If you’re a fan of Coheed and Cambria, you were no doubt anxiously awaiting the release of their fifth album, Year of the Black Rainbow. On April 13, the highly anticipated album finally dropped in stores and hit iTunes.
Year of the Black Rainbow is an interesting album, particularly for those who have already established a fanship of Coheed, due to the fact that it’s sort of an in-between album.
What do I mean by that? Well, the album isn’t entirely what we’ve come to expect from Coheed and Cambria, but at the same time Year of the Black Rainbow doesn’t veer in a totally different direction from what Coheed fans are used to.
In case you didn’t know (or never realized), Coheed and Cambria’s first four albums were highly story-based, with each album being a concept album that connected to the stories of the other albums. Year of the Black Rainbow was made as a prequel to the series of stories, yet it doesn’t retain the story-telling feel of its predecessors. Instead, this album is more of a stand-alone, which isn’t a bad thing, just different from what fans would expect.
Musically, Year of the Black Rainbow is very much the same Coheed and Cambria we’ve known for years, but with a few tweaks made here and there. Coheed has always had a sound that is distinctly their own—due both to their instrumental styling and singer Claudio Sanchez’s easily recognizable voice—and that sound remains in Year of the Black Rainbow. However, there is a much heaver feel to this album than previous ones.
Where Coheed’s prior albums had a definite catchiness mixed into their intensity, with some songs being on the verge of peppy, Year of the Black Rainbow keeps things a little darker. The extra edge actually works pretty well, except for the fact that, if listened to straight through, the songs blur together a little bit. It’s as if Coheed found a new sound they liked, but didn’t quite know how to proceed further with it.
Even Sanchez’s voice takes a different approach on this album. Rather than getting the frequent high notes that distinguish Sanchez’s voice from any other singer’s, listeners get to hear his voice brought down just a few notches, and kept at a more even level. It would be impossible to completely overhaul Sanchez’s characteristic vocals, but there is a change that, while subtle, is still noticeable.
While it’s clear that Coheed and Cambria were trying to take things in a new direction with Year of the Black Rainbow, it does feel as though they played it safe and didn’t push the envelope as far as they could have, which is unfortunate because the album ends up being left in a mild state of limbo between their older stuff and something really different.
All told though, Year of the Black Rainbow is a solid album, especially when you start to feel more familiar with the newer sound. Coheed and Cambria definitely deserve credit for trying to change things up at this point in their career, and Year of the Black Rainbow is worth the listen.
Carly Doenges—June 1, 2010