Coheed & Cambria is such a fascinating band because, even after nearly 18 years as a band, they’re still adapting their sound with each and every release. Sure, the band hasn’t quite floored me since the Good Apollo releases, but with 2010’s Year of the Black Rainbow, their fifth release, there’s still a lot to love. Experimenting more with alternative rock than ever, the release is almost transcendent in places, even if it never quite reaches pure greatness.
Opener “The Broken” is a fast-paced and crunchy track with a superb chorus, while “Guns of Summer” is unfortunately largely forgettable. “Here We Are Juggernaut” and “Far,” two of the singles released from Rainbow, are both memorable for different reasons. The former features some stellar guitar work and has a catchy hook, while the latter is a heart-wrenching song, featuring a great vocal performance from Claudio Sanchez. The track is easily one of the album’s biggest highlights. Drummer Chris Pennie proves he’s quite the capable replacement for Josh Eppard (who later returned to the band) on the fierce “This Shattered Symphony.” Sanchez’s half-scream is also stellar here.
The second half of the album proves to be just as effective as the first half, from the awesome leads in “Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)” to the random noise craziness of “When Skeletons Live.” But these tracks pale in comparison to “Pearl of the Stars,” which may just be one of Coheed & Cambria’s most haunting and beautiful songs. Sanchez gives one hell of a vocal performance (one of his best to date) and the accompanying acoustic guitars just fit the track so well. When Sanchez belts, “I’d give you everything, if only I’d have known you’d take it,” there’s so much detectable emotion present in his voice. Black Rainbow is worth at least one listen for “Pearl of the Stars” alone.
When it comes down to it, Year of the Black Rainbow isn’t the masterpiece that their earlier efforts were, but it’s hardly anything to riot over. And while the band has since returned more to their progressive rock roots, elements of Black Rainbow persist even in their new music. The album features 12 capable and mostly memorable tracks simply because Coheed & Cambria elected to go for a more straight rock approach. While a technique that may not have proven healthy for the overall success of the band, Year of the Black Rainbow is a fun ride regardless.