Coheed and Cambria are a unique breed. Creating a brand of progressive rock with deep roots in emo is no easy feat. Surprisingly, in the past, the band has pulled this off almost without fail. This could be due mainly to their music being presented entirely through science fiction concept albums, freeing them from the stereotypical pitfalls that affect most emo lyrics. Discussion of this particular album's story will not be included, due to the fact that I haven't the slightest idea what it is. It is however safe to say that it is a prequel to The Second Stage Turbine Blade and might have something to do with 'black rainbows'. If you do understand Coheed and Cambria's massive story, thank you for reading Claudio Sanchez, for you are the only one.
The Year of the Black Rainbow isn't quite the title that Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol 1: Fear Through the Eyes of Madness was. This might lead a listener to believe that the band is changing their style or formula, and upon listening to the beginning of the album, this supposition appears to be true. The first three tracks (not counting intro song 'One') seem to be a straight progressive rock, beating down the listener with aggressive tempos and distortion. While all of these songs are fantastic in their own right, they seem to be a departure from the normal Coheed and Cambria mixing in of emo. All the progressive tempos and time signatures are there, but missing the catchy choruses of something like 'Devil in the Jersey City'. At this point, it seems like the band has traded in their emo roots for a simple wall of sound and distortion. This view however, is shattered the moment 'Far' kicks in. This track abandons the distorted guitar of the first three songs in favor of a synthesizer driven riff. Adding lead guitar on top of this, Coheed and Cambria have a winner. 'Far' seems to be the turning point of the album, where it turns from 'good progressive rock album' into 'great Coheed and Cambria album'. 'This Shattered Symphony' has the same roots in the emo progressive style that pervious albums had. The same can be said for 'Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)' and the acoustic 'Pearl of the Stars'. The Year of the Black Rainbow also avoids the worst pitfall that Coheed has fallen into before, carrying the album out too long. Good Apollo Vol 1 was especially guilty of this during it's 29 minute excursion, 'The Willing Well'. The 7 minute long 'The Black Rainbow' actually closes the album well, a problem I'm very glad to see the band overcome.
Despite some changes, The Year of the Black Rainbow is still Coheed and Cambria. The only real complaint I can level against it is the lack of any catchy choruses like 'The Running Free' (with perhaps the exception of the album's first single, 'Here We Are Juggernaut') and no earth shaking riffs like 'Welcome Home'. Nevertheless, The Year of the Black Rainbow is stellar and essential to any fan of the band.
Year of the Black Rainbow is classic Coheed and Cambria, take it or leave it. While there are some changes, and a lack of catchy choruses, the band delivers a progressive rock album that doesn’t disappoint.
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