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Year Of The Black Rainbow
Coheed And Cambria s
Year Of The Black Rainbow
Columbia Records
Prog Rock/Metal
Tom Stewart
4.0 stars

So let's get this out of the way right upfront-COHEED AND CAMBRIA do NOT sound like RUSH.....not old RUSH, not the synth-happy POLICE influenced 80s/90s RUSH, not the new era RUSH, not any period of RUSH, ok? If you buy this or any C & C album expecting "Hemispheres-The Sequel", you will be disappointed, and scratching your head going "Why the hell does everyone keep comparing these guys to RUSH???". The answer is probably the helium-drenched nasal vocals of Claudio Sanchez, which could be compared to Geddy Lee if you wanted to. But musically, these guys are more in the vein of more modern-era Prog Rock in the sense that the guitars are more DREAM THEATER than LED ZEPPELIN(like RUSH), big production values, lots of choppy riffs, etc. But there's definitely a 70s prog pedigree here too....there's depth, there's texture, there's vintage sounds, there's melody, and it's not all about the crazy time signatures and angry stance. It's a given that these guys probably worshipped at the RUSH/GENESIS altar but I'm sure DREAM THEATER and METALLICA were no strangers to this band growing up either.

I have to come clean-I arrived late to the party when it comes to these guys. My 1st taste of C & C was 2003's In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 and I bought it after hearing they were the "new RUSH" hype, and was disappointed when what I got was more like Proggy College Emo Rock. I put the CD away on the rack and decided to go back to it later for a fresh listen at some point. Fast forward to 2008 and I picked up a used copy of 2007's Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV: No World For Tomorrow on a whim and quite frankly was blown away upon first listen. There's hooks! There's strong melodies! There's a huge, bombastic production! And Claudio has learned how to use and control his unique voice....the band no longer sounds like a bunch of nerdy Emo Prog rockers that 15 year old girls in FALL OUT BOY hoodies flock to go see...they have GROWN UP! So I went back and picked up all of the earlier albums and strangely enough, prefer what they have progressed into rather than what they started out as....which is ass-backwards from my usual way of thinking. I usually lean towards a band's 1st few albums because more times than not, it's the purest and most real music the band will of the negative influences that come later (over production, trend hopping, loss of inspiration/energy/ideas, pressure to sell albums etc). Coheed just seems to get stronger as they go along.

Let me be honest here-I really don't give a shit about lyrics all that much. I can appreciate guys like DYLAN/SPRINGSTEEN as great story tellers, but if there's not a tune there, you might as well go read poetry or something. Unless, of course, the lyrics are so bad as to be cringe-worthy and can't be overlooked. When you're 15 years old in 1985, lyrics like "love's like a loaded gun" and "shoot you full of love" etc was what you expected from rock bands, but I never paid much attention anyway-I cared about the riffs, the melodies, the production, the sound of the instruments, and the actual TUNE. So the fact that Year Of The Black Rainbow is the prequel to the Armory Wars mini sci-fi story that ties all of C & C's albums together lyrically is of little interest to me. It's cool, and it's better than "I like your pants around your knees" or some other silly rock cliche lyrics, but in the end it's all about the tunes for me.

1st I-Tunes single Here We Are Juggernaut is pretty representative of all of the things I like about this band-it's heavy, melodic, has an interesting arrangement, there's a hook, and best of all, it stands out amongst the other stuff on modern rock radio. There are a few different sounds and elements on this album from the last one (No World For Tomorrow), but it is consistent in style and sound-no major left turns here. Songs like "The Broken", "When Skeletons Live", "This Shattered Symphony", and "In The Flame Of Error" would have fit in on that album as well, but on this one we get a few twists on the C & C sound. "Pearl Of The Stars" is an acoustic based "ballad" with elements of PINK FLOYD and QUEENSRYCHE, but thankfully avoids cheese territory-it's more dark and deep in tone. "Made Out Of Nothing (All That I Am)" is definitely single material, a great combination of heavy and yet catchy, with enough textures and interesting things going on to keep it from being too obvious. "Guns Of Summer" is a frantic, almost industrial sounding track that showcases the formidable chops of "new' drummer Chris Pennie, who makes his studio debut here. FOO FIGHTERS Taylor Hawkins played on the last album before Pennie joined for the subsequent tour. "Far" is another single in the making-a simple drum and bass sample is the foundation for this mid-tempo melodic "ballad"....another one for the chicks!

This album is a grower, it gets better with each listen and is another strong release from this band. My main criticism would be that the production/mix is slightly harsh in places, lacking some of the depth and bombast of the last one, maybe a bit less slick. Atticus Ross, Joe Barresi, and Alan Moulder all worked on this album from a production/mix standpoint, and those guys have worked with bands that include NIN, TOOL, QUEENS OF THE STONEAGE, which may explain the noisy production values on some of this. There also seems to be less of an emphasis on hooks this time....there's nothing immediately memorable as "Feathers" or "The Running Free" from the last album, but there's not a shortage either, it's just less apparent on first listen. If you like recent C & C releases, don't hesitate to pick this one up-smart, interesting, melodic, heavy, passionate modern prog rock of very high caliber.

Band Lineup:
  • Claudio Sanchez-Vocals, Guitar, Keys/Synths
  • Travis Stever-Guitar, Lap Steel, Backing Vocals
  • Michael Robert Todd-Bass
  • Chris Pennie-Drums and Percussion


Track Listing:
  1. One
  2. The Broken
  3. Guns Of Summer
  4. Here We Are Juggernaut
  5. Far
  6. This Shattered Symphony
  7. World Of Lines
  8. Made Out Of Nothing(All That I Am)
  9. Pearl Of The Stars
  10. In The Flame Of Error
  11. When Skeletons Live
  12. The Black Rainbow


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