Classic Albums remastered, reissued and revisited
The year was 2002. A hip little record label by the name of Equal Vision Records had just released what would seem like an odd album in any circles; the strangely-named Coheed & Cambria had recorded a debut CD called The Second Stage Turbine Blade. The ambitious little disc somehow mixed screamo, prog, and general sci-fi weirdness all while expanding upon the concept of a series of freakish comic books written by frontman Claudio Sanchez. Both the album and the graphic literature told tales of a strange future; a couple known as Coheed & Cambria faced interstellar war, souless inhuman beings, and the impending apocalypse coming from any number of surprising angles. In short, it was the perfect mythos to commit to a CD. As perfect as it was, no one could even begin to predict the heights CoCa's unique take on rock would take them to.
Fast-forward to now. Coheed & Cambria have soared to VERY unforeseen levels of success on passionate word of mouth and almost universally glowing critical praise. Following Second Stage, the band's sophomore disc In Keeping Secrets of a Silent Earth: 3 got them signed to the major label of Columbia Records, and the band's latest disc, this year's Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV Volume I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness cracked the Billboard top 10 CDs, peaking at luck number 7. How did a band who sings about a comic book fantasy world while playing a mix of classic power rock and modern day screamo become a bestseller?
The answer lies (like most things) in the starting point. The Second Stage Turbine Blade was a fantastic album, in a time when few if any bands were willing to take a risk. Hell, CoCa took the greatest risk of all; in the grossly ballooning pop-punk/emo scene, Coheed & Cambria dared to do something any number of the cut-and-paste punk/emo bands hadn't; be original. The result is a disc that transcended every thing from Dashboard Confessional to GOB to Finch to From Autumn to Ashes.
Like the label's fantastic re-releasing of classic Converge albums (which I covered earlier this year), Equal Vision gives older fans a few nice reasons to consider purchasing The Second Stage Turbine Blade one more time; those reasons being a never before released b-side, plus a demo and an acoustic version of two songs already on the disc. In a bit of the downer, the artwork isn't changed at all; a duplicate slipcase has been slipped over the regular case and the lyric book is virtually unchanged. The only new non-musical portion of the re-issue is a slightly modified CD, with the familiar dragon-fly logo on it, as opposed to the original, lime green disc.
Due to these factors (the effort on this re-issue seems positively pale in comparison to the Converge discs, and many fans will probably decry the re-issue as a lame cash sucking tool set to sucker people of hard earned cash, an assumption probably far from true) the main focus of the disc is the new music itself. Does it really add anything of value? Hence, the point of my review!!!
Second Stage was a fantastic album all by itself; the twisting menace of "Delirium Trigger," the raw intensity of "Hearshot Kid Disaster," the dreamy acoustics of "I, Robot," and the melancholy Coheed rocker that is "Junesong Provision." For all you Bad Brains fans out there, Dr. Know even adds some swank guitar pieces to the song "Time Consumer." To be frank, I was hesitant to think this CD needed extra songs at all.
Despite its strange title, "Elf Tower New Mexico" fits like a glove with the album and captures the more post-punk leanings that Coheed & Cambria once held closer to their collective hearts. The song is mid-paced and twisty, ambitious and catchy; it definitely doesn't come across as a mere B-side. Despite this, the other "new" songs add little of anything to the mix. The phenomenal "Junesong Provision" just simply doesn't sound as good in an acoustic demo version as it does with the final product. This acoustic rarity is still decent, but definitely not mind-blowing. The demo version of "Everything Evil" is almost no different when contrasted with the actual song itself, and the fantastic hidden track "I, Robot" has been moved to this song's finish to again close the CD, new version or not.
All-in-all, this CD isn't worth much hard-earned cash unless you are a fanatical CoCa completist or you're new to the band and looking for the most songs for the least cash. If you're not one of those people, try downloading "Elf Tower New Mexico" or something and you won't be any worse off. Less of a re-issue than a retread, this "second" Second Stage Turbine Blade offers little that is fresh and new, mainly leaving the potential fan feeling somewhat neutral. Buy it only if you feel it is a complete necessity.
Coheed & Cambria - The Second Stage Turbine Blade (Reissue)