CD Reviews

Coheed And Cambria - 'Year Of the Black Rainbow' Hot

Added by James Gaden     June 06, 2010    
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New album from the US four piece.

It’s long been a bit of a conundrum where Coheed And Cambria fit in the great scheme of things. Formed back in 1995 under the name of Shabutie, the US quartet have roots in indie rock and emo but over the years since their debut album as Coheed And Cambria - ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’ in 2002 - they’ve added aspects of progressive and classic rock to their sound. The mix has proven to be irresistible and culminated in the impressive 2007 release ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star, Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow’, which was a veritable smorgasbord of catchy riffs, moody rhythms and the soaring vocals of band leader Claudio Sanchez. The concept story running through their four albums so far is called ‘The Amory Wars’ and chronicles the character Coheed and Cambria and their place in Sanchez’ fictional universe. To add a bit of a twist, ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ is a prequel telling the story of the two main characters up to the point where the original ‘Amory Wars’ story began and their world was turned upside down. Are you with me so far?
Over their four album career the band have toughened up with each release, and in terms of heaviness and guitar crunch ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ is more or less on a par with it’s illustrious predecessor. However, this time out the band have gone for a darker edge on some tracks, whilst others have immersed themselves in the world of loops, samples and in parts, sheer industrial noise. This is something that was obviously part of the plan as they hired renowned Nine Inch Nails producer Atticus Ross, who coupled with the man responsible for the more metallic tones of Tool and Queens Of The Stone Age, Joe Barresi, have broadened Coheed And Cambria’s soundscape and given them more options.
The album starts in familiar fashion (after a short intro) with the inventive guitar parts and trademark melodies of ‘The Broken’ before going off at a tangent with the OSI-like industrial techno feel of ‘Guns Of Summer’, the style of which also creeps into the verse of ‘Here We Are Juggernaut’ despite the chorus boasting the insistent harmonies and uplifting feel of the band at their most melodic. The middle part of the album has some great songs in the fragile commerciality of ‘Far’ and the simple catchy rocker ‘World Of Lines’, but also the minor key ordinariness of ‘The Shattered Symphony’ and the less intense ‘Made Out Of Nothing (All That I Am)’ which brought something to my attention. This time around Sanchez seems to have toned down his high-pitched quirky delivery, and on occasion seems to be going for a more aggressive attitude than the soaring clear tones of old. I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing or not but it certainly adds to the drama.
Where ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ comes into it’s own is in the closing sequence of tracks; ‘Pearl Of The Stars’ is a beautifully emotive ballad based mostly on acoustic guitar with a great vocal and tasteful guitar solo, although as usual I have no idea if it’s by Sanchez or the equally talented Travis Stever? ‘In The Flame Of Error’ is high melodrama at it’s finest and ‘When Skeletons Live’ is another instantly appealing rocker with subtle riffs to die for and one of several original and brilliantly inventive performances from ‘new’ drummer Chris Pennie, but the album builds to a crescendo with the epic title track. It grows from gentle beginnings to a powerful wall of sound with a swirling morass of vocal overdubs, only to end abruptly and go out on similar sound effects to those that started the album.
I’ve usually found that Coheed And Cambria albums take quite a while to sink in and reveal their rightful place in the discography, and there’s certainly a lot to take in here. After a month or so ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ is currently sitting at 3rd of five under ‘No World For Tomorrow’ and ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Planet Earth:3’, so it’s looking good for maybe moving up another place in the coming months. As far as I’m concerned this band can do no wrong.
NB: ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’ is available in various formats including a ‘Special Edition’ with a DVD and a ‘Deluxe’ box set that contains all manner of goodies including a hardback novel, DVD and ‘Black Card’ which gets you early tickets for shows and online exclusive content, but it’s a bit pricey at £50-£60.
Phil Ashcroft
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