It couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Coheed And Cambria were at the peak of their career, headlining and selling out venues across the globe. They hit the pivotal third album with both critical and commercial acclaim and appeared poised to sail comfortably into the future. Then life imitated art.
For a bit of background, Coheed And Cambria’s albums are tied together with a complex sci-fi storyline that sees love gained, love lost, innocence hunted and innocence killed. What was to be the band’s next album, No World For Tomorrow, was to tell of the ultimate destruction of the home planet. All the characters were to be eliminated in rapid succession and no strings left untied. Unfortunately, the band didn’t last long enough to record the album before they imploded.
Bassist Michael Todd and drummer Josh Eppard left the quartet following their Spring 2006 tour, and the band’s fate appeared uncertain to say the least. Frontman Claudio Sanchez then went on to release a poorly received solo album under the moniker The Prize Fighter Inferno. By that point, it seemed they were down for the count.
“There weren’t any personal or artistic differences or anything cheesy like that. I was in the throes of a deep existential crisis for a year, self-medicated all the while, and never acted like a human being,” said Todd. “It just got to such a point that I would rather sit home and kill pain than work. When that got too hard to do, I did a little bit of soul searching, turned my life around a little bit, cleaned up my mind and cleaned up my body.”
During this period, he separated himself from the band completely and chose to not follow the band’s progression. “I never listened to [Sanchez’s side project, The Prize Fighter Inferno]. I was scared to hear it actually. I hadn’t spoken to him for months when it came out so I never listened to it. I was curious, I mean, we always change as players.” Todd continued, “We all have a drastic grove change each record. I’ve always embraced it and it’s always worked out I think.”
Once fresh and returned to a stable state, Todd took the natural next step. He got in touch with his former bandmates. “I kinda called the guys to apologize that I fell in a funk. I just called to meet up because they’re my family. I didn’t try to get back in the band, I didn’t expect anything. At the end of the day I threw it out there. They called me back the next day and were like, ‘Come on up and bring an overnight bag. We’re going to write some songs.’”
This time around, the songwriting process took on a brand new form and went from the standard ‘sit in a room and jam it out’ method to an interesting long-distance approach. “Claudio wrote some songs with [new drummer Chris Pennie] over the internet. He would record a track, send it to Chris and he would cut drums and start to arrange it over the internet and get together and play it. By the time I got back, the shit was pretty much all done. They just got me in the studio, gave me the charts and I filled in the holes,” said Todd. “That’s kind of how I like to work anyway. It was nice. My creative input has pretty much always been on the low end anyway, so it was comfortable for me.”
Although it seemed the band was coming together smoothly and progressing into Coheed And Cambria version 2.0, there was yet another obstacle in the band’s path. Just a couple weeks before they were to enter the studio, they learned that the new drummer, Chris Pennie, was unavailable. Enter Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins.
“The producer we were working with, Nick Raskulinecz, had worked with the Foos before and were good friends, so he suggested Taylor. I had never met Taylor, but he’s super cool and obviously a solid drummer, so we said, ‘Fuck it, let’s try it.’” Todd continued, “He did a phenomenal job. All the fills are his and the drum parts are definitely Chris’. He got all the parts by listening to Chris’ demos. He also had an awesome personality. We lucked out.”
The finished product, No World For Tomorrow , signals the end of the characters’ lives and is lyrically brutal throughout, but there’s a certain complementary dynamic that runs against the theme. “It’s definitely the end or close of the story, but at the same time it is kind of uplifting,” explained Todd. “It’s the end of the story, but we’re like a new band, kind of. No, literally, we’re a new band. It is kind of a carpe diem, seize the fucking day, message, and that’s where we are as a band today.”
Much like a film score, the albums frequently return to select riffs, lyrics and feels from the past. For example, NWFT includes select lyrics from “Blood Red Summer,” while the album’s closing number, “On The Brink,” revisits the riff from their previous album’s closer, “The Final Cut.” This unique approach is something the band considers quite valuable to the complete package. “It adds continuity of the concept. It ties all the albums together a little bit. It’s like revisiting certain characters and plots and things. That’s largely a quality thing, and it just falls in place in the songs.”
Despite Pennie’s physical absence on the album, his influence is already being felt throughout the band. “He’s a way better drummer than I am a bass player, and that makes me want to get better. Chris’ work ethic is definitely rubbing off on everyone because, the guy, all he wants to do is play, improve and get better. That’s the shit.”
“With Chris, we’re starting with a clean slate, so we can go back and play songs that we never played live. We’re doing that. We’re taking it out of the bag,” explained Todd. “This tour has a very big production and we have everything kind of mapped out, and we might have a rotating song.”
As expected, the setlist will feature a number of new songs in addition to never-before-played oldies. “The new songs are the best man, they’re so much fun. For me, I’m busier on this album than I’ve ever been. I’m used to toning down my shit, keeping it mellow, but now I’m really thrown in the mix. It’s double that live, of course. It’s a blast. The old songs have their charm, and they’re kind of new with Chris, but the new songs we put together with Chris just feel right.”
In addition to adjusting their setlist, they’re expanding on the performance aspect. “We have a couple extra musicians. We are a seven-piece live now. There is a cityscape in the background, you’ll have to see. It’s a pretty phenomenal show I think. I think it’s really fun to watch if you’re bored looking at all our ugly mugs all night,” said Todd.
Through the band’s breakup and rebuilding, things have surprisingly taken a turn for the better. Their new album has received rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and shows are selling out. They managed to do what their characters couldn’t: survive.
“It feels new again. We’re all in this with a different attitude. We’re not burnt, and we’re all in this together and can’t get enough of each other. It’s awesome.”
Coheed And Cambria are set to play the Roseland Ballroom on Nov. 29. Their new album, No World For Tomorrow, is in stores now. For more visit coheedandcambria.com
Photo Credit: Chapman Baehler