Album Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

It pains me to write this review, since Coheed and Cambria are so near and dear to my heart. First listening to them on their heavy, jammy, and very proggy album “Good Apollo, Volume I” over ten years ago, my life changed. Seriously, this band has had such a massive impact on my life. Whether it’s the continual lyrical or instrumental recitations, sharing this nearly-unhealthy passion of mine with friends and family, or the fact I don’t go a day without listening to them, Coheed and Cambria have always been one of those bands that’s been there for me. Over the years, though, I could hear subtle and gradual changes in their sound, something I’ve always waved off as a band evolving and gaining new perspective. But their latest album “The Color Before The Sun,” which will be released Friday but is available for stream now, is the furthest step away from the band I’ve grown to love.
A tear is figuratively running down my cheek as I say these words: Coheed has released an ok-at-best album in “The Color Before The Sun.” Something I’ve loved about Coheed and Cambria is their way to blend different musical genres into one whole. “A little poppy, a little jazzy, a little metal, a little punk, and a little proggy” is how I’d describe their previous albums, since it was so hard to nail down one word to define them. Their newest album, though, is simply pop and punk. There are little to no moments of that emotional headbanging and soloing, or that technical and jazzy arrangements in this album. Having listened to so many harder and more thought-provoking albums over the last couple months, I was let down by the simplistic, mind-numbing approach of this album. Where are those moments that when recreated live the crowd goes absolutely nuts? They’ve been buried six feet under, with pop and punk shifting their eyes in panic. That competition over sound is over, and what’s won is a product I’m not too impressed with.

Take opener “Island,” a song with ridiculously lighthearted lead guitar, simplistic Blink 182-sounding drumbeats, and overdriven punk guitar rhythms. I was teased with an intro containing train station soundscapes (something ordinarily proggy), but was immediately let down by the lack of heaviness on the track. Coheed is known for making some amazing opening tracks, but they completely missed the mark with this song. Another song is “Young Love,” written about their notorious (to fans) home/recording studio that was nearly destroyed by tenants trusted by the band. Although the song itself isn’t awful, the main guitar lead that carries the melody sounds out of tune, which isn’t pleasing to my ears. Later in the album is “Ghost,” an acoustic track about mornings in New York City. The track is softer than anything Coheed has ever released, but not of what Claudio himself has released. Having a softer side project in the Prize Fighter Inferno, this track (along with others on this album) feels like Claudio was sidetracked with his intentions, deciding on releasing it through the bigger brand that is Coheed and Cambria. The album closes with yet another soft song “Peace to the Mountain,” which although is one of the winners on this album, suffers another identity crisis with acoustic guitars, tambourines, and trumpets. Much of the album contains these songs that simply don’t sound like the band, tricking me into believing I’m listening to something else.

As much as I disliked “The Color Before The Sun,” there are a few tracks that I actually did enjoy. The third released single “Eraser” is one of the hardest tracks on the album. It reminds me of songs from their albums “Year of the Black Rainbow” and “The Afterman,” which under normal circumstances isn’t necessarily a compliment, but in an album devoid of “that classic Coheed sound” is better than nothing. The ooh-ooh’s and ha-ha’s that is undefinably Claudio Sanchez always gives me a smile, while the catchy chorus and guitar solo in the bridge section have enough power to make my body move to the music. Another great song is “Atlas,” a song originally written on an acoustic guitar for Claudio’s yet-to-be-born son. Being a more rock-oriented version of the song, I can’t help but recall my own son, and feel the need to write my own song for him. I especially enjoyed the heavy bass guitar presence in the song, along with the intricate dual guitar patterns played by both guitarists Sanchez and Stever. Finally, the second to last track “The Audience” is easily my favorite song because it actually sounds like Coheed and Cambria! Reminiscent of the song “Vic the Butcher” from “The Afterman” (see above), I enjoyed the dark, eerie vocals, heavily overdriven rhythm guitar, and frantic, deep drum beats. It is the most repeatable song off the entire album, a song I wish was the standard for the entire album.

I’ve already discussed the lack of concept behind this album in a previous post. Although I do understand the change in direction and inspiration behind “The Color Before The Sun” in particular, I cannot pretend to be happy about any future releases that won’t follow the grandiose story behind all of their previous albums. As stated previously, it’s so ingrained into my life, I’ve felt inspiration and comfort in the morals and themes behind the story. The songs in “The Color Before The Sun” might be more relatable in the end, but it simply doesn’t sit well with me. It’s a moot point in the scheme of things, though, since some people like their lyrics realistic while others like theirs metaphorical.

Photo by Heavy Mag
Photo by Heavy Mag

When asked how I felt about “The Color Before The Sun” from a friend of mine, I could only respond that “at least ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ isn’t my least favorite Coheed album anymore.” If this album had just been released as the Prize Fighter Inferno, Claudio Sanchez’s electronic-acoustic-lighter side project, I would’ve had a completely different perspective coming into the album, and perhaps a differing opinion. Unfortunately, labeling this album as “Coheed and Cambria” did the band injustice, merely appealing to new listeners and leaving longtime fans in the dust. But I forgive you Claudio and company; I understood what you were trying to do. I’m just not a fan. I still urge you all to be your own judge of their upcoming album, which is released this Friday. You can support them by checking out their website, and by following them on Facebook and Twitter. They are currently touring North America, which I will have the privilege of seeing how they adjust their setlist accordingly later this month.

And to Claudio, Travis, Josh, and Zach: I still support you guys 100%. You can’t please everyone all the time.

Check out the official music video for the song “Eraser”: