in which I discuss a Coheed song but not the one you're thinking
Title: The Dark Sentencer
Artist: Coheed and Cambria
Album: The Unheavenly Creatures
As some bands age they become parodies of themselves, a problem that Coheed and Cambria can never have because, since their inception, the band has been too ridiculous to parody.1 For the better part of two decades, Coheed songs have been telling the story of … honestly, I’m not quite sure. A massive intergalactic war, maybe? Nine albums in and I still have no idea what this story is about but I sure as shit know it’s being told because Coheed songs are riddled with lyrics and spoken word snippets like this:
It begins with them but ends with me, their son, Vaxis.
Do you have a lot of questions? I have a lot of questions. What is “it”? Who is “them”? What is a Vaxis and why would anyone be named that? This very short line, the first from “The Dark Sentencer,” invites an awful lot of speculation. The song provides no answers.2
Coheed has been doing this for the better part of two decades, writing epic songs that are filled with a bunch of weird non-sequiturs that have been peppered with unexplained character names and inexplicable capitalization that can only be denoting Proper Nouns. It’s all so ridiculous that, at this point, it’s comforting. “Sure, Claudio,” I think as I fire up some prog-rock whose allure is in riffs and harmonies and a general sense of audible size rather than any literary pretensions, “Tell me all about the Fence and the Keywork and the Afterman and whatever else. Sing me some hot nonsense like, ‘It’s been my pleasure to serve your disease.’ Regale me with b-movie dialogue like, ‘Kiss your lover with that mouth, you fucking monster?’ Give me a song that’s almost eight minutes long because it has the courage to ask, ‘What if we had another bridge? What if we played that entire section again for no reason?’”
And then Coheed does all of those things and, really, it’s fantastic.
The lead single3 from 2018’s The Unheavenly Creatures, “The Dark Sentencer” is a refined version of all those elements that make Coheed great. It’s got a gang chant, a huge chorus, multiple false endings and near-constant riffing. The song’s self-awareness is evident as it closes out with a two-word refrain: “Welcome home!” Claudio loudly singing the name of Coheed’s biggest commercial success is the most obvious fan service this side of a J.J. Abrams Star4 movie and it doubles as an admission that this song is exactly what a lot of people, yours truly included, want from Coheed. For two decades I’ve been eating this shit up. It really is home.
I give “The Dark Sentencer” five out of five stars.
For a parallel that would surely be horrifying to Claudio and Co., we can turn to failed mail-order steak magnate Donald Trump, whose presidency and persona were so utterly preposterous that their most substantial parody over the last half-decade was “Alec Baldwin making a face.”
In fairness, the Genius entry for this song does tell us that, “‘Them’ refers to the album’s primary characters: Creature and Sister Spider, also known as the Unheavenly Creatures.” I sincerely appreciate someone taking the time to define a pronoun by using a series of proper nouns that also require explanation, only to provide none.
I can’t be alone in wishing that they had kept the single artwork as the final album cover. I see you, fellow Hydrox Death Star stans.
Take your pick: Trek or Wars.