Review Summary: If something is too shiny, perhaps it is trying to deviate your attention from something else.
Despite their electronic makeup Year Of The Black Rainbow
is a clear-cut Coheed and Cambria album. The band has a style of their own that they have polished over the years; so that should in itself not be a major issue, were it not for the fact that Coheed let the production take a central role, almost forgetting to write good songs. They try to present essentially the same thing as something different and fresh by means of production tricks. Let us take into consideration that CaC were an entertaining progressive-pop band that consistently put out highly enjoyable albums. No matter how dense or "progressive" they could get, you always had a fun, catchy album with great songs in your hands. You realize this time the band got distracted in trying to make YOTBR
a such a departure in sound instead on focusing on the songs themselves. But Claudio Sánchez shies away from truly taking a step forward; there is a constant oscillation between the old sound and the new one that results in a mild attempt at renovation.
"Guns of Summer" is the best example of the new direction the band could have fully embraced. Here new drummer Chris Pennie finds his place, providing an exciting drum-and-bass type of beat, while the song structure really feels loose and atypical, a nice blend of rock and electronics that promised interesting things to come. Nevertheless, they do not go deeper than this. Stylistically, the rest of the album is sub-par, even conventional. Cuts like "The Broken", "Here We Are, Juggernaut", "World of Lines" still
appear like your typical Coheed and Cambria single, but somehow they feel undeveloped, weak, as the progressive element of their music is removed to give way to a more concise approach in which an artificial atmosphere is at the front. On songs like "Far" it works, but on most of them it feels unnecessary: it gets distracting, giving the impression that the band is not confident on their songwriting skills this time. The refined pop-rock sound the band achieved on No World Of Tomorrow
, along with the warm, almost playful tone and that epic touch of previous releases are mostly gone; now you get this half-baked and dense futuristic soundscape that lefts you cold and frowning on it. The catchy choruses, the effective riffage and the cinematic feel are still there; it is just that their impact is diminished to the point of sounding like merely a CaC song template.
The terrible track sequence does not help a bit. All the stuff that is decent and/or interesting is in the first half; all things mediocre and/or boring are on the second one. After "Far" (one of the highlights) the album finds itself in free-fall and crashes long before it ends. By the time "In The Flame Of Error" comes in, the album has completely lost every momentum it could have (blame it on the inane "Pearl Of The Stars"), even becoming a boring listen. “The Black Rainbow “must be the worst closer the band has put on record: they are lost throughout its seven minutes; there is no direction and no inspiration, no buildup and no climax; it is just another plain song. It is the first Coheed and Cambria album that is unbearable and blatantly uninspired in parts and as a whole. They severely struggle to retain consistence and quality all the way through.
Now, this is supposed to be the beginning (and at the same time, the conclusion) of the "The Amory Wars" storyline Claudio wrote and already developed in previous opus. But paradoxically, at least on the surface, the music feels ahead of previous works. So by contrast Year Of The Black Rainbow
comes up on top of it all as forced, insincere, something Claudio made up at the last minute: the concept is not coherent. Experimentation is a good thing; but sometimes it reveals a band’s weaknesses and limitations. The addition of former The Dilliger Escape Plan's drummer Chris Pennie has not proved yet to be a convenient one. At what extent was he involved in the band's new direction and what he could contribute in the future, I do not know; at least on this album Claudio's vision and his seem to collide.
Year Of The Black Rainbow
has its moments, but it is no doubt a disappointment. Too soon it plays its strongest cards, only to reveal it does not have much more to offer. Perhaps the storyline will make up for its lack of musical substance, but as a piece of music they have done much better.