Check out our list of the best Coheed and Cambria songs you should listen to today!
During a time in which we’d all rather escape reality, the lure of fiction is stronger than ever. While it’s easy to lose yourself in a novel or film, one medium that proves to be an outlier is music. Music is more abstract and oftentimes much more personal; many songs are born out of emotional experience, whether it be heartbreak, joy or anger at the establishment, just to name a few. When done right, this evocation of passion fuses lyrics with melody, affecting us in a more innate, atavistic way than any other form of art.
But what if you were to harness the primal energy of music and combine it with an inventive, coherent plot like you might see on TV or read in a book? Of course, there are several fantastic concept albums that have achieved great success with this model of thinking, but one band has taken it, quite literally, out of this world.
Enter Coheed and Cambria. For the past two decades, the progressive metal outfit have been crafting a discography that has seen them garner critical and commercial acclaim, headlining festivals throughout the world. But what might not be so obvious is that under the leadership of vocalist Claudio Sanchez, they’ve told the story of The Amory Wars.
Each album* exists as a chapter of a sweeping space opera, starring Claudio Kilgannon in a universe known as ‘Heaven’s Fence’. I won’t delve too much into the plot here, as we’ll be here for a long time; suffice to say it includes an interplanetary war, magic and a very meta moment in which our main character becomes aware of the fact he’s a fictional creation of the author, and attempts to destroy reality itself. Like I said, we’d be here a long time. Check out the Coheed Wiki if you want to learn more.
But the beauty of Coheed is that you get back what you put in. The music can be enjoyed without knowledge of this extensive lore, and I’d wager most people who listen to the band couldn’t even tell you what Coheed and Cambria means (It’s the names of Claudio Kilgannon’s super soldier parents, if you were wondering). But scratch beneath the surface and there’s a bevy of characters, planets and stories to explore, and if you do, it augments your appreciation of the songs.
A disclaimer before we start – there’ll be some noticeable absentees not on this list. You won’t find A Favour House Atlantic, Blood Red Summer, Wake Up or The Crowing here. I’ve attempted to pick tracks from the breadth of the band’s discography, which necessitated omitting some of my personal favourites. With all that being said, here are our picks for the Top 10 Coheed and Cambria Songs that can be enjoyed by casual and hardcore fans alike.
*Except 2015’s The Color Before the Sun, a more autobiographical piece.
The Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
It might not be the catchiest title, but it’s one catchy song.
The second track in the Willing Well suite at the end of the album Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, this is Coheed at their most jaunty, Rush-esque progressiveness. From the opening sci-fi sound effects through the rumpty tumpty guitars and more menacing war drums at the end of the track, you’re definitely taken on a journey throughout the near 8-minute runtime.
The lengthy duration might not make it the most accessible track for first time listeners, but everything that makes the band great can be found here.
The earliest track featured in this list, Junesong Provision can be found on their debut album The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Released in 2002, this is a band very much finding their feet, experimenting with the more emo influences that were prolific during this time. Junesong Provision is one of the best examples of this early sound, employing technically proficient lead guitar, massive choruses and vocals that range from Sanchez’s trademark highs to demonic growls.
Plotwise, this song acts as a farewell letter from Claudio Kilgannon to his girlfriend Newo Ikkin (and her awesome dog Apollo, who gets rightfully namechecked in an album title), after he’s forced to leave home to forge his own story among the stars. Understanding that this is a song filled with trepidation, remorse and fear makes it altogether more impactful than the upbeat melody might first have you believe.
Taken from the often overlooked prequel album Year of the Black Rainbow, The Broken deserves your attention. An angry, sinister song that can make the line ‘blah, blah, blah…’ sound threatening, it’s perfect for any workout playlist.
But if I’m honest, the main reason it’s on this list can be found 2 minutes and 53 seconds into the track. The Ring in Return is a reprisal used throughout Coheed’s discography to indicate a skip in time, and the one featured in The Broken is by far the best. If you don’t feel the twitch to air guitar along with it, you truly have no soul.
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial)
We’re heading back to Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness and I’d like to take this moment to thank the copy and paste function on my laptop.
