Sound — 10
I will start by saying that this is not just my favorite Coheed and Cambria album, but my favorite album period. Every single piece of music comes together perfectly to create this dark, epic, and beautiful masterpiece. To me, this is how Coheed albums should sound: the guitars are less prominant than the vocals and drums, and act to bind all of the music together rather than over-power all of the other instruments. The problem with "Good Apollo: Volume II", their newer album, is that the guitars drown out all of the more intricate workings of each song. "Volume I", however offers a perfectly mastered collection of songs ranging from ballads ("Wake Up", "Always & Never") to more of a metal sound ("Welcome Home") to something more progressive ("The Willing Well"). The alum itself has fifteen tracks, giving it a grand, larger-than-life feel that isn't as strong on their other albums. A large complaint about this album is that there are a lot of filler tracks, but when considering the album as a whole, no song could possibly be lost or omitted. Every song has its purpose withing the pacing and structure of the album, as well as to the telling of the story. While some feel that songs such as "Wake Up" or "The Lying Lies Of Miss Erica Court" are unnecissary, I feel that the albume would fail without them. To me, this is more than just a collection of songs; this is a carefully crafted musical masterpiece.
Lyrics — 10
Claudio Sanchez always catches heat for "sounding like a little girl". Personally, I think anyone making this complaint is whining like a little girl. He has tremendous range, and "Volume I" showcases that range better than any of the other albums. From dark and brooding ("The Willing Well I: Fuel For The Feeding End") to light and poppy ("The Suffering"), he creates different emotional and theatrical cues throughout the album's entirety. The vocals in the first few songs, "Welcome Home" and "Ten Speed(Of God's Blood And Burial)", set an ominous mood that weaves its way in and out of the album at various points. Sanchez should be complimented, too, on his ability to create original lyrics. Rarely are there cliched lyrics, as is too abundant in most popular music today. Sanchez's skill in writing is also apparent in the way that every song has those clever lines that you can't help bus sing along to, such as "If it was up to me/I would've figured you out/Way before the year clocked out/Oh, I hope you're waiting" ("The Suffering") or "I/I left in a sudden rush and never said why/You/You couldn't know that I had no good-bye's" ("Crossing The Frame").
Overall Impression — 10
01. Keeping The Blade - the title is a combination of previous instrumentals "The Second Stage Turbine Blade" and "Keeping The Blade", so accordingly, the song is also as such. The violins are soft and beautiful, where the piano is eerie and ominous. A key track that builds the mood of the album. 02. Always & Never - a sweet, lullaby-type song that calmly introduces the band. Some think that this is filler, that "Keeping The Blade" was an acceptable introduction, but I feel this is really more of an extension of the previous track. 03. Welcome Home - this song kicks ass. Literally. From the pinch harmonics in the intro, the Zeppelin-esque verse riff, and the calm before the solo-storm, this is by far one of Coheed's stronges songs to date. This is also one of the first times we hear a wailing solo from Coheed, something that we should get used to. 04. Ten Speed (Of God's Blood And Burial) - in keeping with the pace and power of "Welcome Home", this song kicks right off with an awesome riff and some very dark lyrics ("I can feel it in the way your blood and heart beat/My body's cold and it thinks that I'm already gone". The chorus is catchy and the solo is perfect, showcasing two brilliantly layered guitars. The riff after the slow interlude shows once again that Sanchez and Stever really know how to work together to create great music. 05. Crossing The Frame - again, it's catchy, it's got ups and downs, and it has brilliant riffs. Some of my favorite lyrics on the album: "I press the steps I take to cross your door frame if/You decide to answer when my fist swings 'hello'". 06. Apollo I: The Writing Writer - the one minute musical interlude sets the stage for the spiral into maddness that insues in this song. The verses are very foreboding and dark, and the pre-chorus ("I'll make/You wish/You hadn't burned our time before") has one of the most enjoyable riffs to play on guitar. The song reflects the brood that "Welcome Home" established, taking a step away from poppy towards the darkness. 07. Once Upon Your Dead Body - I love this song for it's ability to take dark subject matter, like poisoning someone and watching them die, and present it in a seemingly harmless fashion. The verses and choruses seem friendly and whimsical, then shift to harsh and angry for the outro as Sanchez sings "I hope you die right now/Will you drink my chemical? /And if you cry out loud/It'll only make me feel too good" over pounding guitar and drums. 