Ever since their formation (or renaming, if you want to get technical) in 2001, Coheed and Cambria has been wooing audiences across the country and across the world with their cross-genre sound that combines hardcore, pop, metal, and (most notably) prog rock. With their new album, entitled Year of the Black Rainbow, the quartet not only continues their legacy but they up the ante on who they are and what they sound like.
The album starts off with the ambient “One”, a throwback to both “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” (the song, not the album) and the “theme” from songs such as “The Ring in Return” and “Keeping the Blade.” After a bit of building noise, “The Broken”, the first single off of the album, bursts in with powerful force. The tune has a heavy feeling verse with a triplet-focused guitar riff that makes you rock your head in time. The chorus, as most are, is melodic and contradicts the rest of the song, but it fits really well with what is being conveyed. The song fits the verse-chorus-verse model which Coheed is known to break, but it still works.
As “The Broken” fades out, the next song “Guns of Summer” picks up. The most defining aspect of the track is the technicality of it. The guitar work runs up and down the fret board, the drums are crazy, and it’s all very fast-paced. Clearly this song was written with Chris Pennie, the ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer that the group picked up in 2007, in mind. It shows off his technical drumming ability as well as Claudio Sanchez’s (singer/guitarist) ability to write a wide variety of song styles. After the very askew verse, the bridge and pre-chorus build up for the chorus which, much like the previous song, is melodic and upbeat. The tune is solid change of pace for Coheed and Cambria, and not a bad change either.
The second single from YotBR,”Here We Are Juggernaut”, flows right into place after “Guns of Summer”. It has a powerful guitar riff in the verse that moves into a very catchy chorus. With lines like “This is not your playground it’s my heart” it’s pretty easy to relate to and easy to sing along to. Though the song is good, it feels like they’ve tread this road before, it just feels like a typical Coheed single, nothing too unique.
Just as “Here We Are Juggernaut” was a little cliche, so is the next tune, “Far”, a power ballad that seems to be a staple of a Coheed and Cambria album. Not to say the song is bad, just that it’s been done before. Thankfully, the following song “This Shattered Symphony” definitely has a different sound to it. It’s distorted, a little creepy, and heavy, though it does blend a bit with the rest of the songs on the record. Claudio does a slight bit of screaming, which I have always enjoyed so it’s nice to see that coming back.
What will surely become a fan favorite follows right after. “World of Lines” is upbeat, happy, and easy to sing along to. The main line of the chorus, “Just leave us alone” will surely have people screaming along (on a side note, this part sounds like both Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and the “Vivaaaaa Las Vegas” commercials). It’s exciting, but doesn’t lose integrity by being overly poppy as many songs and bands do.
“Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)” is the next tune, and is probably the least impressive song on the album. It starts off with an awkward tone that sounds like it should be in the middle of a song as apposed to the beginning. It stays bland throughout the verse before popping into a catchy, though uninteresting chorus. The bridge feels like it was thrown in just to have a bridge, with nothing of actual importance going on and the ending closes out with the same boring texture the rest of the song was made of.
Following after that is “Pearl of the Stars” which is another ballad but this one has more feeling to it. Claudio shows that he can hit lower notes in an eerie opening vocal melody. The original acoustic guitar line is layered upon as the song progresses, adding drums, bass, strings, and an assortment of random percussive sounds. It eventually builds like a crescendo into a solo section, something that there are too many of on this album but it really works well here. The song finally comes to a close in a similar fashion that it came in.
The next two songs, “In The Flame of Error” and “When Skeletons Live” sound like part 2 of “This Shattered Symphony” and “World of Lines”, respectively. They both have the same feel of their corresponding song, fast and upbeat or more epic and slow, though they definitely are separate songs, maybe some of the album’s best.
The album closer, “The Black Rainbow” is a quiet and slowed down epic that grows from silence to a loud roar. From a Coheed perspective, it’s a very large change from previous album bookends. On most of the records there is a big epic song that has some sing along parts and a solo area that works well live, this one has constant singing, but no catch, nothing that is memorable. The solos are there, but they are over powered by the signing and it feels like the song is going no where, sort of a bad way to end a record, but an end nonetheless.
Coheed and Cambria has grown as a band, as shown by their newest piece of work. It’s definitely different, but distinctly Coheed which is something the previous album lacked. Most of the song lengths are at about 4 minutes, which is kind of a shame considering much of the appeal before were the 7 minute epics, but Year of the Black Rainbow is quite impressive in it’s own right. The influences from producers Aticus Ross and Joe Barresi are very clear, but they don’t distort what the album is. This record is definitely a turning point for the band, especially since “the story” of Coheed and Cambria is now coming to a close, so here’s hoping that whatever comes next can be just as impressive.