The prog-metal quartet’s fifth album is full of fascinating, stirring moments.
Mischa Pearlman 2010
Coheed and Cambria don’t just make albums. They’re part of a grand concept – musical counterparts to The Amory Wars, a comic book series written by the band’s singer and guitarist, Claudio Sanchez. Year of the Black Rainbow is the New York quartet’s fifth album and the prequel to the progressive metallers’ ongoing narrative. The first to be recorded with former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie, the deluxe version of this album is being released with a novel of the same name penned by Sanchez (with a little help from science fiction/comic novelist Peter David).
Suffice to say, Coheed and Cambria aren’t shy of ambition, something reflected in this album’s shimmering, dramatic production. Of course, it’s not necessary to know the story for these songs to have an impact – they’re bombastic enough to do that all on their own – but it does mean that this is an album in the true sense of the word, rather than just a collection of songs. From the dramatic spacey introduction of opening track One – an atmospheric instrumental soundscape which could, hypothetically, soundtrack the opening scene to the movie of the book of the album of the comic book – through to the brooding seven-and-a-half minute finale of the semi-title-track, these 12 songs pulsate with an impressive fluidity.
At the same time, however, it is, by its very nature, very indulgent. In constructing such a conceit around the album, Coheed and Cambria have limited their means of expression. While that deliberate lack of variety invokes the sense of an adventure-filled intergalactic journey across time and space, it means these songs sound incredibly similar. World of Lines is an intense, fast and furious warp drive of a song, while the slowed-down Pearl of the Stars is a moving slice of wistful melancholy. But Guns of Summer and In the Flame of Error lose their way slightly, caught in the crossfire of relentless pounding drums and intense metal riffing.
It’s full of fascinating, stirring moments, but overall, Year of the Black Rainbow suffers just a little too much from its own grand, sprawling ambition.