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Concert preview: Coheed and Cambria’s ‘Good Apollo’ just ‘love songs’ at its sci-fi concept core

First Published      Last Updated Apr 20 2017 03:03 pm


Concert preview » Band will perform classic prog-metal album “Good Apollo” in its entirety at The Complex on Saturday.

Longtime fans of Coheed and Cambria know all about the backstories involved in "The Amory Wars," the science-fiction storyline on which the prog-rock band's concept albums are based.

For the uninitiated, trying to make sense of any of it can be overwhelming.

So, with the band on its Neverender GAIBSIV Tour (so named for the group playing its third album, "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness," in its entirety) — including a stop this Saturday at The Complex in Salt Lake City — Claudio Sanchez, the group's frontman and rhythm guitarist, and the creator of "The Amory Wars," tried to simplify it all in a phone interview.




Strip away all of the dense sci-fi artifice, he said, and Coheed's "Good Apollo" songs have a rather simple underlying premise. …

"If you take 'em for what they are, they're all love songs. They're all about heartbreak," Sanchez said. "I think about the way I write, and even to this day they're always rooted in emotion. I feel like 'Good Apollo' is sort of the record that wears its heart on its sleeve. I mean, sure, it lives within the world of 'The Amory Wars' and the big concept behind what we do, but it's all rooted in heartbreak and how that can spiral into the worst things one can see themselves as. That's what it was for me — 'Good Apollo' was me as a monster because I had lost a significant other at the time that I held so dear. I think that is definitely there, it's pretty clear in the lyrics — certainly in songs like 'Welcome Home' — and being so angry and just letting it all hang out. I think that's what people sort of related to."

Apparently so, considering the album went platinum and spawned two of Coheed's biggest singles, "Welcome Home" and "The Suffering."

"The Amory Wars" concept predates even the band, which subsequently took its name from two of the series' main characters. But the whole unifying theme that helped Coheed and Cambria go supernova among metalheads is merely a byproduct of Sanchez's admitted social awkwardness.

"Before Coheed and Cambria, I was writing some songs that … didn't have a science-fiction sort of background, they were just sort of odd. I didn't know how to express myself, I didn't know who I was. I don't know how to explain it. Still to this day, sitting down at lunch with a couple, I'm an uncomfortable person," he said. "We were joking about how I met my wife, and how she had to ask me for my number, and I never asked her for [hers]. I don't know the cues! For me, it was like, trying to express myself in song, it just didn't seem natural. When I first started trying to be a songwriter, and still to this day, it sometimes feels uncomfortable. But it's the best way I can express myself. It just sort of happened."

Coheed unveiled the "Neverender" concert concept in 2008, when the band decided to play its first four albums over four nights in four cities (New York, London, Chicago and Los Angeles). When their debut album, "The Second Stage Turbine Blade," hit its decade anniversary in 2012, the group resurrected the "Neverender" idea and staged a tour around playing the album front to back.

It proved popular enough they felt they also had to do it for "Good Apollo" — their breakthrough album and biggest success — when it reached the milestone last year.

"We passed the 10-year anniversary mark, so it seems to be kinda the thing we're doing nowadays, where we meet these anniversaries for these records and we tribute them in a smaller kind of fashion," Sanchez said. "It just seemed appropriate to bring back this idea of the Neverender, and we had such a good time doing that then, that now it's just become part of the staple of what we do as Coheed and Cambria. … We have such a good time coming out and re-creating the record that we look forward to doing them."

Coheed's most recent album, 2015's "The Color Before the Sun," was the first to stray from "The Amory Wars" story, and from being a concept album at all, for that matter.

Sanchez said that decision stemmed from major life changes he was going through at the time.

"I was becoming a dad and these were all very new, foreign emotions for me. Also at that time, I wasn't sure I wanted to be in Coheed and Cambria. I wanted to do something that was a bit of a departure. But at the same time, I didn't want to abandon my friends," he said. "I could have easily said, 'This is gonna be a solo record,' but then I would feel like a villain, taking that time away. For me, I came to this crossroads where it was like, 'You know what? Coheed can live as a band without a concept.' It might be a strange pill for some to swallow, but I know where these songs come from — they come from someplace very real. The concept is only created because I was uncomfortable expressing myself truthfully."

That said, he's hardly abandoning "The Amory Wars."

He notes he's "already kind of set the stage for what the next record is going to be," with their penultimate album, "The Afterman." Meanwhile, after initially issuing a companion graphic novel to "Good Apollo" in 2006, but being unhappy with the results because "there was a lack of funds to do it the right way," he's developed a 12-edition comic book, "The Amory Wars: Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV," to take its place. Issue 1 came out April 7.

"This time around, I wanted to expand on some of those ideas that were omitted from that edition of the book, which was the story of the writer!" Sanchez said. "I wanted to tell his story. In that original graphic novel, you see none of him. Only at the end, when he walks through the Willing Well, are you exposed to him. But how did he get there? You don't know. So that's the big question that's posed. This edition … answers that."

And if all of that sounds like total gibberish, it's all about "heartbreak," remember?

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AT A GLANCE

Coheed and Cambria

With special guest The Dear Hunter

When » Saturday, doors at 7 p.m.

Where » The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $25; Smith’s Tix


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