Wearing spiked hair and oversized black band t-shirts, I personified the classic metalhead in ninth grade. I would listen to the classics like Slayer and the newer breed of acts like Sepultura and MudVayne. But tenth grade was my transition year, where I shed those trends for yet another one: emo. With the emo fashion came the emo music, and on any given day you’d find bands like Taking Back Sunday in my CD player.
So needless to say, the opportunity of seeing the Thursday and Thrice co-headlining show that year was a particular exciting thing. Little did I know however, that by night’s end, it was the opening band and its invigorating thirty-minute set that left me the most speecheless. Between wild-haired Claudio Sanchez and company’s forceful playing to the contrasting high-pitched voice emanated over the speakers, Coheed and Cambria’s performance that night proved to be one of the most fascinating things I had ever witnessed.
The following morning I rushed out and purchased a copy of the New York outfit’s debut album from a couple of years before, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. While mere months away from the release of Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One and the first hints of MTV airtime, at the time, Coheed hadn’t really caught on yet, allowing me couple of months of bliss before the eventual success and imminent backlash would ensue.
Coheed and Cambria has an intriguing history. They announced early on that their four albums would culminate in one comprehensive story, but that the first album would actually be the second installment in the story. As fans, we tried to dissect the complexities of the galactic tale, but didn’t really know what the hell the songs were about. Still, the first time I heard “Time Consumer”, I was hooked. It was unlike anything I’d heard before. (The Rush comparisons fell on deaf ears because I didn’t know who they were.) I would listen to the album over and over, tabulating new names of characters and how they were related to one another, trying to figure out the story for myself.
“Devil in Jersey City” was the relative hit, being the most fast-paced and radio-friendly song on the album. It pales in comparison, though, to some of the best songs Coheed have ever written, including “Neverender” and “Everything Evil.” The latter builds from a simplistic riff into a powerful epic, a result that Coheed didn’t accomplish on its two most recent records. In between all of the crazy science-fiction stuff, there are some universal lyrical gems that deeply resonated with me: “In graver mistakes, Dear Mom and Dad, I write you in this letter that states (I’ll be moving on). When the new days begun forget your son when he’s out on his own.”
With a divisive voice, Sanchez managed to alienate a good portion of the resentful radio-rock crowd and sustained mockery from the hipsters, almost deservedly so. The group’s last two albums just fail to incorporate any of the grit and raw power displayed on its first effort. Instead, they wanted to appeal to MTV and began releasing lazy music.
I never bothered to finish deciphering the story. And I can’t even say that I’ve put Second Stage Turbine Blade on my record player recently. But I do remember how the album used to make me feel and how much time I devoted to them. I even contemplated tattooing the keywork from the second album on my arm. Even with new experiences and more exposure to great music, I keep a devout appreciation for this album. I can’t help but consider it a guilty pleasure.