08. Wake Up - this is where the true genius of the way in which the album was arranged truly shows. This song feels like a break in the maddness of the rest of the album, a calm spot in a troubled sea. Sanchez says in interviews that he wrote this song very quickly when he had to leave his girlfriend in California. He sent it to her and it made her cry. With layers of guitar and synths, "Wake Up" is a very beautiful song. "Mother Superior" on "Volume II" feels a lot more polished and clean, where the edge left on the production of "Wake Up" makes it slightly better. 09. The Suffering - again, a song that takes dark feelings and makes them sound happy. This is the ultimate pop song, but still maintains the feel of a well-written rock song. The main riff is above average, and the chorus mixes in multiple vocals to create a very rich song. 10. The Lying Lies Of Miss Erica Court - the intro/verse of this song is very quick and silent before exploding with a nice guitar riff and a frantically sung "Help! Woah-Oh!" by Sanchez. Another song that catches the "filler" label, but it adds beautifully on to the chord slide out of "The Suffering". 11. Mother May I - the drum beat in this song is very impressive. It differs tremendously from the average beat of the other songs and makes "Mother May I" a shining song where it might've been just "filler". The outro is very straight-forward, leading head on into the frantic maddness of The Willing Wells. 12. The Willing Well I: Fuel For The Feeding End - this song is quick, fast-paced, and frantic. Part one of The Willing Wells, it is over seven minutes long and contains many varying parts before the epic finale at "I will not save/Yo-o-o-o-o-o-ur world!". This is a prime example of how production that is not overly polished can still feel very grand and very epic. 13. The Willing Well Ii: From Through The Eyes Of Maddness - I guess you could call this the "title track", though it lacks the radio-friendly pop that is common to "title tracks". The intro guitar parts are very folk-y and cheerful, which doesn't last for too long as Sanchez growls "What is this that you keep sending me boy? /I'm not going to hold your hand here when you walk". I must say I've never heard anyone sound so gleeful while singing "You'll burn in hell while they're digging you out/You'll burn in hell", a point that just adds to the insanity. This song, too, is over seven minutes and is an absolute blast to play on guitar. Frequent rhythym changes and pinch harmonics make this more of a roller coaster ride than a mere song. 14. The Willing Well Iii: Apollo Ii: The Telling Truth - sound familiar? This song is an extension of track six, "Apollo I". The previous "Apollo" marked a point in which the Writer in the story is deciding what must be done, while this "Apollo" is the Writer actually carrying out his plan. The verse riff is slightly different in that it is more distorted, making it feel more frantic and dark. The parts of the song are arranged differently for a grander feel, and there is an extended solo/interlude section that recalls the riff from "Blood Red Summer". At the peak of it's insanity, at the end of the song, the track abruptly shuts off, leading into the final song of this epic masterpiece. 15. The Willing Well Iv: The Final Cut - probably the darkest, most brooding song on the entire album, "The Final Cut" ends this part of the story on a very ominous note. The best line on the album: "If I had my way/I'd crush your face in the door!" Somewhat in the style of "Welcome Home", Travis unleashes an impressive solo, followed by Claudio. Claudio's "Final Cut" solo actually borrows parts from his "Welcome Home" solo. I really love the tone of his guitar during this solo, too. It echoes beautifully as the rest of the song slowly pushes on toward the inevitable end, complete with an eerie child giggling and saying "I love you". 16. Bron Y Aur (hidden track) - on the special edition DVD, Claudio actually records this song himself outside near a creek while his dog splashes around near by. In interview, he explains that this song is sort of like the happy, weird credit music right after a movie. One of the things I tell people when recommending this album is, "It's sad that this is one of the best albums to be recorded in perhaps the past ten years, and hardly anybody has heard it." Each song fits perfectly into it's place, making this album perfect. If any part of this CD were missing, it wouldn't be as amazing. The mixing/production is perfect; each intricate little sound can be clearly heard without over-powering any other aspect of the music. I was very excited to get "Volume II" after hearing this one, but it cannot stand up to the power and emotion behind "Volume I". I bought this album in 2005 and since then, I have never heard an album from any band that has been it's equal. To me, this album is a masterpiece; it's the album I will listen to for the rest of my life. Each time I come back to it, it is exciting and powerful and incredible. I own two copies of this album, but wouldn't hesitate to purchase another. I know this album and this band aren't for everyone, but it is still a highly respectable work from one of the best bands of our generation.