Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow

RIYL: Rush, Dream Theater, Queensrÿche

There have been plenty of concept albums, but Coheed And Cambria may be the world’s first concept band. All of the group’s releases to date have been installments in one epic story, a sci-fi space opera dubbed The Armory Wars. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, their debut album was actually the second part of the saga; the three albums that proceeded it told the third and fourth parts (the fourth part was in itself a two-parter). Now we finally get the first chapter with Year of the Black Rainbow.

Here’s a quick recap for the uninitiated: There’s a federation of planets called Heaven’s Fence, which are held together by an energy force called the Keywork. This system is ruled by the evil Wilhelm Ryan and the only person that can stop him is Claudio Kilgannon, the son of Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon (who also happens to share the name of the band’s lead singer Claudio Sanchez). His journey is one filled with violence, heartache and loss as he struggles to accept his fate as the messiah known as The Crowning. Oh, and at one point in the narrative focus shifts to “The Writer” who created all these characters. He’s tormented by an evil bicycle. (There is a comic book that makes all of this a little clearer…but not by much).

Coheed And Cambria

So in case your couldn’t already tell, this is prog rock. But it’s really good prog rock, and while Coheed’s lyrics aren’t exactly user-friendly, their music sure as hell is. Just like the band’s four other albums, Year of the Black Rainbow, effortlessly combines prog conventions (complex drumming, and the aforementioned lyrical insanity) with catchy pop hooks and heavy metal thunder ripped straight from ’80s power metal. And while it works well as a single work (or as one part of an even larger work), tracks like “The Broken,” “Far” and the excellent single “Here We Are Juggernaut” all stand strong as individual pieces, which is something that even a lot of the best prog rock albums can’t pull off.

It can be a little ridiculous and over the top at times, and Claudio’s distinctive Geddy Lee-esque voice will no doubt annoy some listeners to death. But if you like your rock as subtle as a punch in a face by a gorilla, then you’ll enjoy the bombastic insanity of Year of the Black Rainbow, and every other Coheed And Cambria album for that matter.

WARNING: Although all five parts of The Armory Wars records are great, listening to them back to back in narrative order will make you go insane. (Columbia 2010)

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