Coheed & Cambria - Year Of The Black Rainbow
Alt. / Prog Rock
12 songs (53:56)
Release year: 2010
Coheed & Cambria
Reviewed by Kyle

It says a lot about my love for Coheed and Cambria when I state that Year of the Black Rainbow, my least favorite album from the band to date, is still one that I believe is worth celebrating. And not because C&C were arguably the most vital stepping stone for me into the realms of progressive rock and metal, mind you, but because this New York foursome has never made two albums that sound alike in an attempt to please a niche group of fans; if anything, they’ve attempted to place themselves apart from the mainstream, drastically moving away from their once MTV-Friendly pop punk tendencies (As were featured prominently on In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3) and making it increasingly difficult to pin down their genre in the process. Is it prog rock? Is it alternative? Year of the Black Rainbow only obscures their style even more by incorporating elements from all of the band’s past albums, though ironically, it’s probably their most accessible album to date.

But no worries; accessibility in this case doesn’t lead to a lack of diversity. From the industrial and eerie sounding intro track to the lengthy atmospheric closing number that is The Black Rainbow, Coheed and Cambria keeps you involved in the incomprehensible concept at all times. Of course, in between these two tracks you have a 10-song selection, each featuring different degrees of intensity and complexity, and while Year of the Black Rainbow isn’t exactly a progressive album through and through, there’s an odd, spacey feeling to it that’s created by the synthesizers and background guitar work. Since the story of Heaven's Fence (the universe that the C&C saga takes place in) is essentially a sci-fi soap opera, this vibe may be appropriate for the story, but since it hasn’t been present on other Coheed albums, it separates YotBR from the band’s other albums and feels like a stand-alone record. While it doesn’t quite feel right, maybe this is intentional, as the album is separated from the others story-wise; Coheed’s first four albums tell a continuous story, while YotBR is a prequel.

Thankfully, wrapped inside this spacey shell is quite a meaty and satisfying selection of rock music. The Broken and Here We are Juggernaut, the album’s first two singles, both show up near the beginning of YotBR and set the tone just right; the former scratches the progressive itch with dueling guitar lines, and the latter weaves a distinct sci-fi web with its electronic soundscape backing up the bombastic rock at the forefront, but both also feel slightly anthemic with their big, bold, melodic choruses. If you’re wanting more complexity, then listen to either Guns of Summer or This Shattered Symphony; Guns of Summer is particularly proggy thanks to its intricate guitar work, while This Shattered Symphony mesmerizes with alternating dark rock portions and softer, more melodic sections, making it similar to something that may have appeared on Good Apollo Vol. I. There’s also some more mainstream moments, such as the melodic When Skeletons Live and straightforward hard-rocker World of Lines, but even these insure that the album remains diverse throughout, and they’re stand-out tracks in their own right. Pearl of the Stars must also be mentioned as a sort-of ballad that’s not really a ballad; either way, the acoustic tapestries and subtle background effects combined with Claudio’s smooth voice make for one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written.

Regardless of the level of simplicity or intensity featured on every track, it’s easy to hear that these musicians have poured their collective talents and souls into every single song; each member manages to make every performance impressive without ever sounding show-offy. And for nay-sayers who have been repelled for years by Claudio Sanchez’s high-pitched voice, quitcherbitchin; his voice has much improved on Year of the Black Rainbow, and his annoying (well, to some at least) falsetto is long gone, replaced by a much more controlled singing style that is still unmistakably Claudio. All songs here are essentially flawless; C&C has truly perfected their craft here, making rock-solid tracks that even the most hardened critic would find trouble in picking apart, but all the same… something doesn’t quite feel right with this album. It lacks a certain something that’s preventing it from crossing the threshold from being a great album to being an astounding one, something that’s nameless yet is still perfectly clear. Whatever it is, it should be no matter to fans of the band or of rock in general; Coheed and Cambria have once again crafted an epic, well-performed, and solid album with Year of the Black Rainbow that deserves a place on the shelf of any fan of this style of music.

Killing Songs :
Kyle quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Coheed & Cambria that we have reviewed:
Coheed & Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension reviewed by Kyle and quoted 86 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 reviewed by Kyle and quoted 93 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - No World For Tomorrow reviewed by Ben and quoted 85 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV. Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness reviewed by Daniel and quoted 94 / 100
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