I remember the first time I ever heard Coheed & Cambria. Being 18 and hearing them churn out the title track to their then-second album as openers for Thursday and Thrice back in the early years of the band – it is quite nostalgic to look back upon this record in particular for a number of reasons. But we aren’t quite here for that. The argument as to whether or not In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 has stood the test of time and resonated in such a way as it did when it released in 2003 is a steep one. Coheed have traveled far and experimented much with their prog-tinged, Rush-nodded sound – enough that they now are releasing the seventh studio record to their name. And for all intents and purposes, it most certainly still rings with awe-striking poise and a curious nature for those who choose to tumble down its rabbit hole.
There is a particular sense of mystery and an aura of discovery in the hour-plus run time of soaring melodies, adventuring songwriting and often cryptic lyricism of In Keeping Secrets – an aspect that reflects through much of the album, whether it is the eight-minute epic titular track or the emotional, yet musicianship-flashing “The Crowing.” It was easy enough to just be floored by the riffs, drumming and vocal prowess on this record to not know you had just spent over an hour jamming along to it.
As this record moves from track to track, the band swerves from everything to huge (“In Keeping Secrets”) to restrained (“The Light and the Glass”), from ambitious (“The Crowing”) to radio-friendly (“A Favor House Atlantic”) at times. Musically, Coheed were still just figuring out how weird they were willing to get at times, all while still trying to find a way to attract the average alternative or post-hardcore fan into their world of punching guitars and often quotable, yet ‘more than meets the eye’ lyrics.
And that is the real key to this record in both the band’s timeline and their rise to popularity – it has moments where musicianship nuts could really geek out over weird time signatures and slippery guitar slopes, but it also has some much less out-there ideas that resonate with vicious poeticism and push-and-pull songwriting. While the band was just getting big, people were really getting on board with their science fiction storyline that is reflected sometimes quite obviously while other times is a bit more coy in its execution. Many-a-line here is ripe with the back story of the Amory Wars and the universe that Claudio Sanchez wrote to back these and many more songs, but it’s nice enough that we don’t have to know the story to enjoy a bulk of them otherwise. It’s a line that they were always teetering and often found ways to mesh with clever storytelling and the like, but not knowing the story didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy at least the music here.
But some five albums later, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 still packs a weighty punch even as the band has progressed both in and out of their progressive rock flavorings. They’ve moved to more theatrical sounds, dabbled a bit in electronics and made a return to form of sorts in terms of this particular sound, where the staccato-based hits and carefree melodic slathering goes hand in hand with an engaging but continually developing story. On top of that, this record literally harkens a handful of textures through its liberal application of everything from fuzz to acoustic guitars, all while seemingly letting the songs breathe for just the right amount of time to not feel like they are dragging out as long as they are.
To be quite blunt, this was the album that set a bar for this band – executed with such grace and power that it would long sought to be duplicated in spirit if not for the band’s drive to not produce the same thing twice. Ten years past, In Keeping Secrets still stands quite damn tall among the band’s discography by channeling enough musical gusto without losing the ever-curious spark that ignites such great prog-rock records.