Coheed and Cambria is going through growing pains in moving away from their original focus.
Coheed and Cambria is a band that can appeal to several different kinds of fans. They’re just progressive enough to rope in fans of technically accomplished, mind-bending rock ‘n’ roll. They’re just pop enough to get the mainstream music fan interested. They even have something for fans of science fiction; all of their previous albums have been part of a multi-chaptered, interlinked, intergalactic epic straight from the brain of frontman and mastermind Claudio Sanchez. The Amory Wars—the title of said epic—has been adapted for comics and novels, and according to the rumor wheel, at one point it even caught the interest of Quentin Tarantino.
The band has stepped away from their science fiction roots with The Color Before the Sun to boldly go where they haven’t gone before. It is a bold move indeed, considering their most loyal and rabid fans are steeped in the band’s fictional mythos. Call it a way of keeping things fresh. Call it a way of expanding their horizons. After stripping themselves of one third of what garners fan interest, Coheed and Cambria has in produced another great installment to their extensive catalogue. But this time it’s (supposedly) personal.
Instead of getting life off his chest by veiling his emotions in a high-concept space opera, Sanchez has attempted to open himself up for us all to see. As personal as the record is advertised to be, the lyrics are still drenched in nearly indecipherable metaphors and lack the clarity necessary to understand just what in the hell is going on. On previous albums, this tactic worked quite well, as each record told a story and relied on a slow-drip of information for its narrative. Even those lyrics could get a bit murky, but at least you could pick up a comic book to see what was going on. Here, while the hooks are dazzlingly catchy and Sanchez’ soulful, Geddy Lee-pitched voice is the most impressive it’s ever been, there’s an overall cloudiness to the lyrics. Tracks like “Island,” about removing oneself from isolation and rejoining the world, “From Here to Mars,” a beautifully rendered love song, and “Altas,” a gut-puncher about fatherhood, are all lyrically masterful. But other tracks suffer from the lack of clarity that Coheed and Cambria used to be able to get away with.
Ever since 2005’s Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, Coheed and Cambria’s albums has made music that matched the scale of its stories. Layered, massive, destructive, punishing and beautiful, the records were overproduced just enough, without reaching ridiculous proportions. It made sense for them. Considering the music of The Color Before the Sun concentrates more on rocking and rolling and hooking listeners through the ear than beating their brains in with progressive advancements, you would think the album’s sound would be a bit more streamlined. Not at all. This album is every bit as huge as their previous five. Though it sounds brilliant, its sound it doesn’t quite match the personal lyrical content or the more straightforward style.
The Color Before the Sun is an awesome listen that will satisfy your pop sensibilities, break your heart, make you want to bop around and melt your brain a little, too. But it seems Coheed and Cambria is going through growing pains in moving away from their original focus. This is natural when a band branches out; unfortunately, the album isn’t removed enough from the band’s previous work enough to make the more personal content stand out or to allow the less intricate music to breathe. This is a rocking good record. There is the distinct feeling, however, that while Sanchez may not be singing about space this time around, he’s still up in the stars producing content fit for a big budget sci-fi effects-fest.