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial) takes place during the aforementioned plot thread in which the barrier between story and creator breaks, and we start to learn about the latter, known as ‘The Writing Writer’. As he quickly slips into madness, he begins to take counsel from what he perceives as his possessed bicycle ‘Ten Speed of God’s Blood & Burial’. Ten Speed explains to the Writer that he’s the embodiment of all his dark thoughts, spurred on by his unfaithful girlfriend. It’s symbolism that in less capable hands could’ve come across as hokey, but here portrays a man suffering from psychosis, losing touch with the reality around him.
As a song, it’s a fan favourite that’s a staple of Coheed’s live shows. A singalong chorus paired with great vocal harmonies makes this one to stick on any best of compilation.
Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow)
The first track on this list to come from arguably the band’s best album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow) is the closest Coheed have come to writing a pop-punk song.
But the simple major chord progression and chirpy vocal melody belies a much darker undertone – so dark in fact the album notes come with a disclaimer. The end refrain of ‘Pull the trigger and the nightmare stops,’ is a direct line from a character before he’s shot by one of the main antagonists – Mayo Deftinwolf, but the inference of violence or self harm necessitated affirmation that this is all a work of fiction.
Fiction or not, it’s a line you’ll find yourself singing from time to time. But probably not out in public, if you can help it.
The Dark Sentencer
The most recent release on this list, The Dark Sentencer can be found on 2018’s Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures, the first entry in a new tetralogy focusing on a brand new cast of characters within the universe of The Amory Wars.
The Dark Sentencer refers to the name of a prison planet set up by a new evil empire – the setting in which this new story begins. Much like the narrative, the song starts dark and foreboding, conjuring an image of a place of hopelessness and misery. But while the track exudes menace, it never loses its urgency, letting us know we’re only just beginning a brand new adventure over the course of the next 15 tracks.
After taking time away from The Amory Wars with 2015’s more introspective The Color Before the Sun, this a triumphant return; the chorus line ‘Welcome home’ letting us know this is what the band do best.
Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant
The Afterman: Descension might be the most underrated album in Coheed’s entire discography. The second chapter in the 2 album Afterman series, it’s one of the best places to start if you’re looking to explore the narrative of The Amory Wars, offering a self-contained story that sets the foundations for the wider universe.
Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant is a great example of the band’s expert songmanship, and more so than most benefits from knowing the story. Again there’s too much leading up to this song to explain here, fortunately Reddit has me covered. As the title suggests, it’s a track of defiance, and will make you feel as if you could punch through mountains.
Now we’re getting to the business end of the list. I’m sure many fans would stick Welcome Home straight at the top of their rankings, and with good reason. The opening acoustic riff is iconic, teasing the listener before the sudden introduction of pounding drums and crushing electric guitars, all complimented by a bed of orchestral strings that gives the song the pomp it deserves.
In terms of lyrics, it once again focuses on The Writing Writer’s descent into envious insanity, with him planning to bury his girlfriend alive. Perhaps in this case, ambiguity works in the song’s favour, as I’m not sure an explicit reference to this would see it garner as much radiotime as it has!
It also closes with a delightfully indulgent two minute guitar solo, which I’m all for.
Putting Gravity’s Union as high as it is might be the most controversial pick of the list. It wasn’t a single, and it’s from the overlooked The Afterman: Descension. So what justifies the position? It might be the most emotionally powerful song found anywhere in Coheed’s eclectic back catalogue.
Chronicling the night the protagonist’s wife is killed in a traffic accident, it’s a cathartic scream of loss, rage and panic as the immediate events of the evening occur. While there are countless songs about losing loved ones, I can’t name any others that tell the traumatic story as if it’s happening in real time. You’re a voyeur of this harrowing event, and as the listener you exposed to the fresh, raw sorrow.
It might not make for the easiest listening, but demonstrates how the fusion of song and story can be so impactful.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
The title track of Coheed’s second album, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is nothing short of a masterpiece.
In the previous album, we leave Claudio Kilgannon a mere child. In this song we’re introduced to Claudio the man, starting to get to grips with the power innate with him. If anything, it acts in a similar way to the opening crawls found in Star Wars films, catching up the audience and whetting the appetite for what’s to come.
The song meanders through several passages with ease; from some of the heaviest music the band have ever produced, to softer moments where we’re reminded we’re all ’Children of the Fence’. It also has the best false finish found in any song (this is a hill I’ll gladly die on).
If you only listen to one Coheed and Cambria song in your life, make it this one.
And that’s a wrap on our rundown of the Top 10 Coheed and Cambria Songs. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!
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