That Coheed And Cambria have managed to dodge the biting insults typically levelled at prog is a feat in itself, but that they’ve managed to do it while maintaining the labyrinthine odyssey of their fictional Amory Wars saga, spanning their two decade, seven album career is something else entirely. It means that The Color Before The Sun comes as a surprise, seeing the band push their expansive narrative aside and focus on a normal, non-concept album.
As a complete body of work, it takes a few listens to properly click, given its almost over-eclecticism and habit of pulling a complete 180 at ever possible turn. It’s an album that amplifies their ever-present pop sensibilities, but extrapolates them into something beyond a traditional pop song. It’s not their usual invention, but it’s certainly an invention, and one they manage to slip into a lot of the time. Opener Island and You Got Spirit, Kid burst at the seams with bombast and Claudio Sanchez’s oft-eccentric vocal gymnastics, while Atlas crams heart and passion into a true epic, and Here To Mars soars just as much as its intergalactic title would suggest. Much of The Color Before The Sun is Coheed And Cambria at their most accessible, dealing in quasi-proggy pop-rock that hardly ever finds a flowing groove between songs, but manages to stand tall in its individual components.
The problem with this though, is that it means that the weaker tracks are even easier to point out than on a more cohesive album. Somewhat ironically, they’re no longer tied down to their own creation, meaning that, even more so than before, virtually nothing is off limits, and that makes for some bad decisions along the way. The timid, understated shuffle of Colors lacks the wallop of its neighbours, while Ghost‘s hushed acoustics and whispered vocals feel incredibly out of place. It’s an interesting comparison to make between these tracks and the album’s stronger ones, of how more freedom and a new relatively unrestrained standpoint have shaped these songs, and the way in which they’ve managed to get it so right but also so wrong in a matter of a song.
It’s closer Peace To The Mountain that truly shows the full extent of what this new chapter of Coheed And Cambria is capable of. Over six and a half minutes, it transitions from gently plucked guitars and saccharine vocals right the way to crashing waves of strings, horns and choral refrains in a finale that truly captures the spirit of this band. That spirit is the ability to turn the most unconventional of components and most out-there of aspirations into things of wonder, something that The Color Before The Sun does quite a lot, even with the odd missteps it has peppered around its runtime. In a way though, that’s understandable – this album is almost like a debut album, in a sense that it marks the beginning of a new era for Coheed And Cambria. It only seems fair then, that this is their attempt at finding their feet in a slightly off-piste manner. With that being the case, it should only be a matter of time before this Coheed And Cambria reach the same heights as before.
For fans of: Circa Survive, The Dear Hunter, Night Verses
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Color Before The Sun’ by Coheed And Cambria is released on 16th October on 300 Entertainment.