Review Summary: We’re just not visiting Claudio Sanchez’s fictional world anymore; we’re in his real one.
It seems too ironic, but at this point, the most out of the box step Coheed and Cambria could take in their career is stepping back entirely. Since their inception, the band’s music has always revolved around frontman Claudio Sanchez’s Amory Wars
concept. Comic books, art books, and novels have played almost as integral a role in the Coheed lore as the music itself; but not anymore. Not with The Color Before the Sun
. For the first time, Sanchez and co. have written a collection of songs completely independent of the fiction, and the result is undoubtedly Coheed’s most personal, heartfelt album to date.
Even within The Amory Wars
, Sanchez’s lyrics have always been loosely based on life experiences, but without the story’s backdrop to mold them around, he’s opened up more than ever. He sings about everything from the anxiety of living in a big city, (“Island”) to the vandalism of his country home by renters, (“Young Love”) and most prominently, fatherhood (“Ghost”, “Atlas”). The chorus of the sugary “Here to Mars” (“It’s in the stars, and you’re my everything from here to Mars”) is a far cry from the lyrics of the past (“die white girls”, “if I had my way, I’d crush your face in the door”), but now 37 years old and a first time father, it would seem almost disingenuous for Sanchez to write with the same spite and biting anger that drove albums like Good Apollo
The intimate nature of the lyrics also spills over into the music, and the pop influence that has been a constant over the band’s career is especially pronounced on Sun
. The progressive rock influence has been toned down to a degree; even the longer cuts generally revolve around singular motifs and choruses, resulting in an album that’s much more “Blood Red Summer” than “The Crowing”. “Island” and “Atlas” strike with bright leads and immediate vocal hooks. “Ghost” and closer “Peace to the Mountain” are much more subdued with Sanchez crooning over lush acoustics, and in the case of the latter, bells and orchestration. If there was any song on here that could be seen as a throwback to the progressive sound of old, it would certainly be “The Audience”. Fuzzy, menacing guitars twist and turn over booming drums and sinister vocals, sure to satisfy those clamoring for the “heavier” side of the band.
Drummer Josh Eppard is his usual electric self, never getting flashy enough to overshadow his bandmates yet continually driving the songs forward with unpredictable, high energy drum beats. Bassist Zach Cooper receives a much bigger spotlight here than on The Afterman
, this time both clearly audible and wonderfully interesting. Sanchez and lead axe-man Travis Stever compliment each other perfectly throughout, crafting memorable chord progressions and guitar leads that play well off the energy of the rhythm section. Sanchez remains more or less the same singer he’s always been. He explores his lower register briefly in the introspective “Ghost”, but his usual high pitched wail dominates the record.
Despite cutting out The Amory Wars, one of the most integral parts of the band, impressively, The Color Before the Sun
still sounds so much like a Coheed and Cambria album. While the songs are exponentially more straightforward, nothing’s really been compromised. The songs are as immaculately performed and well written as ever. We’re just not visiting Claudio Sanchez’s fictional world anymore; we’re in his real one.