When the spidery riffage and bombast of Coheed and Cambria’s “The Dark Sentencer” clashed with the spiraling mist and blustery wind of an unseasonably gloomy and crisp June evening, I was reminded of how formidable this prog-metal band is and how ferocious and proud they are as a live act as they eschewed their lighter, more syrupy material almost completely. Even poppier fare such as “A Favor House Atlantic” possessed tremendous bite as leader Claudio Sanchez shined as a lead singer alone while someone else took up his axe as he gleefully skipped and crooned about the stage, his wild mane of hair seeming as alive as the songs that were performed. And the young crowd knew every lyric to each chapter of the sprawling, ongoing love story/space opera that is the Coheed and Cambria catalogue.
But honestly, I was at Stage AE that night primarily for Mastodon, who underwhelmed me when last I caught them co-headlining with another band in Clutch, who like Coheed and Cambria, won the duel. Mastodon performed their Crack The Skye album from 2009 in its entirety and didn’t really start to cook until midway, from my humble perspective, as images of cartoon psychedelia provided interesting visuals. “The Czar” proved to be a bludgeoning highlight of the set, one that was finished out by “Ember City,” “I Am Ahab,” and “Crystal Skull,” making me not entirely regret taking a chance on Mastodon and braving the turbulent weather to see them once more. As Mastodon plundered the LSD wastelands, I couldn’t help but notice a wheelchair-bound elderly woman watching from the side of the stage. As it turned out, she was the mother of drummer Brann Dailer. In what was a heartwarming moment upon the conclusion of their stand, Dailer introduced her to the ardent crowd, dedicating the Crack The Skye showcase to his late sister, whose passing inspired the record’s creation.
Back to Coheed and Cambria: They astonished and enchanted me. And I am by no means a mega-fan of this act with a sizeable Millennial cult following, but they sounded pristine and were tenaciously entertaining, Claudio Sanchez being an effortlessly messianic frontman and skilled guitar player who was only complimented by the equally gifted Travis Stever and the remaining members of the ensemble. Songs I was not at all familiar with became resounding anthems for me, and ones I did know, like the Yngwie Malmsteen vs. Iron Maiden march of “Welcome Home,” only took on a new glow and might. I had seen Coheed and Cambria twice before and somewhere along the trek decided that they may be a band I only respect from afar a la Dream Theater. I am now forced to re-examine that.
Every Time I Die caused me to reconsider them as well due to their varied, rhythmic, groovy, hefty set that broke all the metalcore rules. I still can’t say I am a total devotee, but after watching them successfully spark bellyfires for what was to come, I can say that it’s apparent why ETID has a base waiting for them wherever they may stop.
So, this Monday evening shook my snowglobe so to speak. It’s easy to laugh at Coheed and Cambria’s schmaltz sometimes, Mastodon seeming to hoard the critical reverence for themselves, but what the former has that the latter doesn’t is a glory-years arena-rock magic to them in addition to the superlative musicianship. Where Mastodon was somewhat static, the other was fluid and reverently throwback as they were optimistically futuristic. While Mastodon sort of ambled to their respective positions, Coheed and Cambria arrived as if by celestial forces.
I’ve said it, others likely have as well: Gen Y has their Rush, and it is Coheed and Cambria. A true concert spectacle, long may they reign as benevolent, technocratic kings, and lovers of all things metallic and melodic, take ‘heed.