Coheed And Cambria – “Year of the Black Rainbow”

Even though I’ve been excited about Year of the Black Rainbow’s release for a while, this is the first time I’ve owned an album and not had the chance to listen to it for nearly a month! However, it was completely worth the wait, and I finally got to sit and listen to it.

Anyone who knows about Coheed And Cambria will know about the creative brain behind the New Jersey Prog-Rock outfit Claudio Sanchez, who created the entire storyline and characters that his bands albums follow in the sci-fi landscape of The Amory Wars.  All of this has already been put down in an earlier review of their second album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, so for more details on all of this, check that out.

I personally sprang for the Special Limited Edition of Year of the Black Rainbow, which comes with a “Making Of…” DVD entitled “Every End Has a Beginning”, a hard-backed lyrics book with the CD and DVD, and a full prose novel of The Year of the Black Rainbow, which is the chronicling of The Amory Wars from the very beginning – which is essentially what this album is. This could, theoretically, be the last Coheed And Cambria album to be made, as this is a prequel to their other albums (their first being Second Stage Turbine Blade) and tracks how the characters of Coheed Kilgannon and his wife Cambria came into existence.

Opener One is an entirely instrumental, atmospheric introduction to the album (as is usual on their albums) and ushers in the beginning of the Coheed And Cambria saga. From this point onwards until the end of the album, you realise you are listening to something very new and different from Coheed And Cambria. Not quite as instantly accessible for metal fans as No World For Tomorrow was, not quite as varied from song to song as Second Stage Turbine Blade was, and not as lengthy in its content as In Keeping Secrets… was either, Year of the Black Rainbow is definitely very much its own stand-alone album as far as its sound is concerned. There is a very dramatic curtain draped over this album – from the sound of songs like Here We Are Juggernaut to the lyrics of Pearl of the Stars, you could almost imagine this being the soundtrack behind an epic, dramatic space-age theatre show. Which, perhaps, was the kind of mindset Claudio Sanchez and the rest of Coheed And Cambria were in whilst writing this album. Either way, Year of the Black Rainbow has a very dramatic sound-scope backing up its prog-rock lyrics.

First song actual on the album, The Broken, gives you the first general idea of these new directions when its juddering, angular sounds rip through the atmospherics left by One and kick off the album in the expected epic fashion. Guns of Summer signals a completely different sound from what fans might expect of Coheed And Cambria – a more Depeche Mode sort of sound (think Linkin Parks New Divide with a bit more grit and distort). This daring new move on their sound will either alienate some fans, or gain their respect for trying something new and, actually, making it work pretty well. What Guns of Summer also does is change the tone at points you don’t expect, so it keeps changing from the kind of song you first expect it to be. This fashion of a more electric-synth-beat lead song keeps occurring throughout Year of the Black Rainbow, and adds a new element to the already epic sounds Coheed And Cambria have worked hard to achieve. Not quite as show-offish as Muse (probably a good thing…) but also not quite bringing back a retro style, what Coheed and Cambria have done on Guns of Summer and other songs like World Of Lines is simply add another dimension to their music to enhance the dramatic atmosphere of this start to an epic storyline. And it definitely works, as far as drawing in your interests goes, as it leaves you curious as to what they will do next as the album runs on.

Here We Are Juggernaut is another great song, harking back to some of the more original material that Coheed And Cambria fans are more likely to recognise, whilst also keeping the emotionally driving songs on the album in the form of Pearl of the Stars, which could also be a sincere love song at the same time.

Album closer The Black Rainbow is the longest song on the album, clocking in at just over 7 minutes, and bridges the gap between this album and the lengthy prog-riddled songs of their two earliest albums, but also signals the end of an era as far as Coheed And Cambria’s storyline takes them. After the two bonus songs on the special edition version, Chamberlain and The Lost Shepherd (which don’t tie into the album really, but are early demo versions instead), you’re left thinking about what the next possible step could be for Coheed And Cambria.

Is it likely that since this saga is done with now, Claudio might revisit his Prize-fighter Inferno side project and their album My Brother’s Blood Machine (which is also referenced in the lyrics on In Keeping Secrets… and ties into The Amory Wars also), but work it into the Coheed And Cambria outfit somehow? Who knows. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. Either way, Year of the Black Rainbow did not disappoint, and is a welcome addition to The Amory Wars storyline, completing the saga once and for all.

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