Claudio Sanchez’ voice distracted me a bit, and back in my metal-teeny days they were simply not heavy enough. But yeah, the concept aspect seduced me a bit, and I always had them on my player.
Over the years, my love for progressive rock grew, and I’ve decided to give them another spin, this time 100%. Which meant, delving into The Amory Wars, reading all the lyrics, checking the comics and trying to understand the artistic vision behind Coheed’s concept. How does the musical style of a song affect the perception of the story chapter? The Amory Wars opened up for me, and I was caught in its eccentricity, feyness and beauty. However, I’m here to talk about Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness.
For the first time, the story is told through eyes of The Writer, who tries to do the story of protagonist Claudio Kilgannon justice. In the end, The Writer decides to kill Claudio’s guide Ambellina, to let him finally become The Crowing.
Nerdy, right? I always loved this about the band, and about that album in particular. You can listen to it and enjoy the songs without any deeper understanding of the themes, and it would be an amazing album full of songs like “Welcome Home”, “The Suffering”, or the “The Willing Well” quadrilogy. But the backstory gives the album another meaningful level, a certain depth and the much needed continuity to the great story. This duality is the common theme which makes Coheed and Cambria such an outstanding band, and GAIBIVV1:FFTTEOM such an oustanding album.
As a band, Coheed and Cambria have never been as consistently progressive or universally acclaimed as they had been on Good Apollo Volume 1. That isn’t to say the rest of their catalogue is lacking in narrative and thematic complexity, but simply that this album manages to be one of those special works that transcends its genre and influences many who come after. This is in part to the deceptively catchy “Welcome Home” drawing listeners in, but also with the sweeping “The Willing Well” quadrilogy that encapsulates the band’s writing at its strongest.
There are countless defining moments that elevate this album, but like many, it was that neoclassical opening riff from “Welcome Home” that brought me in initially. From there, the music keeps giving. Be it the melancholic atmosphere of “Keeping the Blade”’s intro lilting the tried and true Amory Wars melody in orchestration, or the extended Gilmore-esque solo that brings this chapter to its close, the music here is incredibly evocative and engaging. Furthermore, in true Coheed fashion, while the music works in the space of a sci-fi epic, Claudio has crafted it all in a way that it becomes deeply relatable in more personal ways through his lyrics and thematic motifs.
This album holds an important place for me, as does the rest of their discography. It’s the kind unique and thoughtfully crafted music in which even their weaker songs manage to resonate with listeners, creating a cohesive package with no true shortfalls. What makes it such a masterpiece isn’t simply that it’s perfect, because no album truly is. It does this by being uncompromising in its vision or execution, and giving the listener an experience that is wholly different than you can get anywhere else – one that will surely continue to stick with people for decades to come.
I don’t know what the best album I’ve ever heard is, but without a doubt the record that has impacted me as a music fan most is Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. I was probably twelve or 13 years old, and I had read about this band called Coheed and Cambria in a magazine called Guitar World. My interest was piqued, but I didn’t have an Internet connection growing up in order to check their music out. All this changed when a friend lent me his iPod during an outdoor education class and I saw that Coheed and Cambria was on it. I randomly selected “Welcome Home” and then ran around in the forest outside my school for a game of Capture the Flag. To my young mind, the dramatic acoustic phrase and following string lines were the most epic, inspiring piece of music I had ever heard. I picked up the album the next chance I had, and there started my journey into progressive music, even before I knew what progressive music was.
Though Coheed have made some strong albums since Good Apollo, the youthful conviction, progressive ambition and emo melodicism demonstrated here capture, to me, the band at their best. From a beautifully serene opening to the early climax of “Welcome Home” and ensuing emo/pop/prog anthems of “Ten Speed” and “The Suffering”, closing with the sweeping “The Willing Well” song suite, Coheed deliver more diverse and mature material here than many bands offer in an entire discography. It’s not to say that every song here is perfect (tracks like “Once Upon Your Dead Body” have never particularly captured my interest), but there is an abundance of originality and scope in the 71 minutes of music presented here. Simultaneously, Coheed’s work here builds on a tradition founded by groups like Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy, providing an accessible entrance to a plethora of exciting, inspirational material.
Where to even begin with a record like this? How could one properly assess the value and impact of a record on both the music scene and one’s own existence without either sounding overly gushy or breaking out the tried and true sob story of how the album got you through so many bad times in your life? In short: it’s impossible, because all these things invariably come into play when talking about your absolute favorite record of all time. All these tropes exist for a reason, and they all have their respective time and place in a retrospective review such as this.
So without further ado, here’s my two cents on Coheed and Cambria’s *inhales* Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume 1: From fear Through The Eyes of Madness.
If you somehow weren’t able to gather it from my opening statements, I LOVE this album. For me, it’s the pinnacle of Coheed and Cambria’s incredible catalogue and perhaps my one single most-listened album of all time. Seriously, if I were to guess, I’d say I’m closing in on the triple digits with this one, if I haven’t surpassed that threshold already. The way that the band mingled the alternative/post-hardcore prog of their previous two albums with more classic rock elements on Good Apollo Vol.1 without leaving their core sound behind is very impressive, just like the album’s sheer hit-density; every song has at least one hook that will inevitably get stuck in your head for days on end (or, in my case, years).
My whole love story with this particular record (and by proxy CaC in general) began when I first stumbled across “Ten Speed (of God’s Blood & Burial)”. Funny side-note: when applying for It Djents over one and a half years ago, I actually wrote about this song. The swirling main riff instantly intrigued me, as did the awesome drum beat. But when Claudio started singing, I was completely sold; I hadn’t heard anything like it all my life up to that point. From there I knew: I immediately had to have the album in my possession!
When I first popped Good Apollo Vol.1 into my CD player, I had only heard the aforementioned single, but the instant the symphonic intro “Keeping the Blade” began, I realized I had found something special here. Even though some didn’t impress me at first, I now love every single song on the disc for a different reason (I couldn’t choose a single favorite for the life of me), and I’m fairly certain that it’s among the few albums that I could sing along to start to finish.
Before I bore you by going on and on about what I think the best moments of this record are, what exactly I associate with it or how it has gotten me through some of the darkest times of my life, let me just leave you with this piece of sagely advice: if you never listened to this, please go do so as soon as you find the time. Thank you for bearing with me; remind me to give you a cookie for your troubles some day.
That’s it, folks! Come back in fourteen days for more A Scene In Retrospect. What are your thoughts on this record? Leave ’em in the comments! There’s so many albums yet unreviewed on our list, so make sure to keep an eye on this series. If you like, you can also let us know if there’s any albums you’d like to see covered like this. See you next time! Until then, stay safe, and as always…
…thanks for reading!