Metal music comes in many versions — from traditional heavy metal to screamo, and everything in between. Coheed and Cambria’s Unheavenly Skye Tour brought three wildly different iterations, all equally impressive, especially when paired with the bizarre story lines behind the music.
Coheed and Cambria hails from Nyack, New York. The group has been around since the mid-'90s but truly broke into the scene in 2002 with the release of The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Their music is characteristically dense and layered, blurring the line between metal and prog-rock, and it was created to accompany a comic book series called The Amory Wars written by frontman (and hair god) Claudio Sanchez.
You don’t have to be into comic books or “one among the fence” (that reference will make sense here in a second) to enjoy the band's music, but, here’s the story line: Cyborg husband and wife duo Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon live in a galaxy far, far away called “Heaven’s Fence,” made up of 78 worlds held together by a beam of energy known as “the Keywork.” (Which makes it easy to spot a true Coheed fan — just look for their Keywork tattoo.) The Kilgannons rebel against Wilhelm Ryan, the tyrannical leader of the realm, and their son Claudio is “The Crowing” of Heaven’s Fence, destined to save the universe. Got it? OK, good.
Although the series has been ongoing for years, through 30 issues, in conjunction with the group's first seven records, Coheed took a short break from the story line with the band’s The Color Before the Sun release in 2016. They’re now picking up where they left off with The Unheavenly Creatures, and hit the road this spring to celebrate it with hardcore punk rockers Every Time I Die and heavy metal icons Mastodon. Dallas was the last stop on the tour, and metalheads from all walks of life turned up to the Toyota Music Factory on Wednesday night to join in the fun.
Every Time I Die are veterans best known for heavy-hitting songs and energetic live shows. Their set did not disappoint those of us who showed up early to see them, and it was the perfect way to amp the crowd up for what was to come. Hair shaking, head banging, spinning and jumping took place abundantly, as brothers Keith and Jordan Buckley and their bandmates screamed their way through the set list. Many Converse-clad crowd surfers made their way to the stage barriers to songs like “The New Black” from their 2006 album Gutter Phenomenon and “Map Change” from their latest record, Low Teens.
Mastodon, who are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their behemoth concept album Crack the Skye, was up next on the bill. The album was partly inspired by the suicide of drummer Brann Dailor’s sister in 1990 when she was just 14. The story follows a young, paraplegic, astral-projecting space traveler, who flew too close to the sun and burnt off the “golden umbilical cord that was attached to his solar plexus.” (Don’t worry, it gets even weirder.) This results in him losing control and winding up in the spirit realm via a wormhole. There he comes into contact with a Russian cult who tries to help him get back to his body. “The two souls fly out of Rasputin's body through the crack in the skye,” as the lyrics go.
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The quartet rocked hard for a solid 70 minutes as they made their way through the story line, further illustrated in trippy videos that played behind them. The group paused only twice to address the crowd and take a breather. Dailor performed drums and vocals simultaneously during much of the set — a fun feat to watch. At one point, Bill Kelliher licked the strings of his red, Budweiser-branded guitar. It was all reminiscent of Tenacious D, only unlike the comedic band, Mastodon took themselves pretty seriously.
After a lengthy stage changeover, the lights dimmed and the keywork emblem flashed on the curtain before we saw the first glimpse of the band and most importantly, Sanchez’s hair. (Seriously though, we’d like to know his hair care routine.) Coheed launched straight into several tracks from their latest work, including the title track and “The Dark Sentencer.” The amphitheater was packed with fans all the way back to the lawn. The band mixed it up with a few older tracks, including “A Favor House Atlantic” and “The Suffering” before Sanchez’s hair got to be too much and he had to tie it back. He then stated cryptically: “This one’s for you, Brian” — and performed the ballad “Mother Superior,” a deep cut that had fans over the moon.
The band eventually left the stage until fans chanted “Coheed, Coheed, Coheed,” and they returned for an encore. In true metal fashion, Sanchez switched to a double-neck guitar for the epic fan-favorite track, “Welcome Home” to close out the evening. Midway through the song, he passed the cumbersome instrument to someone else and began to run around the stage like a mad man while his magnificent mane trailed behind him.