Click here for the artist's site
Coheed and Cambria shouldn't be popular. That is all there is to it. Music that at times is heavy, progressive rock/metal, then swings wildly to emo-pop. A vocalist whose upper register touches the clouds. And most importantly, an intricate (and "out there") science fiction yarn that spans (now) five albums, each of them a concept album in a larger work. In terms of popularity, these guys should be niche at best.
Yet Year of the Black Rainbow demonstrates admirably just why they are so popular.
Year of the Black Rainbow is a Coheed and Cambria that has been around for a while now. This is an album of matured songwriters and artists. That maturity comes through clearly in each track. In the past, I have vacillated when it comes to Coheed and Cambria. Previous albums have been mixed bags. Every album has one or two really brilliant tracks, and one or two throw-aways. The rest of the tracks fall somewhere between those extremes.
I was encouraged, though, to see that, overall, the albums were becoming more consistent as time passed. That progression comes to fruition on Year of the Black Rainbow. This is, by far, Coheed and Cambria's most consistent album ever. There are no bad tracks here. From the powerful and rocking "The Broken" (the first "real" track, as they continue to trend of a first track that is more sound and atmosphere than music) to the epic closer "The Black Rainbow", Coheed and Cambria are hitting all the right notes.
In terms of story, the album fits in as a prequel to the "Amory Wars" saga chronicled over the previous 4 albums. Yet lyrically it doesn't seem overwhelming. If you are familiar with the story of the Amory Wars, you will pick up references to aspects of that story as you listen to the music. However, even if you have no idea who Claudio Kilgannon or Wilhelm Ryan are, the lyrics will, in some aspects, resonate. Lyrically this is a much more accessible album.
Musically, the band continues to be impressive in both writing and playing abilities. Many songs are intricate, multi-layered compositions. Guitars, of course, predominate. Other styles are brought in as well, to make a wonderfully varied album that never feels repetitive. "Pearl of the Stars" relies on clean acoustic guitar work. "Far" builds over a base of electronic percussion and "Guns of Summer" is replete with electronic and techno overtones. There is something for just about everyone here. Yet it is all very definitely still Coheed and Cambria.
Final verdict: 4/5
Year of the Black Rainbow is a very strong album from a fascinating band. It is consistently good from start to finish, with no bad tracks. This is its biggest strength. On every previous album, there is at least one or two tracks that I skip every time. Not so here. From start to finish, Year of the Black Rainbow is without question Coheed and Cambria's best album. I look forward to what they come up with next.