Say what you want about Coheed and Cambria, but they can never be accused of not finishing what they start. This band's scope of ambition has been enormous from the very beginning, and it has remained focused, driven, and single-pointed since their debut album, 2002's The Second Stage Turbine Blade. The grand sci-fi/fantasy concept of The Amory Wars (aka "The Story") grew from the graphic novel and comic book series that vocalist/guitarist Claudio Sanchez authored, and has pushed this group toward the ultimate realization of its vision in Neverender: Children of the Fence in 2009. Sanchez, guitarist Travis Stever, bassist Michael Todd, and drummer Chris Pennie have come up with the ultimate rock fetish package to celebrate the completion of their conceptual quartet. Over four nights in 2008, the band took the stage at New York City's Terminal 5 and played one album each evening, with audio bootlegs and visual footage serving to document the full performances. In this lavishly designed box are four CDs, each one devoted to one of the four albums in the series -- The Second Stage Turbine Blade; In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3; Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness; Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 2: No World for Tomorrow -- with accompanying DVDs of each night. The entire festival is captured for posterity. Needless to say, this is not for the casual fan.
Musically, these shows are not perfect, but they are also better than good. Coheed are musically sophisticated and well rehearsed -- so much so that one of their middling nights is better than ten lesser bands on the best nights of their careers. The hardcore fan who is willing to shell out the big money for this set will not be disappointed by the performances here -- especially given the great degree of spontaneity on display in guitar solos, vocal acrobatics, dynamic shifts and changes, and sheer inspiration. All the albums are played in their entirety with some beautiful encores on the DVDs that accompany them -- including a cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" on the final evening. In addition to the eight discs is an additional DVD documentary included only in the box called The Fiction Will See the Real. The book is hardbound, and shot in full color on heavy stock with photos from each night and full credits. Finally, the box includes a cast metal golden dragonfly contained in molded foam rubber. The box is limited to 15,000 copies. Simply put, this is one of the more beautiful box sets ever issued, and it helps that the music -- as wide-ranging, full-on rockist as it is -- makes it more than a mere fetish object. Presented in this way, with live performances on successive evenings, "The Story" takes on an entirely new dimension, and becomes even more cohesive. Again, this is not for everyone, and not even for every Coheed and Cambria fan, but if you are part of that small contingent who will deem this worthy of laying down a pile of hard-earned dollars, this is as much a tribute to you as it is a celebration of the music itself. Mission accomplished. [For the more casual -- or economically challenged -- fan, this set also comes in a far less expensive edition that simply contains all four shows on a pair of DVDs].