Concept albums are albums in which the artist or band chooses to tell a story through the songs, or to unite them by a central theme.
Examples of concept albums can be seen in any genre of music, and as early as the 1930’s, but this project will focus on modern rock and metal artists.
Kamelot is an American power metal band whose albums Epica (2003) and The Black Halo (2005) are an interpretation of Goethe’s Faust.
From Left- Bassist Glen Barry, Guitarist Thomas Youngblood, Lead Singer Roy Khan, Drummer Casey Grillo, and Keyboardist Oliver Palotai.
Cast of Characters
• Ariel (Faust) – The main character. A prominent young alchemist, he finds no answers in science or religion, and seeks the ultimate truth that will make his life worthwhile.
• Helena (Gretchen) – Ariel’s true love since childhood. She represents all that is good and innocent.
• Mephisto (Mephistopheles) - Once God’s most beloved angel, he was cast out of heaven when he refused to serve mankind, claiming his loyalty was to God alone. He makes a deal with God that if he can claim Ariel’s soul, he will be allowed back into heaven. Mephisto is cunning and deceptive, and is the catalyst of all the events in Epica and The Black Halo. He also represents all that is evil.
Track Listing and Significance
Prologue – Mephisto and God make their bet on Ariel’s soul.
Center of the Universe – Ariel’s introduction. The listeners are introduced to his quest for the ultimate truth, which makes him feel alone in his homeland: the “center of the universe”.
Farewell – Ariel decides to leave his home for quest for the truth. He severs all ties, including with his love Helena, and embarks on his journey.
Interlude I (Opiate Soul) – This short track indicates the passage of time on Ariel’s journey.
The Edge of Paradise – due to years of fruitless searching, Ariel has become addicted to hallucinogens. Under the influence of said vice, he has a vision of Mephisto, although he is not aware who he is or of the bet on his soul.
Wander – Ariel gives up his search and wanders the land, reminiscing about Helena and the love that they once had.
Interlude II (Omen) – Ariel contemplates taking his own life, but Mephisto has other plans.
Descent of the Archangel – Mephisto reveals himself to Ariel, telling him that he will give Ariel the knowledge he seeks, in exchange for his soul upon death.
Interlude III (At the Banquet) – Ariel finds himself in Mephisto’s castle, where the fallen angel makes a dramatic entry.
A Feast for the Vain – During a night of earthly pleasures at Mephisto’s castle, Ariel agrees to give Mephisto his soul.
Track Listing and Significance (Continued)
11. On The Coldest Winter Night – After the feast at Mephisto’s castle, Ariel discovers Helena, who has been searching for him in the years since he left. They share a night of passion, where, unbeknownst to both, they conceive a child.
12. Lost and Damned – Although he loves Helena, Ariel decides to continue his quest for knowledge, stating "Love means nothing to me, if there is a higher place to be.“, and leaves Helena.
13. Helena’s Theme – Devastated by Ariel’s abandonment, Helena drowns herself and her unborn child in the river, but they both ascend to Heaven at the prayer of the sprit of the river.
14. Interlude IV (Dawn) – The town crier announces Helena’s death and that she was discovered to be pregnant.
15. The Mourning After (Carry On) – Ariel sees the death of Helena and their child in a dream. He is overcome with grief, yet he knows he must carry on in his quest, or else her death will have been for nothing.
16. III Ways To Epica – Mephisto urges Ariel to continue on, berating him for his grief over Helena and all other human emotions. Helena declares from heaven that love is the most powerful force, but yet Ariel is consumed by his sorrow, and blames God for his misery.
The story is continued in The Black Halo.
THE BLACK HALO
The Black Halo continues Ariel’s story, but is a much more loose interpretation of the second part of Faust . This album also introduces Marguerite, a woman who looks incredibly similar to the deceased Helena.
Lead singer Roy Khan (Ariel) and Simone Simons (Marguerite) perform “The Haunting” live.
Track Listing and Significance
March of Mephisto – Mephisto’s influence over Ariel is at its highest. The fallen angel finds Marguerite, Helena’s doppelganger in appearance, with intentions for her to seduce Ariel as Mephisto seduces his mind.
When the Lights Are Down – Ariel and Marguerite consummate their lust, and afterwards Ariel awakens from the spell Mephisto cast upon him. Helena’s death weighs upon him still, and he continues to remember what happened to her.
