Review Summary: Don't let the god-awful album title deter you, Year of the Black Rainbow is another solid outing for the rock quartet.
So, in the process of writing this review, I wrote at least 4 different introductory paragraphs TRYING to come up with something epic enough to represent how incredibly badass Year of the Black Rainbow
is, but the best I came up with was an image of Claudio Sanchez holding up a machine gun guitar and blasting apart Nazis that may have been zombies. Seeing as how I am not a skilled enough artist/photoshopper to actually put this mind-blowing picture together, this could very well be totally worthless. However, all is not lost: just imagine that picture in your head, and you’ll find a pretty good place to rest your thoughts as to how Year of the Black Rainbow
In all honesty, you can also find a pretty easy sketch of the album by thinking back to his solo project, The Prize Fighter Inferno. A lot will be made of the album’s more electronic/industrial sound being caused by Chris Pennie’s input, but a lot of the sounds can be traced back pretty definitively to that side projects sound. In A+ B = C terms, it’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
plus My Brother’s Blood Machine
. For fans of the hair-metal of No World For Tomorrow
and who were expecting even more bombastic arena-filling riffs and choruses, this may come as a slight disappointment. To older fans of Coheed…well, at least there isn’t a song like “Justice in Murder” here. The shift to a more pop-industrial sound is probably going to be just as controversial as either of the Good Apollo’s shifts in sound.
For fans who just love Coheed or newcomers though, it really isn’t any sort of deal. The album kicks off with the duo of “The Broken” and “Guns of Summer” which in their own ways display the new sides to the band. “The Broken” features the penchant Coheed still has for writing epic, off kilter metal songs. The transition from the groove-metal verse to the almost post rock atmosphere of the chorus is sublime, and the weird “blah blah blah” after the chorus add some flair to the whole affair. Meanwhile, “Guns of Summer” is easily the craziest sounding song they’ve ever written, and a point where you could absolutely say Chris Pennie definitely helped out in a big way. The song constantly shifts between mathy-rock and soaring choruses, but it never sounds forced, something Coheed have had problems with in the past.
And that’s how much of the album progresses. “Far” is a dreamy electronic ballad that conquers its cheesiness by sublimely changing its tones, even if its goes on a bit too long still. “This Shattered Symphony/World of Lines” bring back some of that NWFT
sound, but without all the stupid guitar solos and voice modulation. “The Black Rainbow” is an incredibly odd closer, eschewing the previous standards set for Coheed epics and simply progressing through a macabre, melodic first couples minutes till the concluding wails of “it’s over, it’s all fallen apart…”, never exploding into some great climax but instead transitioning perfectly into what would be the next chapter in the ’story’ of Coheed & Cambria.
There’s a lot of goodness to be found here (with only a brief mention, “Here We Are Juggernaut”s chorus could be one of the defining moments of the bands career), and that’s good considering that it’s biggest weakness is it doesn’t really feel like an evolution. The sound is different, but it doesn’t deviate from the formula that Coheed have established. It’s mostly all the same pieces from the bands previous records put into a different context. While it’s sort of a fresh take on their musical canon, it could afford with more new songwriting techniques and maybe less vocal effects. Still, Year of the Black Rainbow
is a consistently great album that may have required just a bit more panache, and certainly lives up to its predecessors.