Album: Year of the Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
Released: April 13th, 2010
Coheed & Cambria is an American progressive rock band that was formed in 1995 in Nyak, New York and released their first full-length album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, in 2002. Fraught with line-up changes in the mid-late 2000’s, the band currently consists of founding members Claudio Sanchez (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Travis Stever (lead guitar, backing vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards, backing vocals), and bassist Zach Cooper who joined the band in 2011. Coheed & Cambria are known for their use of odd time signatures, concept albums based on a science fiction story by Sanchez, and their rabid fanbase. The band has released eight studio albums; the first seven albums all focus on the Kilgannon family and their role in the war to save the worlds they live on from the evil Tri-mage Wilhelm Ryanwith, while 2015’s The Color Before the Sun is the only non-concept record. The band returned to the sci-fi concept with their newest album, Vaxis – Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures, which was released on October 5th.
**Spoiler Alert – Story Details Ahead**
The Story and the Songs:
Jumping back in time, before the events of The Second Stage Turbine Blade, Year of the Black Rainbow concerns the creation of Coheed & Cambria, how Wilhelm Ryan became Supreme Tri-Mage, and the difficult choice put upon a scientist. “One” comes in with an airy soundscape before a lullaby-like piano part begins; whispers and muffled booms coerce the listener as the silence is shattered by “The Broken”. One of the singles of the album, “The Broken” grooves in with attitude, fuzzy guitar tones, and a funky pace. As if in the wake of a caffeine injection, the “Guns of Summer” sound with highly technical drumming by Chris Penie, formerly of the band The Dillinger Escape Plan. Sanchez showcases stellar scales in the main riff of the song before dropping back into a chorus that takes a breath before storming in. Swaggering in, “Here We Are Juggernaut” continues to make use of fuzzy, distorted tones with Sanchez’s high-pitched harmonies giving way to another delicious hook in the chorus.
“Far” relies heavily on electronic elements with a guitar solo by Stever that is tastefully arranged for a love song. The scales come back into play in “This Shattered Symphony”; a song about the choice Doctor Hohenberger (the creator of Coheed & Cambria) is forced to make in order to save his beloved wife. The tempo kicks up again as “World of Lines” hearkens to the band’s post-hardcore and punk roots with simple chord progressions and a driving rhythm section. The seemingly obligatory rock ballad on the album comes in the form of “Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)”; don’t be fooled by the heavy drone of the beginning of the song.
The third song on the album that comes from a place of loving infatuation, “Pearl of the Stars” starts with finger-picked acoustic guitar before introducing more electronic elements. One of the more epic songs of the album, “In the Flame of Error” showcases the prog-rock side of Coheed & Cambria that is otherwise missing on the album before the penultimate track, “When Skeletons Live”. Another straight-forward rock song, there isn’t much to set this track apart; the album concludes with “The Black Rainbow”, which is a 7 and a half minute testament to over-indulgence. For a band that typically ends their albums on a strong and glorious moment, “The Black Rainbow” is a bit of a disappointment in its repetition and lumbering lack of change before fading into a soundscape similar to that which opened the album.
Year of the Black Rainbow is a departure for the band, much of the sound relying on heavy production, synthetic soundscapes, and technical percussion. This is the only album to feature drummer Chris Pennie, who would later leave the band citing creative differences. Among the fans of the band, myself included, this is a bump in the otherwise smooth discography of the band; the songs are easy to listen to, but it lacks that unique identity of the previous releases. Being a prequel album, it was nice to get more of the story behind the creation of the characters and has its place in the story cycle.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: “Guns of Summer” , “Far” , “World of Lines” , “The Flame of Error”