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Coheed and Cambria & Mastodon at Comerica Theatre
June 30, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 11:30 pm
Coheed and Cambria are a charting American rock band from Nyack, New York whose music incorporates aspects of progressive rock, pop, heavy metal, and post-hardcore that is rife with tight hooks, clever lyrics, and imaginative sounds. They are led by songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and chief conceptualist Claudio Sanchez, who is also a gifted illustrator and has penned several comic books and a novel. Since their 2002 debut album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, all but one recording — 2015’s indie-flavored The Color Before the Sun — has been conceptual in nature, informed by Sanchez‘s science fiction concept known as the Amory Wars.
Formed in 1995, the band consists of Claudio Sanchez (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards), Travis Stever (rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards, backing vocals), and Zach Cooper (bass, backing vocals). Most of Coheed and Cambria‘s releases are concept albums based on a science fiction story line called The Amory Wars, a graphic story series conceived and written by Sanchez, which has been transcribed into a series of comic books and a full-length novel. Thanks to Sanchez‘s grand vision, Coheed and Cambria have been a true fan’s delight in issuing recordings, comics, and videos in limited editions often compared to rock & roll fetish objects. While the band’s prog side helped to create its mystique and build a fanatical international fan base (they have headlined festivals and tours all over the world), it’s far from their only dimension: The decidedly indie rock flavor of 2015’s The Color Before the Sun — the band’s first non-conceptual album since their inception — reached number 10 on the Top 200, as did all of its predecessors. Their recordings have also placed in the top five on charts ranging from Hard Rock Albums and Top Rock Albums to Alternative Albums, while their singles have graced seven more charts.
The band officially took root in 2001, shedding their former name of Shabutie and embracing a fusion of progressive rock, emocore, and highly conceptual album themes. Vocalist/guitarist Claudio Sanchez, guitarist Travis Stever, bassist Michael Todd, and drummer Joshua Eppard issued their group’s full-length debut, 2002’s The Second Stage Turbine Blade, on the Albany-based Equal Vision Records. The band toured extensively for more than a year in support of the album, which was created as the second installment (although it was the band’s first release) of a five-part fictional saga about the doomed marriage of two characters, Coheed and Cambria, whose children may or may not be infected with a serum whose power can destroy the universe. The Amory Wars explains the band’s science fiction narratives.
In fall 2003, Coheed and Cambria issued In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. The vibrant sophomore effort (part three of the five-part saga) resulted in moderate success on the Billboard charts, with the singles “A Favor House Atlantic” and “Blood Red Summer” faring well on such media outlets as MTV. Coheed and Cambria subsequently toured North America with Thursday, Thrice, AFI, and Rainer Maria. They also joined the tenth annual Warped Tour in summer 2004 and embarked on their first headlining European tour, whose dates coincided with the success of the “Favor House Atlantic” single. The reinvigorated band then returned with Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness in September 2005; the album (part four) was also the first installment of a two-part conclusion to the band’s running sci-fi story line. Released by Columbia, it hit number seven on Billboard’s Top 200, partially due to the success of “The Suffering” and “Welcome Home.”
All was not well within the group, however, and both bassist Michael Todd and drummer Josh Eppard departed in 2006. While the band paused to sort out its future, Equal Vision released the debut from Sanchez‘s indie electronic solo project, the Prize Fighter Inferno, that October. Entitled My Brother’s Blood Machine, the album continued in the tradition of Sanchez‘s primary group, spinning a tale of three families in a story that pre-dates the Coheed and Cambria saga and is narrated by “Inferno” (aka Jesse, Coheed’s brother). Meanwhile, Sanchez and Stever decided to carry on and, bolstered by the return of Todd and the temporary enlistment of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, began recording their fourth album, Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 2: No World for Tomorrow. The group’s lineup was soon cemented with the addition of ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie, and the album — part two of the saga’s two-tiered conclusion — was released in October 2007, followed by the live recording Neverender: Children of the Fence in 2009. In 2010 the band returned with Year of the Black Rainbow, which served as a prequel to the Amory Wars story line. In the fall of 2012, Coheed and Cambria released the first of a two-part album, Afterman: Ascension. Its sequel, Afterman: Descension, appeared in February of 2013.