The Haunting (Somewhere In Time) – Ariel explains to Marguerite that he only wanted her due to the face that she resembled his dead lover. He urges her to leave and forget him, but that they may meet again one day (“ Somewhere in time I will find you and love you again…”) .
Soul Society – A reflection of Ariel’s mind. He believes that human life is insignificant, yet he wishes for a more perfect world. He continues to mourn for Helena and their unborn child.
Interlude I (Dei Grata) – Ariel realizes that the ultimate truth can only be attained in heaven.
Abandoned – Due to all of his sins, Ariel realizes that he will never reach heaven, that he will never see the truth, and that he will never see Helena again. He feels abandoned and alone, and leaves Mephisto.
This Pain – Ariel reflection on his actions on his journey, and notes how he will never be free from the consequences of what he has done.
Track Listing and Significance (Continued)
8. Moonlight – Ariel knows he will never be able to repent for his actions, which prompts him to sail back across the river to find Mephisto.
9. Interlude II (Un Assassino Molto Silenziozo) – In front of the demon’s castle, Ariel gazes at the moon and wonders whether there was anything but death and damnation lying in his future.
10. The Black Halo – Ariel resigns himself to death, and defies Mephisto. He decides to live the rest of his live as a good and moral person, as Helena did, even though he knows he still faces damnation. His “black halo” is his desire to be good again, but the irreversible sins he has committed will forever darken his soul.
11. Nothing Ever Dies – Ariel reflects on the perpetual cycle of sins that mankind commits. He finally realize the truth he seeks: Love.
12. Memento Mori – Now that Ariel has entered a state of ultimate contentment, it is time for Mephisto to claim his soul. However, his soul does not depart into the demon’s grasp, because Ariel has rejected evil and finally redeemed himself. He is allowed into heaven, and is reunited with Helena, while Mephisto, having lost the bet with God, is condemned to Hell. Here the story ends.
13. Interlude III: Midnight (Twelve Tolls for a New Day) – It is revealed that Ariel’s story is actually a play being put on for a New Year’s festival in a town called Gatesville.
14. Serenade – The final song tells of the overall theme of life and renewal.
"What does the winter bring, if not yet another spring?"
Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria is an American progressive rock/emo band. All of their albums reveal the plot of their original science fiction storyline, The Amory Wars , written by lead singer Claudio Sanchez.
The Second Stage Turbine Blade
Coheed’s first album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade , released in 2002, is the first installment of The Amory Wars .
Due to the complexity of the storyline, the following summary was taken from evilinkcomics.net.
Man and wife Coheed and Cambria are used as the centerpiece to enable Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan's attempt at destroying his archrival Mage, Mariah Antillarea. Due to a memory swiping years ago, the couple are led to believe that their former lives have now come back to haunt them. They’re told by General Mayo Deftinwolf (Ryan's Right hand) that they were long ago implanted with a great threat to Heaven’s Fence, The Monstar Virus. A virus with the ability to turn its host (Coheed) into a being powerful enough to drain the Keywork's energy sources to spark Armageddon, while their dear old counterpart, Inferno was given the only means to unlock it. Through more lies, they are led to believe their children have genetically acquired a mutated form of the virus, the Sinstar. This new strain only requires its host to mature to a certain age, and has no antidote unlike the Monstar. Their children cannot be saved and time will not side with them. Coheed and Cambria are faced with an unimaginable dilemma: to murder their own children or face Armageddon.
Comic Cover Album Cover
Specific Song Examples
Devil in Jersey City – Josephine Kilgannon and her fiancée Patrick go to Jersey City, and despite his reassurances that it is deserted, they are attacked by the Jersey City Devils, a violent gang.
Everything Evil – Josephine arrives home from her ordeal, where she is attacked and killed by her father, Coheed. Not long after her younger brother Claudio comes home to find her body, and inexplicably reanimates her for a brief time. At that moment a Priest, a ghost-like monster, emerges from another room to attack Claudio, prompting Josie’s final words, one of the band’s most famous and haunting lyrics:
And she screamed “Claudio, dear Claudio,
I wish, God damn it, we’ll make it if you believe!”
These lines are repeated several times, growing fainter and fainter as the song ends.
