The stock dismissal of emo-rock as a movement for navel-gazers and their regressive apologists flounders in the face of Coheed And Cambria, a band that services the genre's agony fixation while also priming its intriguing tendency to treat rock as a means for transport. Songs of intimacy and heartbreak jam against expansive prog-rock fantasias on In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3, but more notable than their coexistence is their interchangeability. Singer Claudio Sanchez sounds curiously frail and florid amid the group's progressive-metal crunch, but a striking ear for melody makes the disconnect swell into a homey sort of symphonic grandeur. Over smartly shifty rhythms and ornate guitar backdrops, "Cuts Marked In The March Of Men" twists quasi-religious themes into a personal statement of purpose. Soul-baring invocations of war, peace, and salvation double as entreaties between a guy and his girlfriend, and vice-versa. The poetic conceit proves overripe on occasion, matter-of-factly citing "the children" as an endangered collective and careening into lines like "On those days we lost our dignity / The Eagle dared to stand." But the group makes good on its high-stakes game with a pop instinct too sophisticated and gummy to be weighed down. "Three Evils (Embodied In Love And Shadow)" sounds like metal hung on the gilded hooks of Backstreet Boys, while a pained 15-minute triptych dubbed "The Velourium Camper" flows easier than its status as a pained 15-minute triptych might suggest. In Keeping Secrets falls prey to prog-rock's grandiose sprawl more than a few times, but it also casts Coheed And Cambria as a rarified band taking an otherworldly approach to the worldliest of concerns.

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