It’s common for prog bands to create a fictitious narrative for their concept albums. Often, the lyrics tell a linear story, while the adventurous, experimental, and elevated musicianship provides emotional support and dynamism to the album’s arc. Some ambitious wordsmiths may even spread their yarn over two albums or releases, but Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez has penned an entire science fiction tale called The Amory Wars that has been transcribed in comic books and graphic novels published by Evil Ink Comics. All but one of the band’s 10 albums, including the brand-new Vaxis–Act II: A Window of the Waking Mind swim in his solar system called Heaven’s Fence—a collection of 78 planets and seven stars wholly envisioned by Sanchez. (The Color Before the Sun, from 2015, is the lone release not centered in The Amory Wars universe.)
Crafting a daring soundtrack for these narratives requires an equally bold group of musicians. Through two decades, this fearless foursome have incorporated prog orchestrations, synth flourishes, pop-punk hooks, menacing metalcore, hardcore aggression, and electronica ballads—and yet it’s always felt like Coheed. No matter the direction they turn or how their colors and hues shift, it’s unmistakable. Having no genre allows for all genres.
It’s worth noting the band’s name is lifted from two main characters in The Amory Wars. Their original name in the late ’90s was Shabütie, and that trio (consisting of guitarist/vocalist Sanchez, bassist Michael Todd, and drummer Nate Kelley) released three EPs before rebranding for Coheed’s 2002 debut, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, released on Equal Vision Records. That first Coheed lineup included the Shabütie carryovers of Sanchez and Todd, and welcomed guitarist Travis Stever and drummer Josh Eppard. (The earliest incarnations of Shabütie included Stever, too.) The band’s current lineup has been solid since 2012, when bassist Zach Cooper joined.
Coheed’s headlining 2022 run is a dual celebration. They’re honoring the 20th anniversary of their debut and the just-released Vaxis–Act II: A Window of the Waking Mind. Before their July 23 show at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, PG’s Chris Kies hosted conversations that covered upgrading Gibsons, overhauling an entire bass rig during shutdown, and how a stolen Big Muff eventually led to a signature sound and pedal.