Neverender – Claudio writes his parents a note, apologizing for disobeying them and wishing he could see them again. He contemplates suicide, but decides to take action against those who destroyed his family.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Coheed’s second album was released in 2003. Although In Keeping Secrets has yet to be published as a comic, Claudio Sanchez has revealed the story’s plot, and many dedicated fans have given each song thorough analysis.
Summary taken from evilinkcomics.net.
Ten years after the “[Second Stage] Turbine Blade", son Claudio emerges from the depths of Shylos Ten, the Fence's "quiet" planet where the Red Army performs its brutal interrogations and imprisonments. In finding out that his entire family has been murdered, Claudio begins his quest for vendetta. His foes, Supreme Tri Mage Wilhelm Ryan and General Mayo Deftinwolf sense that he is still alive and holds special powers. They know they must stop him before he defeats them. Meanwhile, Inferno (Jesse Kilgannon) takes up arms against the Red Army (“Man your Battlestations”) in an effort to seek the same kind of vengeance on him. In Claudio’s re-emergence he teams up with Ambellina, the Prise who is cast out by her peers and forced to be his guide. The pair along with Sizer, a disassembled IRO-bot, seek out Inferno to find answers as to why his family were killed, but their plans take an unexpected turn in a ship called the Velourium Camper, and a freighter pilot named Al the Killer.
Specific Song Examples
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 - Jesse, Coheed’s estranged brother, prepares his troops for war.
The Crowing – Claudio is awoken by Ambellina, an outcast member of the Prise, addressing him as “Crowing”. He learns of the fate of the Keywork (the system of planets that make up the universe), of his family, and his role in it all.
Blood Red Summer – Jesse and Claudio meet, where Jesse confirms what Ambellina told him. Jesse also reveals that the plot against the Kilgannons was to ensure that Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan remained the Commander of the Keywork. Claudio struggles with these revelations, and wonders what he did to deserve all of this.
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Good Apollo I was released in 2005. Quite a bit of time has passed since the previous album, and it is revealed that Coheed and Cambria are both dead. Claudio is continuing his quest to protect the Keywork, and more information is revealed about Jesse Kilgannon’s involvement with the Monstar virus.
Most of the songs focus on The Writer, a new character who is revealed to be a godlike force driving all the events in the storyline.
In addition, Sanchez collaborated with a new artist for this comic installment.
Comic Cover Album Cover
Specific Song Examples
Welcome Home – [Claudio’s description] “The Writer has a vision. He sees himself in this disfigured form, and a woman bound next to a grave. And the woman says ‘don’t kill me, I love you.’ and he says, ‘What do you care? You left me this way the only way my pain will end is in your suffering. Now get in the ground’ And that’s the scene in the video.”
The Writer visualizes himself dragging a woman, who looks remarkably like his ex-lover, into a grave, wearing a grim reaper-like outfit, signifying death.
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial) - “Ten Speed is the Writer’s subconscious, like the son of Sam dog. The is a dialogue, Ten Speed telling the Writer he knows of a way to get out of his rut: All he needs to do is stop doing the story.”
Ten Speed, the Writer’s alter ego who takes the form of a demon bicycle, tells the Writer to kill off Erica, but he is still conflicted.
Crossing the Frame - “In Second Stage, the Writer wrote a love interest for the Character (Claudio). Her name is Newo. ‘Crossing The Frame’ is the parallels between Newo and Erica Court, the Writer’s love interest.”
As Claudio reflects on his past, on Newo in particular, the Writer begins to resent her as well as Erica. His resentment transfers to Claudio, who convinces himself that he can never return to his old life.
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume II: No World for Tomorrow
No World For Tomorrow was released in late 2007. It is considered to be Coheed’s most “mainstream” album. It is the fourth installment of The Amory Wars . However, currently there are no comics that parallel the album, and little information is known about the plot, other than that it is a continuation of The Writer and Claudio’s involvement in the fate of the Keywork.
Other Notable Concept Albums
Protest the Hero – Kezia (2005)
The Canadian Mathcore/Progressive Rock band’s first full length album tells the story of a girl’s execution from three different perspectives.
The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium (2005)
This album narrates the adventures of Cerpin Taxt, a man who tries to commit suicide by overdosing on Morphine.
Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory (1999)
One of the American progressive metal band’s most notable albums, the songs form the story of Nicholas, an original character who discovers a past life he never knew about.