How exactly does a prog-emo band like Coheed and Cambria satisfy their rabid fan-base that was steadily growing by the day after the release of their debut, 2002’s The Second Stage Turbine Blade? The answer would be found by going even bigger and more grandiose. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 was released 20 years ago via Equal Vision Records, and the expectations that fans, critics, and quote-unquote “gatekeepers of the scene” would all be blown into oblivion on Coheed’s sophomore LP. While Coheed and Cambria may have never fit the mold of the Warped Tour band-label back in the early 00’s, the scene was rapidly changing at just the right moment in time for this ultra-talented group. At the creative surface, this album was continuation of The Armory Wars trilogy, that came from the brilliant mind of front-man/guitarist/lyricist Claudio Sanchez, yet there’s so many layers to the complex storytelling found on this record that plays out in its own type of music multiverse. The album was produced by Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner, and their crisp production allows for the record to shimmer much like the cosmos above us that inspire science fiction stories far and wide. While their debut full-length record invited fans into the world of Coheed and Cambria, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 blew the doors off the hinges into a cosmic exploration of what creative music can be.
One can only imagine how giddy Equal Vision Records must have been when the early mixes came in for this record and they began to map out a marketing strategy for an album that was well ahead of its time. The first song I ever heard from the set was the sprawling title track, and it grabbed fellow-listeners on a 8-minute ride filled with more twists and turns than a labyrinth. From that now-legendary introductory guitar riff that set the stage on the song, to the complex, and rich storytelling found on Sanchez’s lyrics on the chorus of, “Man your own jackhammer / Man your battle stations / We’ll have you dead pretty soon,” Coheed and Cambria quickly established themselves as major players in a scene of music that found itself pushing the boundaries of creativity further than we could have ever imagined back in 2003.
The album would astonish music industry executives by charting as high as #52 on the Billboard 200 and would eventually sell enough copies in the United States to earn a Gold certification. This led to an extensive major label courting process for the band, who would eventually sign with Columbia Records to release their major label debut Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness.
The songs found on In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 are well-constructed, dynamic, and allow for plenty of fodder for fans to do lyrical deep dives into the storytelling. The first single to be released from the set was the extremely catchy, accessible, and anthemic song called “A Favor House Atlantic,” with its radio-bleeped out lyric of “Good eye, sniper,” that couldn’t de-rail the success of the track that would chart as high as #13 on Billboard’s Alternative music charts. The other single to be released was the equally-catchy “Blood Red Summer,” that featured a music video that highlighted the personality of not only Claudio, but the rest of his talented band-mates. This single received some airplay on MTV, MTV2 and Fuse, and furthered the success and momentum of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 as a whole.
Sandwiched around the three radio singles is a ton of deep cuts, raucous anthems, and vivid storytelling found over the 12-total songs found on the LP. “Cuts Marked in the March of Men” featured a well thought out opening line of, “Listen to the world out on the outside pressing in / Are you ready on my mark? / Fingers given names and with the last word they ascend / On the comfort of their well being…in arms / Into something they can’t stop but wish that they could kill / You’re the answer to their prayer,” that outline the storyline of a war being in full swing. “Three Evils” and “The Crowing” furthered the acceleration of Coheed and Cambria of being the name in the prog-rock music world to watch, and the latter track had the memorable refrain of, “Dear Ambellina, the Prise wishes you to watch over me.”
The back half of the LP opens with the mini-trilogy called “The Camper Velourium” that wedges in three unique sections of “Faint of Hearts,” “Backend of Forever” and the abrasive “Al The Killer.” Things take a turn towards the beautiful and majestic on “The Light & The Glass,” a ballad that can bring a tear to the eyes of even the toughest of foes, while the closing “hidden track” of “21:13” invites the audience to continue down a journey into the unknown. The breadcrumbs of where Coheed and Cambria would take their sound over the next two-plus decades can be traced back to this album, and it’s well worth celebrating on its 20th birthday.