Coheed & Cambria – Year of the Black Rainbow album | A Track by Track breakdown
written by Garin Fahlman
Coheed & Cambria’s highly anticipated new album Year of the Black Rainbow, the prequel to the band’s Amory Wars saga, the space rock opera that has spanned the entirety of the band’s four album discography, drops on April 13th. We’ll be taking a first listen through the album, track by track, so park your ten speed, and sit down. You shouldn‘t have that thing in the house anyway.
The One: Coheed albums have always begun with some weird opening track and this one is no exception. Most start with a variation of “the Coheed motif“, present in various places throughout their albums, but this one just begins with… ambient noise. I don’t think it’s something you will come back to ever again.
The Broken: The first real track on the album, The Broken launches out of the gates with vigour, and immediately smacks you upwise. “Sit the fuck down,” it says, sinusoidal. You don’t have much choice. But the song is actually great so there’s nothing to worry about. Highlighting a much heavier sound than previous outings, I can’t help but think their new drummer, from insane metal band Dillinger Escape Plan had something to do with it. But when Claudio soars in with his usual awesome melodies and crazy pipes, you are reassured that this is, without a doubt, Coheed & Cambria.
Guns of Summer: Drummer Chris Pennie reminds the band that he was a good investment with some pretty thick stick work. A similarly headbang-worthy rock-out, Guns of Summer features some interesting guitar treatment. Lead guitarist Travis Stever fulfills his being-Tom-Morello fantasies with some cool wah effects and a solo that sounds like the death throes of a dial-up modem.
Here We Are Juggernaut: If it wasn’t already, I would say this song would become a single. It almost makes the first two songs moot, seeing how it’s basically a stew of the best ideas of those songs thrown together, sprinkled with some heavy metal, and smothered over a catchy chorus. Claudio’s performance brings this song to the level it‘s at, and when he stops, a ripping bass line grabs hold, and it never really lets go. Why? ‘Cause it’s the Juggernaut… you know.
Far: The soft song but with a twist. Unlike Wake Up and Mother Superior, the ballads from the last two albums, Far is a softie with an industrial edge. Its sound hearkens to Claudio’s side project, Prize Fighter Inferno, with big open drums and echoey instruments. A big beat and great sounding vocals keep this one from feeling too light in the pants.
The Shattered Symphony: Coheed horror punk. I can picture Claudio with Abbath face paint screaming into the mic, a single black tear twinkling down his face. Minor chord changes and dissonance dominate this song, but unlike most slash-your-wrists punk, it’s got that metal infusion from the previous tracks, and makes it easy to headbang to the lyrics “She offered her heart, and I tore it apart”.
World of Lines: There’s been a serious lack of prog on this album so far. Although World of Lines by no means fit’s the bill, it was close enough to remind me that there is a bill. Despite a few great licks during the bridge, World of Lines really just feels like a shameless rehashing of the quick, heavy formula pioneered in the first batch of tracks.
Made Out of Nothing: Another formulaic romp, Made Out of Nothing does at least eschew the heavy Year of the Black Rainbow sound for a more traditional Coheed palette. The song sounds cute, which is a nice juxtaposition, but it is sinfully short and honestly pretty forgettable.
Pearl of the Stars: Ballad #2. Acoustic guitars mashed with the cool, heavily-treated instruments from Far give this one a really great sound. And then for but a moment, we get an electric breakdown that almost explodes, but comes back down at just the right time.
In The Flame of Error: Here’s where they tucked the prog. Although not nearly as multi-layered as Coheed songs have been, In The Flame of Error satisfyingly infuses some compositional mayhem in a song that pretends to be Guns of Summer and the result is one of my favourites so far. Also, the head-scratching Coheed pterodactyl screech makes a due appearance here. So if that’s your thing, well here you go. They’re still doing it.
When Skeletons Live: When skeletons live you’ve got necromancy. There’s no bones about it. Excuse me! This is no time for gallows humour, this is time for reviewing. When Skeletons Live is great. Does that do it? You want more. The track chugs forward with maybe the best guitar track I’ve heard on the record, and Claudio sings hook after hook, about a topic I am deeply concerned with. And now I know what to do when skeletons live. You best get listening if you want to stay on top of this.
The Black Rainbow: Unfortunately I’ve got to call this one the weakest song. Being the title track, I can’t help but think Coheed disagrees. But one thing that really lets an album fall flat is a weak ending song, and this song is basically The One with equally exciting vocals over top. Yes, distorted guitar comes in, but you know what? Once the two-chord guitar phrase starts, it doesn’t stop repeating for four minutes. And after 1 minute, they decide that to make it easier, they will throw in a banshee wail in the background. You know, for texture. This is a prime example of a song written for “forced epicness”, which actually ends up being one looping, ear-grating drone. And there is no ending, the song just abruptly stops in the middle of some indistinguishable wail. But wait! There is a hidden track! “How exciting,” you say. “Coheed & Cambria always have excellent hidden tracks! Will it be quirky and weird? Epic and awesome? Funny and light-hearted?” “Oh, no,” I reply. “It’s shit.”
A new sound, a new drummer, a new chapter in the Amory Wars – Year of the Black Rainbow does a lot right. It’s a heavier Coheed, more straightforward, accessible songs that feel more deliberate. Little on this album is aimless wankery or experimentation. It sounds like their most focused album, and it shows in the presentation. They have eased up a considerable amount on the musical spice, but what you get is more distilled, identifiable songs. Year of the Black Rainbow delivers Coheed and Cambria at their textbook selves, which means compared to almost any other rock group out there, you’re getting some of the most unique sounds you can ask for. If this is your first foray into the world of Coheed and Cambria, this is as good a place to start as any, and if you’re a returning Amory Wars fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up this proof that Coheed is still just as endearing as they were when you first listened to them.