Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Don't Need Synergy in My Music

You want a review, you say? Fine. Read up.

Coheed and Cambria
Year of the Black Rainbow (2010)
Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

My first experience with Coheed and Cambria came while I was still a teenager. That's the sort of statement usually used to form an excuse for liking an artist that, well, doesn't deserve to be referred to as an artist. That's not my angle here, though, so I'm getting back to my story now. When I was a teenager, I first heard Coheed and Cambria on some awful MTV Road Rules compilation disc by accident. The song I heard was "33", a jaunty, fun little bastard of a track. I heard catchy melodies, impressive instrumentation, and vocals that I wasn't sure were made by a male, female, or dolphin. The overall package interested me, so away I went to CD Warehouse to purchase the band's debut, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. I grew to love the aforementioned debut album, a furious combination of all of the elements "33" embodied and then some. To this day, I hold the album in high regard despite the fact that most people who know a good band from their asshole would scold me. Hell, I even loved the sophomore album, and I went and saw the band play three times. I've just described how my love affair with Coheed began; now that it's mostly ended (we give in to our mutual attraction every now and then still), let me detail how far things have fallen.

The problem is, Coheed and Cambria got so full of themselves and started treating me like shit. They knew how I felt about them, so she used it to their full advantage. First there was that third album and it's pointlessly-long title. They teased me with that one, giving me things like "Welcome Home" and "The Suffering". But they also got all bloated and fat, content with doing whatever. So then my love began to wane; I began to question things. But it was just one album, so I persevered. Well, I persevered until they dumped another long-titled pile on me, one with even less to appease my pathetic devotion. That's when I left them and went elsewhere, letting The Hold Steady make love to my ears instead.

Now that you have the back story, I need to tell you that Coheed and Cambria showed up on my doorstep with something called Year of the Black Rainbow, a peace offering. Turns out, though, they're still just a big fucking tease, but they at least hint at a future together. Black Rainbow starts out in pompous fashion with a big, dumb block of atmosphere before launching into "The Broken", a track I actually enjoy. The band goes back to sensibly approaching melody, and it pays off. But then I'm stuck with more filler before getting to "Here We Are Juggernaut", which itself only has moments of real coherence. The next song, "Far", may be my favorite on the album because it really throws me off the typical trail. Rather than just wank all over an overused riff, Coheed takes the time to build a cool song using moody, giant percussion and weeping guitars.

Things slow back down until "Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am)", another stomping percussion song with a nice, simple lead guitar part. The chorus missteps, but not so much that it tanks the song. "In the Flame of Error" has its moments, but moments alone cannot carry a five-and-a-half minute song, and they can't cushion the blow of the superfluous album closer.

Despite Black Rainbow's ultimate failure, there are some good signs present. The band clearly feels more comfortable embracing a moodier, more subdued sound at times, and a lot of the punchier, early-day songwriting skills manifest themselves from time to time. I'd like to say I now feel as if the band is maturing and can shed their huge, shit-rock tendencies in favor of honest-to-God well-written songs. But that's not how I feel. After all, the electro-tendencies of singer Claudio Sanchez's solo project (Prize Fighter Inferno's My Brother's Blood Machine) have only barely been realized in his full-time band's work, and that album gave me false hope already. I hate to say it, but I think they might be gone for good. If only I'd learn my lesson.

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