You can’t write a Coheed and Cambria review without mentioning the ‘Armory Wars’ narrative, the sci-fi storyline that underpins the majority of the band’s work, including freshly released album ‘The Unheavenly Creatures’. Frontman Claudio Sanchez has written books and comics explaining the whole expansive tale, hence few bands can claim to inspire such devotion in their fans and maybe that’s why Manchester Academy is absolutely buzzing this evening.
Support band CHON (4/5) are always a joy to behold. Endlessly on tour, they seem to have supported every technical band under the sun. It’s not hard to see why. Driven by solid rhythms their brand of sparkly instrumental math-rock is ruthlessly tight and flows from groove to groove. Guitarist Mario Camarena loves every moment, contrasting with Erick Hansel, whose face is a portrait of concentration, as they both effortlessly play complicated harmonies. It’s like four wizards have taken to the stage, waving their fingers in such strange patterns the crowd are mesmerised, but that doesn’t stop the huge cheers. The 30-minute set breezes by, all of it warmly received.
Moody purple lights illuminate the stage and ‘Prologue’ plays across the sound system. Coheed & Cambria (4.5/5) launch into new song ‘The Dark Sentencer’ and within seconds you realise just how much this band means to the crowd. Every lyric from its eight-minute runtime is sung back despite the album being a week old. That’s just the first song, classic single ‘Here We Are Juggernaut’ follows which sounds so massive, it wouldn’t be out of place in an arena on the moon.
Beams swish left and right, making the stage look like a space battle as the band duck and weave between the lights, giving their show a real energy. Lynchpin Claudio Sanchez is about 75% hair and the huge curly bush flails back and forth as he sings, almost with a personality of its own. Leaving the microphone at every opportunity he dances around, legs flailing like a first-time roller-skater.
Always keen to experiment, the band has a whole host of different sounds in their catalogue and the set is cleverly constructed, epic songs are paired with singles, keeping everything remarkably fluid. Especially as brief electronic interludes allow the band to tune-up without breaking the flow.
At this point in their career Coheed and Cambria can dust off old material, like ‘Devil In Jersey City’, and make it sound essential even with its simpler guitarwork and harsh vocals, it really stands out. The middle of the set is culled from ‘In Keeping Secrets of the Silent Earth: 3’. Beginning with the album’s namesake, another eight-minute epic that somehow beats ‘Island’ for the title of Biggest Sing-a-long. Then they wheel out fan favourite ‘The Crowing’. You’d think the messiah had returned.
With Sanchez clutching his double-necked Gibson guitar, everyone knows what’s about to happen and the band explode into ‘Welcome Home’, the perfect song to end the night. A grandiose mixture of a heavy-driving riff, heart-wrenching vocal hook and suite of searing solos. It’s truly stunning.