It’s remarkable to consider that over eight albums, ‘the color before the sun’ is Coheed and Cambria’s first non-conceptual album. Written from a personal perspective, rather than opting for a return to the sci-fi themed Amory wars, ‘the color before the sun’ sees Claudio Sanchez laying his soul bare for all to see and the result is a very different Coheed and Cambria album which offers a new insight into the raw musical talent that lies at the heart of this fiercely independent progressive outfit.
Whilst the themes may be personal, Coheed and Cambria have lost none of their remarkable ability to craft music that is epic in scope. Retaining that sense of visionary musical ambition is key to Coheed and Cambria’s success over the years, and as soon as the deft riffing and helium-fuelled vocals of ‘Island’ surge into view we know we’re in safe hands. It’s still Coheed, then, but Coheed with a lighter touch, rocking out with a barely repressed glee and hooking the listener effortlessly with a wide-eyed chorus that may be rooted on earth but yet which still gazes towards the heavens with ethereal backing vocals and moments of slow-motion beauty incorporated into an otherwise buzzing opening track. Segueing neatly into ‘Eraser’, this may not be a conceptual album as such, but Coheed are not afraid to utilise the tropes of one, and as the track undergoes yet another complex shift in tempo and style the listener is left dizzied by the sheer breadth of musical influences that are crammed into the song. With elements of Feeder, the Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd and even Michael Jackson shot through the song it’s clear that Coheed and Cambria are infinitely capable of continuing beyond the fascinating concept with which they made their name. In contrast ‘Colors’ has a lighter touch and a sublime melody that does its best to break your heart in two, the band proving as deft at crafting woozy ballads as they are progressive rock epics. Of course, Coheed can’t keep their more outré instincts under wraps for long and the syncopated beat of ‘Here to Mars’ sees the band edging into more typically awkward musical pastures even as Claudio opens up with some of his most open and straight forward lyrics to date. Next up the acoustic ghost is the sound of Coheed and Cambria as stripped bare as you’ll ever hear them, and it proves a refreshing oasis of calm at the heart of the album.
Having lulled the listener into a reverie, Coheed and Cambria bring their audience to a rude awakening with the stabbing riffs of ’Atlas’ which raises itself with unexpected ferocity form a dreamy pool of atmospheric noise. Coming off like Placebo and Radiohead covering Neil Young, ‘Young love’ is a glorious mix of breathy vocals, gently winding lead work and crunchy riffs that may well serve as the album’s highlight, although it has close competition from the gritty ‘you got spirit’ kid’ which is an unlikely anthem for anyone who’s ever felt trodden down by the vicissitudes of life. Another brilliant track ‘The audience’ is a dark-hearted piece that bristles with nervous energy and sparks of real anger, and the music twists and turns over the course of the song’s six and a half minutes with the band employing all of the musical innovation for which they’re so well known. The album draws to a close with the beautifully mellow ‘peace to the mountain’ which recalls a mix of the Arcade Fire and Flaming lips with its lysergic pace, warm strings and chorus vocals all bringing a sense of resolution to the record.
Coheed and Cambria could well have risked a great deal by moving away from a thematic device that has served them so well, but by allowing themselves the opportunity to develop and grow as artists they have shown that they are a band more than capable of moving beyond the concept to embrace the real issues and events that have befallen them. The music is magical, wonderful, always inventive and packed with emotion, and, like the feeling you get at the end of an engrossing novel, there’s almost a feeling of loss when the record spins to an end. Fans of Coheed and Cambria will undoubtedly love ‘the color before the sun’ whilst those who have somehow avoided the band’s myriad charms in the past should certainly give this refreshingly different, often beautiful record a spin. Always a richly creative band, by seeking out new inspiration for their lyrics, Coheed and Cambria have bought new life to their music and ‘the color before the sun’ comes highly recommended.