Beyond progressive: Coheed And Cambria bring high concepts and hard rock to Simpsonville

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Coheed And Cambria and Mastodon
Coheed And Cambria are playing CCNB Amphitheatre at Heritage Park in Simpsonville on June 1. Photo by Jimmy Fontaine.

For Upstate fans of heavy music, the upcoming performance by Coheed And Cambria and Mastodon at Simpsonville’s CCNB Amphitheatre at Heritage Park this Saturday is an embarrassment of riches. Both bands bring the noise, though they do so in very different ways.

Mastodon’s music is bluesy, swaggering hard rock with a modern edge, bringing elements of heavy metal but generally staying closer to Aerosmith than Iron Maiden.

Coheed And Cambria’s sound, which the band has developed over a 20-plus year career and nine albums, is more complex, though no less visceral. The band has spent virtually all of their existence creating concept albums, thematically linked works based on The Amory Wars, an ongoing comic-book series written by their lead singer, Claudio Sanchez. With one exception, 2015’s The Color Before The Sun, the band has crafted cinematic, complex and undeniably heavy rock songs to accompany Sanchez’s lyrics.

Despite the superficial differences between the two bands, Coheed’s lead guitarist Travis Stever says they’ve been trying to get this tour together for years.

“It seemed like a no-brainer to just about everybody,” he says, “but just it never came together. We’d met them here and there in passing and at different festivals, and we were fans of their music, so it just seemed like a great plan. We’ve been planning it for quite some time, trying to figure out when it would be best, and it finally fell into place, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Stever adds that the two bands, along with their opener for this show, Every Time I Die, get along well offstage, an often-overlooked factor when it comes to creating a successful multi-band tour.

“It totally throws the vibe off if you don’t want to see the person you have to walk past every day or listen to every day,” he says with a laugh. “This tour was chosen by all of us, and we look forward to hearing their set every night. That doesn’t always happen. You’re not always going to be a huge fan of who you’re on tour with, but I can honestly say we enjoy their music.”

The band returned to The Amory Wars storyline for 2018’s  Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures after largely ignoring it on their previous release, but Stever says that even if the songs aren’t thematically linked, Coheed & Cambria aim to make epic music.

“When I write guitar parts that are going to go along with Claudio’s songs and vocal melodies, I’m thinking of how they’re going to heighten them,” he says. “And that’s how every band member is. Even in the poppiest, simplest songs, there’s a hint of complication and interesting melodies that you wouldn’t normally hear. Bringing the concept back in just accentuates that and brings out what we do.”

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be familiar with the comics to enjoy the band’s songs.

“A lot of people get overwhelmed and think they have to know the concept to enjoy the band,” Stever says, “but that’s absolutely not true. It’s like any other bands that creates a song; it’s about life, but there’s just this other side of it that concerns this fictitious universe.”

Because of their complex songs and concept albums, Coheed And Cambria are often tagged as a “progressive rock” band, a description that Stever says doesn’t really fit what they do.

“The truth of the matter is that we’re all over the map, and people don’t know how to label that, so they just say it’s prog-rock,” he says. “But we’re not just doing ten-minute songs all the time. We have three or four minute songs that are straight to the point. Since we started, it was always about how we feel and what the song calls for. I think it all breaks down to feeling.”

If you go

What: Coheed And Cambria & Mastodon, w/ Every Time I Die
Where: CCNB Amphitheatre at Heritage Park, 110 Poinsett Hwy., Greenville
When: Saturday, June 1st, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $27-$147
Info: 864-296-6601, https://ccnbamphitheatre.com/

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