Sci-Fi Freak-Rockers Ascend to Space

Coheed & Cambria

Year of the Black Rainbow

Columbia

If you were at the 2008 Sun God Festival, you may remember those guys with the crazy hair who destroyed the main stage after Sean Kingston spent an hour waddling around like an obese apocalypse. Coheed and Cambria were electric then, and have only gotten better — as demonstrated on new LP Year of the Black Rainbow.

Longtime fans know that each of their albums is part of a conceptual story masterminded by lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez; Rainbow serves as the prequel. While stepping back in the storyline, the album takes a step outside the band’s former talent bracket — while never losing touch with its roots.

They’re able to deliver their emotive power with more elegance than ever before, taking all the awkwardness out of their signature genre jumps. On lead single “Here We Are Juggernaut,” the band delves for the first time into industrial prog-rock, clanking drums like pistons and overlaying ground guitars with all the grimy charm of 1800s London. And just when Sanchez’ bombastic production is about to get overwhelming, drummer Chris Pennie always takes the beat back to basic.

Most of the time, though, Sanchez’s grandstand is appropriate and powerful: “This Shattered Symphony” is the album’s pinnacle, evolving the post-hardcore origins of the band into a modern experiment. Sanchez throws down a punchy guitar riff to accompany an orchestral lead, equally wishy-washy on the mic between a high-pitched croon and vicious growl.

Halfway through its vigorous run, however, Rainbow does begin to feel ponderous and overdone; some tracks are virtual photocopies of the first six. The latter-half exception is the softhearted “Pearl of the Stars,” on which industrial drums grind gently behind a delicate guitar line as Sanchez reflects on a girl he calls his “angel from the west, the pearl of the stars.”

Powerful, ambitious and melodramatic as ever, Coheed and Cambria won’t win any new fans with Rainbow — but it’ll impress the hell out of the diehards. 7/10

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