When Coheed and Cambria came through town in 2014 to play a sold out show at House of Blues in support of the reissue of 2003's In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
, the band put on a helluva show.
The group assembled such an array of lights and sound equipment on the club’s relatively small stage, it looked like the group was ready to play an arena. One of life’s greatest pleasures is witnessing an arena rock act in a small club — it’s the equivalent of watching your favorite major league baseball team play a Spring Training game. In that respect, Coheed didn’t disappoint; the two-hour show had an epic quality as the band played 2003's In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
in its entirety and then returned for three encores.
The current tour, which includes an Oct. 9 date at the Agora, comes in the wake of the reissue of 2015’s The Color Before The Sun: Deconstructed
. Even though the band won't play that album in its entirety, the concert promises to be another epic affair.
The new 30-track reissue features the original album's 10 songs both in the studio in their early acoustic demo form, as well as two bonus demos that were never recorded in the studio. The band dubbed the demos “Big Beige/4th St” after singer Claudio Sanchez's home, “The Big Beige” in upstate New York as well as his old apartment in Brooklyn, “4th Street.” He wrote and documented the demos, which had previously only been made available to fans that purchased the band’s Limited Edition Deluxe Box set, which featured a 76-page physical book, at each location.
“We’ve always been fans of hearing songs in their infant state, and we wanted to share that with the fans,” says guitarist Trevor Stever via phone from an Austin tour stop. “I’ve always looked into the other versions of songs from artists that I liked and sometimes even liked those versions better. It’s like buying a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk
that has different versions of the songs. Some are slightly different and some are really different. Even bands from the early 2000s, I remember buying the deluxe versions that come out years later. We figured that we had the stuff so why wait.”
The band didn’t start recording the album with the concept of ultimately releasing the demos. But in the wake of the album’s release, Stever says it made sense to revisit the sessions.
“We don’t know ahead of time that we’d release the sessions,” Stever says. “It just happens. Sometimes, we just throw guitar parts back and forth. There have been acoustic demo that we’ve released. This album had a demo for every song. A lot of them had my guitar parts on them. They were sent before they had that, and we added stuff from a distance. That was sending back and forth with ideas. Those demos are what they ended up being.”
The album also includes seven live “bootleg" tracks pulled straight from the soundboard from various dates on their recent US headline tour, that expose a very raw look at the band.
“There’s a board mix of some of the songs from the first half of the tour,” says Stever. “We’re doing some other songs on this tour and mixing it up. People get an experience of that first leg, even if they didn’t catch it.”
The album represents the band’s first non-conceptual album, putting The Armory Wars
, a seven-album science fiction saga that also resulted in a comic book empire, on hiatus.
“I think that was more of the way [singer-guitarist] Claudio [Sanchez] was writing,” says Stever. “All of Coheed’s songs have personal messages and are about life experiences and they get combined or dictated first or second by the concept. There’s this combination, and Claudio was more comfortable having them be personal. From our instruments and each member speaking that way, it was more about wearing your heart on your sleeve. Musically, it’s not a far stretch. It explores more of a pop side, but that pop side has always been there for sure. There are some of our longer and more intricate songs on it, but it leans on the pop side. That’s a part of the band too and who knows what the next album will be like, though I’m pretty positive the The Armory Wars
will come through again.”
Led by Sanchez, a guy who leads a double life as a graphic novelist, Coheed formed in Nyack, N.Y., in 1995. At that time, the band's style of progressive metal was an underground novelty. But by the time of 2003's In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
, the band's heady concept album about a battle that takes place in outer space, progressive metal had become more popular, and Coheed's album was a hit.
“It’s hard to explain [how In Keeping
became popular]” says Stever. There was a lot of work involved. Is there a bit of a luck of the draw when it comes to people responding to your music? I think so. I think the band had something that was very different at the time. Somehow, the stars aligned and people started to respond. They started to respond with [2002’s] The Second Stage Turbine Bade
, but with In Keeping
, they really started to come through and as a band, we started to move toward what we would become. With [2005’s] Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
, you can hear the band come into its own. But one thing that stuck out about In Keeping
was that our record label had heard the demos and wrote us to say that they were blown away because they thought it was perfect for where we were going. They couldn’t wait to release it.”
In the wake of the album’s release, Columbia Records bought the rights to it and reissued it with wider distribution.
Recorded at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, N.Y., the album showcases the band's musical prowess as it alternates between moody songs such as the title track and jittery, dynamic tunes like "Cuts Marked in the March of Men," a song that sounds like a cross between Rush and the Mars Volta. Applehead studio owners/operators Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner share production credits; they helped the band hone its distinctive sound. The band also recorded Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
at the studio.
“Good Apollo has a lot of challenges, and I’m excited to go out and play that in its entirety at some point,” says Stever.
Compared to the conceptual and much more aggressive albums in its back catalog, The Color Before the Sun comes off as a departure.
“It’s a whole other side of the band,” Stever says the album. “And I think the band is as strong as it’s ever been. Each member brings an important element to the band. We’ve been filming everything on the road, and we have a good friend with us doing filmography and videography. It really comes through that we’re so excited to be playing.”
He says the fact that members now have families makes it difficult to be on the road for long stretches.
“We all miss our families,” he says. “I have a two and a half year old and a baby on the way. It’s different eras on these children’s lives, but we still want to be with them. To be out here and gone for five weeks straight, it’s nice to be together and have each other’s back. It can be tough. That’s why I think we’re the strongest ever. Musically, that comes through in the show. We play a mixed batch of material and we play for a really long time. It’s nice.”
The band’s fervent fanbase helps sustain it too.
“We’ve been blessed with having great fans,” he says. “They get so involved full throttle. We’re lucky. Coheed has been truly lucky to have those people who hang on every word and love everything. They’re just extreme and dive in. They make it a family experience too.”
Coheed and Cambria, Saves the Day, Polyphia, 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $29.99-$104.99, agoracleveland.com.