Sound — 9
It's been two and a half years since New York prog-rockers Coheed & Cambria released "No World For Tomorrow", the final chapter in front-man Claudio Sanchez's epic sci-fi saga, The Amory Wars. I, like so many other Coheed fans around the world, found myself asking where the band would go from there. My answer was found in Year of the Black Rainbow, prequel to the tale of treachery and love that has been the basis of everything Coheed and Cambria since the band's inception in 1995. 15 years later, the band proves that they can still create a unique blend of progressive and alternative rock, a fact that is commendable on it's own. On Year of the Black Rainbow, the band continues to push their boundaries, while also staying true to their roots, returning to a style reminiscent of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (a pleasant surprise for fans who were left somewhat disappointed by the band's previous release). This time around, the band has found the perfect balance, mixing the best of the old and the new to create a simply astounding sound. The album opens with "One", an almost ethereal track filled with a beautiful piano line that truly feels like a beginning, before slamming into "The Broken" a catchy rocker with some brilliant guitar work by Claudio and Travis Stever (see the chorus and the solo), a great bass-line from Michael Todd and great drum-work throughout by Chris Pennie (of Dillinger Escape Plan fame). His drumming truly kicks into overdrive with the crushing speed of "Guns of Summer". The band makes excellent use of synthesizers during the track before leading into the lead single, "Here We Are Juggernaut". Next up is the first soft track on the album, entitled "Far", with programmed drums and a syrupy guitar line which goes perfectly with Claudio's vocals. But not to worry, the guitar hooks are back on "This Shattered Symphony", a rolling song with more great drums from Chris. After two more steady rockers the band return with the truly beautiful "Pearl of the Stars". The track begins with a pretty acoustic riff which makes can almost make you think of 2005's "Always and Never" before going into what is quite possibly Claudio's most emotional guitar solo ever. A truly beautiful track, it is definitely one of the best tracks on the album. After "In The Flame of Error" and "Where Skeletons Live", the album ends with the distant thunder of "The Black Rainbow". A truly epic track, it is the perfect end to the album and start to the tale of Coheed and Cambria.
Lyrics — 8
A problem that most listeners and critics have with Coheed and Cambria are the lyrics. The story aspect of the band has always been a little unfriendly to the casual listener, but thankfully, Year of the Black Rainbow is the least "story-like" of all Coheed's albums. While the album still tells a tale, the lyrics could very well stand on their own. Claudio's voice is on top form (as always) throughout the album, with highlights such as "The Broken" and proving that he truly is an amazing vocalist, once you get used to his higher voice. His screams are back on tracks like "Here We Are Juggernaut" while he proves that his syrupy vocals are as beautiful as always on ballad "Pearl of the Stars". Yes, the singing and the lyrics are growers for the first-time listener, but once you get used to it, Claudio's words can be truly amazing.
Overall Impression — 9
And so ends The Amory Wars. 15 years of trying times, epic solos and shows around the world, the band's epic story is finally complete (on a side-note, the album will be released with a deluxe edition, containing a 350-page novel telling the tale before The Amory Wars). As for what happens to Coheed and Cambria, who knows? What I do know, however is that, with Year of the Black Rainbow, Coheed and Cambria have penned a beautiful ending; a beautiful beginning.