April 18th, 2010

Coheed and Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow review

We’ve been talking about doing music reviews over here at the chronic for some time now and just never really had an album that we felt really fit our particular brand of nerdiness.  Don’t get us wrong, we’re all huge music nerds and our knowledge extends into many genres with obsessions over many artists and bands to a point where we’ve often had intellectual conversations over lyrics and time signature changes.  If you look at our list of interviews you’ll see a trend with the amount of musicians and bands that it’s finally to the point where we need weigh in on some the works being released.  When Coheed and Cambria released their new album this last week, I finally felt we had something that was epic and nerdy enough to lay down some letters for.

For those that don’t know, Coheed and Cambria is a concept band.  Each album from them is furthering their sci-fi/fantasy epic of a man named Claudio.  He discovers that he is a foretold savior known as The Crowing who will bring peace to the galaxy.  The albums chronicle his inner turmoil over the responsibility, the tragedy that shapes him, and even the demons that the narrator of the story deals with while deciding what fate to give his characters.  The characters of Coheed and Cambria are actually the parents of the main character.  The previous album, No World For Tomorrow was actually the end of the story.  The new album, Year of the Black Rainbow is the beginning and final album of the concept and it takes place when Coheed and Cambria meet and the antagonist, Wilhelm Ryan gains in power.  So basically out of the five albums this is part one.

Coheed and Cambria have never been a band that can easily be pegged as a certain style.  They almost change genres depending on the need of the song.  So what may seem like a screamo band one minute can turn into a metal band, then a pop band, then a folk band, then an emo band, etc.  I’m sure you get the point.  This album is no exception to their eclectic style.

It’s impossible for me to listen to a Coheed album and not feel like I’m being taken on an emotional roller coaster.  So for the sake of the review I’m going to describe this album in how it made me feel when I heard the songs.  The album opens with an instrumental theme, One, that incorporates an ambient mix of sounds and symphony before launching head first into the first song, The Broken.  This song sets an awesome tone for the whole album that lets you know that this is going to be dark, but with a sense of energy and hopefulness.  The next track, Guns of summer mixes electronica with the full band and an eerie echo which gets under your skin.  The chorus though breaks the rapid assault with an uplifting rift that you can’t help but move too.

The album begins to take a turn with the song, Here We Are Juggernaut.  This is the first sign of real love in the album.  The drive at the beginning keeps with the darkness of the previous songs but when we enter the chorus every part plays higher and the backing vocals are all in falsetto giving me this amazing feeling of optimism.  The next song, Far, is the first song on the album to slow it down a bit.  The drums and the base line play a tug of war with each other creating this great rhythm while the vocals are soft and smooth.  The guitar is complementing everything by doing a dance through all parts but not sticking around long enough to feel like it’s doubling.  Over all I think this may be the sweetest and most beautiful song from the band, and the lyrics back it up.  I seriously can’t get over the drums in this song.  Every impact echoes with power that really recreates that feeling of falling in love.  This is one of those songs I’d want played at my wedding.

Up next is, The Shattered Symphony.  The song title describes exactly what it does to the album.  We just had two beautiful songs, then this comes along and lets you know that everything isn’t okay with these characters as the momentum of the album is kicked into overdrive.  This is one of the more metal songs on the album and as a narrative it fits in great by reminding us that this is a story and things need to happen.  After that we have, World of Lines.  This keeps up the momentum and has one of the funnest guitar lines on the album.  It’s one of of those songs that if you were playing it on Rock Band you’d break a sweat and have a hard time keeping up.

Made Out Of Nothing (All That I Am) is the next track.  This is a heavier song but slower then the two previous songs.  I should actually say that it starts out heavy but when we get to the breakdown before the chorus we start to see a change that fully commits in the chorus to a more determined love song.  This song actually represents what I love about this band the most by showing that they don’t stick to one genre.  They’re as fluid as the song demands from them.  The song transitions perfectly to the next song, Pearl of the Stars.  This is the slowest song on the album and is more reminiscent to something that feels almost like a mix of tribal and laid back country.  The drums are steady and the guitar makes me feel like I’m in a western.  The bass is heavy and played in long, sustained notes giving a calming feeling.  There’s an orchestra that backs this song that really adds to the power.  This is the love making track for all you couples out there.

The last three songs, In the Flame of Error, When Skeletons Live, and The Black Rainbow are the three most dramatic songs on the album, which is pretty typical of a Coheed record.  They’re heavy, fast and let you know that shit is going down in the story.  The Black Rainbow goes into a very dark, grunge breakdown that’s speaks back to the opening track, although instead of it sounding pretty and soft it sounds like death and horror.  In the last minute of the album the noise breaks and we’re left with a soft and relaxing feel as the song draws to a close.

All in all I feel that this is a great album.  These albums are meant to be heard from start to finish and I recommend that you indeed follow that strategy for Year of the Black Rainbow.  This album to me has a more poppy feel compared to their past works.  I personally feel that it fits with the tone of the story since it’s the beginning of the epic.  It feels very much like the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings.  We’re getting a peek at what’s to come, but we’ve yet to experience the darkest hour (which is definitely their previous two albums, From Fear Though the Eyes of  Madness, and No World For Tomorrow).

If you’re into epic rock bands (Led Zeppelin, Rush 2112, Journey, Pink Floyd, Queen, etc.) I really suggest you give this album a try.  To me, Coheed and Cambria are proof that there’s still room in our watered down music industry for a band that wants to do something with meaning and scale.  If you find that you do like them I also suggest the band, The Dear Hunter.  They have a similar concept but are more prog/folk/rock.  Basically they’re a little softer.

This is my first music review so I’d really appreciate some feedback on this.  Email me with your questions and comments.

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