Review Summary: The beginning becomes an interesting and satisfying end.
Year of the Black Rainbow is the 5th album released by Coheed and Cambria which marks the end of The Amory Wars saga, while at the same time serving as the first chapter. With each release Coheed has shown some sort of evolution or change in their sound, going from very prog sounding SSTB to the guitar showcase that is NWFT. With YOTBR however… just kidding, YOTBR has in fact evolved just as much as if not more than any of their previous works; and it is quite amazing.
Forget what you know about long, show off guitar solos. Forget what you know about accessible pop sounding songs. After “One - 1:56”, the instrumental opener that reminds me of Keeping the Blade in terms of how downright creepy it is, we get taken down the Rabbit Hole where we first stumble upon:
“The Broken - 3:55” – You may remember this song as the first song off YOTBR Coheed released. It starts with a low toned screech sound for a few seconds and then we are hit with the bass, drums, guitar, and Claudio’s voice all at once, only to realize they are all doing their own thing while still holding it together. After the first verse and chorus you get hit with a demonic-clown-sounding set of Blah blah blahs from Claudio. After the second verse chorus the band sets off into an extended bridge section and then into a small solo that ends as quick as it started. This leads to the final chorus to a great song. 4.5/5
“Guns of Summer - 4:50” – Go ahead and get on the floor and lay flat on your back, for this song will do it for you, and I’m sure getting there voluntarily will be less painful. After a few seconds of electronic noises the drums kick in. Drums that aren’t like anything you have heard in a Coheed song before, maybe because this time around they have Chris Pennie, former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer. The whole song is in fact much different from anything you have heard by Coheed. The instrumentation in the song is phenomenal and the use of electronic noises just adds to the level of awesome this song has reached. What really brought this song home for me were the vocals. 5/5
“Here We Are Juggernaut - 3:46” – A distorted guitar and drums lead this song after a few seconds of random electronic noises. After a few seconds of that we hear Claudio sing the first lines of the verse and shortly after we hit the soaring chorus. Expect the unexpected here in the second verse, for Claudio screams the last two lines of it “Bodies breaking, driving me crazy, it's too broke!” This is followed by another soaring chorus and lengthy bridge section, only to have us brought back to an altered chorus to end the song. This is a great song for being a single. 4.5/5
“Far - 4:56” - …the single strung lines of a slightly distorted guitar come through your speakers. You think to yourself, ‘What direction will this song go in?’ Well my friend, one I’m sure you didn’t expect. No, it doesn’t deceive you and go off into another crazy song such as “Guns of Summer” It does however, lead into a song driven by these same guitar lines and electronic drum beats. This song is very electronic and spacey sounding. It is very different while at the same time being very good. Claudio’s voice fits it perfectly. I would love to see an acoustic version of this someday. 5/5
“This Shattered Symphony - 4:28” – This song at first made me feel I was fighting a boss in a video game, and then I got feeling of nostalgia as if I were listening to one of their earlier works and I was thinking to myself ‘Sweet!’ That is when it changed again with a build up in the pre chorus where Claudio finally screams and brings us to the chorus. Multiply this by two and you find yourself at another bridge section (seems like a common theme in song structure.) The song doesn’t end on a repeated or altered chorus however. 5/5
“World of Lines - 3:20” – At 3 minutes 20 seconds “World of Lines” becomes the shortest song on the album. So what does it do to make up for this? It hooks you right from the start with a guitar line that might be familiar if you kept up with their blue-ball-inducing video teasers. The song only lets up for a little bit in the beginning of the bridge, besides that it is pretty much a catchy, in-your-face rocker. 4/5
“Made Out of Nothing (All That I AM) - 4:41” – Starts out immediately with slower instruments and a very audible bass. This song is slow paced in its entirety and while not being anything outstanding instrumental wise it is still very memorable, especially when Claudio sings the line, “Shelter me from all that I am, never again, will I believe the same old story.” 4.5/5
“Pearl of the Stars - 5:07” – This is the acoustic song of the album. After some lines from a lone acoustic guitar Claudio sings (in a lower, pained voice) “Each night I wish to god he let her rest, this hurts me more than any man can bear” At first I wasn’t sure if I liked this song. After a few listens and actually paying attention to that first line, however, the full power of the emotion in this song took me head on, and I fell in love with it. Along with that acoustic guitar Todd’s low bass lines can be heard throughout the song, and it really does a lot for the song. When you start to wonder to yourself ‘What more can be done,’ (which hopefully is around the 3:10 mark) a sad guitar solo comes in and the song as a whole climaxes, as did I. Then it ends after another, epic sounding chorus. 5/5
“In the Flame of Error - 5:30” – This song is another great display of instruments. The drums and bass really carry this song with a clean guitar line that follows the bass. This song was definitely a grower for me but it quickly turned into a great song. Claudio’s voice in the bridge section holds a creepy tone in it as well, which just adds to the greatness of it all. 4/5
“When Skeletons Live - 4:20” – Todd carries this song with his bass very well. Backed up by the other three band members it is another great song. The verse flows along and is very interesting. Following the same song structure as most of the others on the album it may start to feel a bit repetitive, but don’t let that take away from the song at all, for we still have on more to go. 4.5/5
“The Black Rainbow - 7:35” – Hmm, a seven minute album closer, this is nothing new for Coheed. What is different about this one is the pace and style they chose. It is a slow paced song featuring great instrumentation (no solos though) with a sound of despair. Electronic noises added in over time eventually complete an element of chaos. The noises that are played are ghostly and other worldly. Eventually Claudio stops singing and the instruments and electronics takeover until everything suddenly stop. At first I thought my iTunes froze, when I looked at the time bar it was still moving. A few seconds of waiting and in come the sounds of something you would hear in a movie while the camera gazes out over a battlefield full of bodies. These sounds fade and we hear the first sounds we heard when hit play on this album (beginning sounds of “One”) as well as someone laughing in the background. “The Black Rainbow” is a mystifying and great way to end such an incredible album. 5/5
YOTBR in my opinion is the best album (next to SSTB that is) Coheed has released, however, it is easily my favorite. I had YOTBR at a 5 but I don’t think it is right putting it on the actual level of SSTB, so a 4.5 will suffice. The whole album seems to be a grower. It will be interesting to see what they do next. Can they really be Coheed and Cambria without writing about Coheed and Cambria? Maybe they will choose to do an acoustic album? No one can say for sure. Until then all we can do is enjoy their latest gift to us.
-Very interesting / incredible sound throughout
-Instrumentation (Todd and Pennie really shine)
-Repetitive song structure (doesn’t really take away from the album though)
-You will have messy underwear