Going back from listening to the latest Afterman installment down to Coheed & Cambria‘s first full-length record The Second Stage Turbine Blade, it’s somewhat fascinating to see how much this band has changed and, simultaneously, how they’re still very much the same after all. Even though every record in their career can be addressed with a specific change or adjustment to their vast sound repertoire, the cornerstone of what Coheed & Cambria is, and hopefully will ever be, can yet be found in this very first record. Whether it is the love affair with pop and pomp a-la “Feathers” or the new (and totally over-the-top-rollicking) “Number City,” the grand opera-esque poems like “The Willing Well,” the penchant for epic drama and over-boiling emotion as found in songs like “The Crowing” or “The Broken,” or the upbeat recklessness of a “World of Lines” or “Three Evils” – The Second Stage Turbine Blade already had it all, paving the way for genre milestones like In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth and From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness with its musical versatility and juvenile dew.
In comparison to the grandeur of Coheed’s later sci-fi operas, however, the band’s firstling was gritty and forthright post-hardcore, like a passionate backyard theater that’s blunt but honest. The production is thin and trebly, giving the guitars a svelte edge instead of a major punch, which suits the filigree lead guitar tinkering just as much as the pushing palm muted chord riots and ultimately sets them apart from the solid grooves provided by drums and base. On top of that performs the unmistakable choirboy pitch of Claudio Sanchez, ranging from angelic whisper to fierce banshee screams while pouring his heart out into his own concept-based universe, telling stories of heartbreak, love, murder, suicide and betrayal. Despite the apparent concept album context, the lyrics are incredibly thorough and affective, easily perforating the sci-fi comic shell that’s covering Coheed & Cambria’s outputs and thereby giving the listener access to the bare emotions found on this record.
Where The Second Stage Turbine Blade succeeds is the combination of raw emotions and epic songwriting distilled into proggy hardcore songs that simply work in every way, and not just as an overly technical wankfest with some catchy refrains. It’s simply stunning that a record with such an omnipresent and rather pretentious concept is able to suck the listener in while staying enjoyable and fun the whole time, making this debut a landmark album for the genre and the starting point of an incredible musical journey.