Claudio Sanchez, the hay bale-haired frontman for progressive emo-rockers Coheed and Cambria, will never look back on 2006 fondly. It was a year wrought with lineup shifts, family deaths and hurdles aplenty. There was even a moment that the sci-fi-leaning concept band wondered if it should even bother carrying on.
In August, the band was forced to nix a European tour, following the departures of drummer Joshua Eppard and bassist Michael Todd, which put things in Coheed land in flux for a spell. In the spring, Todd returned to the fold, and Eppard was replaced by former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie. Sanchez also lost his aunt, a social worker who'd counseled the band through several challenging times, to Alzheimer's disease; her death was a blow to the entire group.
"It's been an uphill battle," Sanchez explained. "Last year was terrible. It was an interesting time for this band and a very important time, because with all those experiences, I think we have created a very awesome album," the forthcoming Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, which drops October 23. "We sort of rose from the ashes, which is something we never really had with any of the previous albums, which makes me feel like this is the strongest and makes for the best conclusion for the saga.
"Last year, we went through a lot, and I think, really, at the end of the day, it all helped kind of mold this album," Sanchez added. "Like [2005's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness], where we kind of saw [the tale of Coheed and Cambria, an epic of love, death and deceit sprung from Sanchez's vivid imagination] from the writer's perspective, and how the writer's reality kind of affected the outcome of the story. This time around, it's pretty much that tenfold. This one's about everything we endured in 2006 and how that kind of translated over to the concept of Coheed and Cambria."
Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Shadows Fall), No World for Tomorrow features Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who was summoned — the day before the band was scheduled to begin tracking — to fill in for Eppard. Being able to bring the Coheed and Cambria saga to a close has been rather relieving for Sanchez.
"I certainly feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders," he said. "Now I am thinking about what will happen in the future, about the prequel album, possible spinoffs." (Sanchez also hinted at bigger things coming down the pike for Coheed, including a possible film adaptation, either live-action or animated, of the albums' overall concept.) "It is nice to know I am closing the center of the whole mythology. Now, with this album, it has been established that, although the [upcoming] prequel is just as important, these four bodies of work really kind of stamp it. They make the mythology."
Surprisingly, despite all the headaches and heartaches the band has experienced in the last 12 months, the album isn't as dark as you might imagine and boasts a few heavy numbers, à la "Welcome Home."
"In writing the lyrics, I found certain lines that, instead of being so on the dark side of things, almost felt very hopeful," the singer said. "To quote some of the lyrics, 'Raise your hands high, young brothers and sisters/ There's a world's worth of work and a need for you.' It's almost like we've gone through all these changes, and we want our fans to know that we have endured and will continue. At the same time, on the conceptual side of things, it's the end of the story, the end of everything, so it's almost, in a weird way, tricking a following into their own demise ... if that makes any sense."
The band has been previewing at least one of the new songs, the disc's likely first single, "The Running Free," during this summer's Warped Tour, and the response has been positive. Look for the record to also contain the cuts "Mother Superior," "The End Complete," "Gravemakers and Gunslingers," the album's title track and "Justice and Murder," a tune inspired by Sanchez's aunt.
"She had a very interesting role in Coheed, especially after [the release of 2002's The Second Stage Turbine Blade], when Coheed actually disbanded for a second due to extensive touring and such. ... We were so overloaded, we kind of imploded," he said. "My aunt happened to be a social worker, a therapist, and we went to her and she helped us sort out our problems and helped us figure out what we wanted to do as a band, and thus, we endured and went on to [record 2003's In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3]. It was such a tragedy, because seeing her pass away and all that we endured in 2006, it was another brick in that wall. It made us wonder, 'Can we overcome this?' because we aren't going to have that help we had before."
For some of the tracks, Sanchez said he experimented with unfamiliar instrumentation, including organs and pianos, to create a sound he described as "Ray Charles on Quaaludes." A few of the songs were actually written on piano and later converted into very intricate guitar parts.
"Musically, I think our fans are going to really enjoy it because there are a lot of callbacks to the other albums," he explained. "But it's hard to say what will happen to this band when the concept is finished. There are so many avenues we could explore, if we really wanted to dive into the conceptual side of things. The solar system that I have created [with the Coheed saga] involves 78 planets, so there are worlds of things we could explore, as well as moving into another piece of fiction or whatever. We're artists — we can find an interesting way to move from this to another thing, if we chose to do that. If I were to say this is the end of Coheed and Cambria, I think our audience would be excited about it."