Uncharacteristically, the band’s next album was a left turn. The Color Before the Sun marked a first in that it was recorded live in a Nashville studio with producer Jay Joyce and included minimal overdubs. But perhaps its greatest surprise was that it was a first: a stand-alone album free of concepts explored on their seven previous full-lengths. That said, its bright, pop-punk first single “You Got Spirit, Kid,” was introduced via a video whose first frame humorously showcased a school billboard adorned with the words, “Rad Times at Amory High.” According to Sanchez, these new songs were meant to expose his “raw feelings.” It was released in October 2015. After a tour, the band re-entered the Amory Wars universe for 2018’s Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures, prefaced by two video singles, “Prologue” and “The Dark Sentencer.” Issued in October of 2018, a deluxe edition of the album included an 80-plus-page hardcover graphic novel, as well as an act one novella that Sanchez co-wrote with his wife, Chondra Echert. The package also includes a fold-out poster depicting an expanded version of the album art, and a replica mask worn by one of the album’s main protagonists. Throughout its 78 minutes, Coheed and Cambria incorporate elements, structures, approaches, and progressions from their entire two-decade lifespan, underscoring its narrative and making it the most self-referential title in the band’s discography.
Atlanta-based sludge/stoner/alternative metal outfit Mastodon formed in 1999 around the talents of guitarist Bill Kelliher, drummer Bränn Dailor, bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, and guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds. One of the more notable New Wave of American Heavy Metal acts, a genre spawned in the mid-’90s by bands like Pantera, Biohazard, and Machine Head, Mastodon‘s innovative, lyrically astute blend of progressive metal, grindcore, and hardcore helped position the band as one of the preeminent metal acts of the early 21st century.
Formed out of a mutual admiration for the Melvins, Black Sabbath, Neurosis, and Thin Lizzy, Mastodon signed with Relapse Records (Today Is the Day, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Coalesce, Burnt by the Sun) in 2001 on the strength of a four-song demo. The EP Lifesblood arrived that same year, followed by the group’s full-length debut, Remission, in 2002. The album made positive waves in the metal community, but it wasn’t until 2004’s Leviathan that the band’s eclectic brand of proto-metal began to enter the bloodstream of the entire music community. As polished and melodic as it was brutal and genre-defying, Leviathan, loosely based on author Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick, signaled a turning point in the band’s career, appearing on critics’ year-end Top Ten lists across the musical spectrum.
Mastodon‘s newfound popularity eventually landed them a deal with Warner Bros., but not before fulfilling their contract with Relapse in 2006 by releasing Call of the Mastodon, a remastered version of the group’s first two demo EPs, and Workhorse Chronicles, a DVD that chronicled the band’s story thus far with interviews and concert footage. The band’s third album, Blood Mountain, debuted at number 32 on the Billboard charts and received a Grammy nomination in the Best Metal Performance category for the song “Colony of Birchmen.” Blood Mountain marked the band’s highest chart peak, and set the stage for its long-awaited 2009 follow-up, Crack the Skye. In 2011, the band released the CD/DVD package Live at the Aragon, which was recorded in Chicago during the Crack the Skye tour. Mastodon followed quickly with new material, taking a step back from their more prog-oriented approach on their fifth studio album, The Hunter. It gave them their biggest commercial success to date, hitting number ten on the Billboard charts.
Later in 2011 Troy Sanders took some time out from the band, forming the metal supergroup Killer Be Killed with Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato, Soulfly‘s Max Cavalera, and former Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch. He worked with the group on and off for the next few years; their debut album was eventually released in 2014. Mastodon was still a priority, however. After touring Europe and South America in 2012, they started work on their sixth album the following year with producer Nick Raskulinecz. The album, eventually titled Once More ‘Round the Sun, was released in June 2014, preceded by the sludgy single “High Road.” Over the next two years, several relatives of the bandmembers suffered from cancer. Sanders‘ wife, Jeza, received treatment for breast cancer, recovering in 2015; the following year, Kelliher‘s mother died of a brain tumor, with Dailor‘s mother also diagnosed. These traumatic experiences informed the lyrics of the band’s seventh album, Emperor of Sand, produced by Brendan O’Brien and released in 2017. Its concept, revolving around the curse placed on a wandering traveler by a desert ruler, was acknowledged by Dailor in interviews as a metaphor for cancer.