From a cursory listen to the lyrics of Coheed and Cambria's "Blood Red Summer," the second single from the quartet's latest album plays out like so many self-deprecating rants about unrequited love.
But when Claudio Sanchez moans, "What did I do to deserve this?" an ordinary broken heart pales in comparison to what really is weighing on his mind.
"In the story, one of the characters from Second Stage becomes a being called the Crowing," Sanchez said. "The Crowing is to the Bag-On Line Adventures what the messiah is to the Bible. In [the song] 'The Crowing,' he meets with this being, Ambellina, who tells him, 'You've been deemed the Crowing, and ['Blood Red Summer'] is basically him going, 'What did I do to deserve this?' "
Confused? Those unfamiliar with the science-fiction narrative that began with Coheed and Cambria's 2002 debut, Second Stage Turbine Blade, and continues through their latest, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, will undoubtedly be perplexed by the description given by the band's singer, songwriter and conceptual mastermind. For devout C&C fans, however, Sanchez is just confirming what some of them already know.
Along with their rousing prog-rock anthems, where guitars intertwine to manic effect, another reason to submit to the cult of C&C is the concept behind the music. While a comic book series that launched this summer does well in explaining much of the otherworldly adventure (see "Coheed And Cambria Comic Makes Their Story Simple ... Almost"), there's still plenty of guesswork to be done.
"The intention was to create the records with this concept, in hopes that part of the audience would try to figure out their own ideas about what the story is," Sanchez said. "Kids are coming up with their own ideas, and when we release the comics, they see how close their guesses were."
Don't look at the video for "Blood Red Summer" to offer any clues to the story, however. The band is careful not to be so tangled up in its own story as to alienate those who are just looking to rock out. So rather than go high concept for the clip, it chose an opposite route.
"There are some zombies involved," bassist Mike Todd explained. "It's not funny like the last video [for 'A Favor House Atlantic']. It's not goofy, but there are some zombies involved ... a cabin in the woods ... some vomiting. It's cool."
Following a tour that will keep them on the road through early next month, Coheed and Cambria plan to take a break before working on their third album, the fourth chapter in Sanchez's four-album narrative (the fourth album being a prequel). For the final installment, Sanchez said, the story is told from the perspective of the storyteller, and how the storyteller's realty affects the outcome of the story.
Still, none of that matters when the band takes the stage. Unlike some artists who bring along props to illustrate their conceptual albums — such as Pink Floyd, Queensryche or even Marilyn Manson — Coheed and Cambria forgo concept in concert (see "Coheed And Cambria, The 'Emo Rush,' Bring Prog-Rock To The Mosh Pit").
"The story doesn't really play off live," Todd said. "The story's there for whoever wants to check it out, but we're also a rock band. I don't think you'd really know about the story if you just walked in."