Four apparently mild-mannered dudes from New York state, Coheed & Cambria have now released four sort-of emo, sort-of prog-rock albums. Nothing terribly unusual there, but consider this: Together, those albums chronicle a sci-fi saga involving a protagonist named Claudio Kilgannon, an epic struggle known as the Armory Wars, and a 78-planet solar system called Heaven’s Fence. Delving further and further into the confusing-ass story has only helped raise the band’s profile: In recent years, Coheed have scored a major-label deal, serious MTV airplay, and legions of devotees who dissect Claudio’s adventures online. And suffice to say Coheed’s demographic doesn’t include many Rush fans: Instead, it seems to be mostly emo kids. Coheed must be a wet dream for any sociologist who gives a shit about pop music—both the music and these Dungeons & Dragons narratives are a direct corollary to fantasy video-game culture, not to mention a unique brand of suburban geekery.
But you don’t have to care much about sci-fi or sociological import to dig the music, which has often been engrossing, expertly played, and pretty damn catchy. So it’s a minor bummer to report that Coheed have slipped on No World for Tomorrow. As with earlier albums, big riffs and Claudio Sanchez’s high-pitched wail dominate. The rhythm section is pretty hot, and a handful of tunes are great, including “Mother Superior,” a ragged, hooky epic My Chemical Romance wish they’d written. But overall, the songs are weaker than before—too many feel cheesy, bland, half-baked. Even worse, Coheed’s prog jones comes out on a series of dragged-out opuses like “III – The End Complete,” songs that are like Swiss Army knives where every tool is a spork: gratuitously outfitted and basically absurd. Maybe now that Coheed are done with the quadrilogy, they’ll finally make the genius, fully-formed, bullshit-free emo-prog album they seem to have in them.