Album: The Color Before the Sun
Artist: Coheed and Cambira
Over the past fourteen years progressive rock outfit Coheed and Cambria has been somewhat of a musical oddity. After releasing seven full length studio albums all of which serving as a soundtrack to an overarching story created by lead vocalist Claudio Sanchez entitled The Amory Wars, the band has parted ways (for the time being) with the Sci-Fi concept in exchange for a more traditional album. The 2015 release of The Color Before the Sun marks the eighth installment of the group’s catalog and arrived on record store shelves with a great deal of speculation from fans concerning the absence of the band’s conceptual roots. Although worries from fans and music enthusiasts were abundant, The Color Before the Sun has proven to be a very interesting album to say the least.
The beauty and genius of this album lies in its production. The Color Before the Sun was recorded in a live studio setting which has become a rare approach in the recording industry. Although a risk, the energy created through the live execution benefits the candid song writing. There’s a raw earthy quality to the tracks of this album that feel larger than life even though the veil of heavy layering has been lifted.
The album opens with the ominous echo of a New York subway leading into the first track, “Island.” The track embodies the no nonsense pop/rock sound from the band that fans fell in love with on earlier records. “Island” pounds away on a prototypical Coheed riff which is brushed with tasteful lead fills. The strength in “Island” stems from its chorus which is an instant sing-a-long classic. Catchy and straight forward, “Island” serves as an introduction to a new brand of Coheed an gives the album instant credibility from a song writing perspective.
The next track provides long-time Coheed fans a taste of familiarity. “Eraser,”although pop oriented, is a hard-hitting track that features gritty guitar riffs coupled with one of the tightest bass lines in recent memory. The soft vocal approach during the verses and chorus are broken up by a droning fuzz inspired pre-chorus where the heart of the track can be felt.
“Colors” offers the listener a more ambient side of the band’s musical spectrum. The track relies heavily on wide open drums paired with a beefy bass tone. The remaining space is filled with a clean and precise guitar riff which is well suited behind the haunting bass tone. At first glance, “Colors” is a track that can be easily overlooked. However, its placement and context within the rest of the record makes it one of the album’s strongest songs.
The following tracks act as a trilogy confirmed by lead vocalist, Claudio Sanchez. Even without this background knowledge, it is clear that “Here to Mars,” “Ghost,” and “Atlas” were positioned together for a reason. The contrast between the three songs, however. “Here to Mars” shines with an arena rock ballad type feel that explodes during the song’s chorus. “Ghost” on the other hand, allows the listener an intimate moment with the band. The track revolves around a stripped down acoustic guitar with warm vocal layered with rich harmonies. Although the shortest track on the album, “Ghost” packs more into three minutes than most songs even dare. “Atlas” blows the top off of this record. From beginning to end, the track brings uncontested energy through breath-taking vocals and a driving melody most prominent during the song’s chorus.
The most notable quality that the three tracks share is the honest and heartbreaking lyrics penned by Sanchez. The song’s main focus revolves around the love of your significant other, the outside perception of relationships, and the bond between a father and son. Sanchez offers his fans a glimpse into the reality of his life without the cloud of sci-fi concepts crowding the deeper meaning of his lyrics. Although these may seem like relatively common themes, they are extraordinarily unique for a band such as Coheed. The band’s honest song writing has always been present, however, it has always been disguised in the band’s grand concept.
“Young Love” is another track with a vast open sound. The most intriguing aspect of “Young Love” is its laid back approach. The simplistic guitar riffs is accompanied by a slew of open chords, natural harmonics and volume swells which fills the space well. The drums pattern is set just behind the song’s tempo, give the track a relaxed and mellow vibe which gives the album a much needed break from the explosive nature of previous tracks. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything overly ambitious or remarkable about this track. It serves its purpose on the album, but fails to match the rest of the track list.
No Coheed and Cambria album would be complete with a signature epic progressive rock tune. Well, this may be that album that fails to meet that expectation. “The Audience” is the closest thing to a quintessential progressive track that the band has been known for in the past. The conundrum here is that within the context of the record, “The Audience” appears to be a loud, dark and haunting prog track similar to previous songs such as “2113,” “Welcome Home,” and “Gravity’s Union.” However, when juxtaposed against these tracks, “The Audience” does not hold up. In past records, each progressive epic seemed to be well thought out, written with immense detail, and fit seamlessly into the album’s context. Unfortunately, “The Audience” feels a bit forced and out-of-place.
The first single off the album rubbed many die hard Coheed fans the wrong way. “You Got Spirit, Kid” is fun summer pop tune which shines a light on the more playful and lighthearted side of the band. Similar to “Island,” the initial single supports itself on a strong riff which is backed up by punchy vocals. Although slightly less catchy then “Island,” “You Got Spirit, Kid” will ingrain itself deep inside you brain and surprise you when you least expect it.
The album concludes with perhaps one of the band’s most unique tracks. “Peace to the Mountain” features light-hearted acoustic guitar and rather sweet vocals during the verses, then gains momentum during the indie/folk style chorus. Simplicity truly is the gear that moves this track along. a beautiful string and horn section is brought in near the final moments of the song to add a sense of atmosphere and gives the album a definitive conclusion. “Peace to the Mountain” may be the best ending to a Coheed and Cambria album to date. Unlike other albums concluding with technically proficient tracks, The Color Before the Sun parts with its listener on an uplifting note. The final track gives us a sense of hope, joy, and an optimistic perception of what is to come next for the band. On a whole, this was the perfect way to end this album.
The Color Before the Sun is probably Coheed and Cambria’s largest undertaking yet. Not because of the scale of certain songs, or the technical nature of their song writing, but because of its distinct differences from previous releases. With the absence of the band’s concept, the music and themes within the lyrics are given a chance to breathe. There actually is, in a way, a very distinct concept throughout the album. The fact that band has decided to take a hiatus from The Amory Wars story line and create a more accessible record is a concept in its own unique way.
Overall, The Color Before the Sun is a wonderful pop/rock album with a variety of tunes that are all one of kind. It was without question one of the best releases of 2015 especially of the rock variety. In terms of a Coheed and Cambria album, however, the latest entry from the band misses the mark slightly. Because it is so different and outside the norm for the band, the album is rather difficult to completely accept and understand.
Brother Mountain Score: 7/10