Over the last decade or so, progressive rock/pop master Coheed and Cambria has become one of the biggest and most adored bands in the genre. With hits like “Welcome Home,” “The Suffering,” “The Running Free,” “Dark Side of Me,” and “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute,” all of which came from a string of brilliant concept albums, the group is revered for crafting hypnotically catchy and menacingly complex tracks. In celebration of their latest record, ‘The Afterman’ (which was released in two parts, ‘Ascension’ and ‘Descension’), they’re touring the country alongside two other phenomenal acts, Russian Circles and Between the Buried and Me. This past Tuesday, March 12th, the trio played Philadelphia’s beloved The Electric Factory and delivered one of the most energetic, involving, joyous, and impressive shows I’ve ever seen.
First up was Russian Circles, whose last record was 2011’s ‘Empros.’ An instrumental group focused on tricky rhythms, aggressive riffs, and intriguing soundscapes, their performance was a striking—if slightly too dissonant and stagnant—display of post-rock/metal. Of special note were the uses of loop effects, counterpoint, build-up, forceful timbres, and remarkable dynamics. The pieces would begin softly before evolving into extreme heaviness, and while they were a bit interchangeable at times, the songs never failed to excite the crowd. Also, drummer Dave Turncrantz stole the spotlight at several points with his amazing skills at syncopation. All in all, it was a strong way to begin the show.
Between the Buried and Me appeared fairly quickly afterward, and as you’d expect, they performed a few pieces from their newest progressive metal masterpiece, ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence.’ Things kicked off with “Astral Body/Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” and continued with “Ants of the Sky/Prequel to the Sequel” from their adored 2007 record, ‘Colors.’ They also replicated “Telos” (from ‘Parallax II’) and “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” (from ‘Alaska’). Throughout their performance, synchronized lights provided accompaniment for ever rhythm and riff alteration, which was really cool. Vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers encouraged the crowd to sing and clap along, which they were more than happy to do. Considering that their music is some of the most intricate, melodic, and brutal I’ve ever heard, I was blown away simply because they were able to reproduce it so perfectly. It was phenomenal.
After another brief intermission, Coheed and Cambria were greeted by deafening applause. They began with the first two songs on ‘Descension,’ “Pretelethal” and “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant.” Many more songs from ‘The Afterman’ were featured, including “Dark Side of Me,” “The Afterman,” and the other four songs from the “Key Entity Extraction” suite. They also performed plenty of fan favorites, including “No World for Tomorrow,” “A Favor House Atlantic,” “Delirium Trigger,” “Wake Up,” and “Here We Are, Juggernaut.” Seeing as it was vocalist Claudio Sanchez’s birthday, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to him, which was fun. Naturally, they closed the night with their most well-known song, “Welcome Home,” which resulted in an eruption of enthusiasm and chanting like I’ve never heard before.
Visually, the group impressed as well, as every song was complemented by conceptually tied imagery on screens. The two most striking elements, however, were the mannequins behind glass and the hanging ‘Afterman’ symbol, whose colors changed often. In addition, the entire show was encased in the theme of ‘The Afterman,’ as the computerized voice that narrates the album spoke between the songs. It was a very nice touch that made the show feel even more epic and special.
Overall, the show was absolutely incredible. All three bands were in top form, and the crowd went crazy for every moment. Although I never really listened to Russian Circles prior to the show, I really dug their set. As for BTBAM and C&C, well, they exceeded expectations, which, considering that they’re likely two of the best bands around, is saying something. They performed some of their best music flawlessly and clearly enjoyed and appreciated the passion from fans, which was nice. If you’ve never seen these groups live, you’re truly missing something. They left me (and hundreds of other listeners) nearly speechless this past Tuesday night.