Coheed and Cambria have always been a rather hit-or-miss type of band for me. Each album or song they release that is utter magic tends to feel marred by a few albums that feel phoned in, along with some songs that are too far lost in their own crazy mythology to rise to the epic heights we all know they’re capable of. They’re the band that I love to love, even though their last three albums haven’t captured me the way that their first few did.
That’s why The Color Before the Sun, and the first album that isn’t a part of their sci-fi epic storyline, feels so fresh and classic. It encapsulates everything that created the ravenous legion of fans who consider the band one of the best in the world, and captures the magic of the band’s beginnings while pushing forward sonically.
The Color Before the Sunis finally free of the constraints of story, and instead, explores itself. All of the ever-present themes you’d expect from Coheed (constant references to space and rolling songs about love) are there in spades. Depending on which type of Coheed fan is listening, this is either a godsend of a refresher or a road bump that has steered the band away from their main focus. It’s easily their poppiest and most concise album since Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One.
For me, the last decade has seen Coheed slowly grow further into a “jam-band” and away from the pop-metal that made me love the band to begin with. This return to form may not be the rock opera that fans were expecting, but the album is filled with new power singles that only boost their discography. It says a lot about a band that, when they release an album that sounds “stripped down” and not nearly as dense as any of their other work, it sounds like Fall Out Boy.
The Color Before the Sun certainly has potential to sound like a betrayal to longtime fans, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Without the setting of The Amory Wars to base the lyrics on, it’s the first Coheed album to be personalized by Claudio Sanchez with life experience. While this, in essence, sounds like the writing of any other band, this is Claudio Sanchez we’re talking about. If you weren’t aware of the fact that this album wasn’t part of his storyline, you may never know. His placement of words and expressiveness sets him inside of his own story, living it out just as deeply as any character he could have dreamt up.
While these songs don’t grind or play as intricately as past Coheed albums, they burst along at a brisk pace that feels neither rushed nor hesitant. Album opener “Island” opens with sizzling guitars and a mesmerizing bassline by Zach Cooper, gushing beneath an angelic chorus of Claudio’s cooing between verses. “Eraser” is reminiscent of past single “Juggernaut” in that it’s a harder rock song with a hidden pop melody. “Ghost” is one of the softest songs the band as ever written, with a clasping acoustic strum and whispering vocals before launching into wanna-be power ballad “Atlas”. Per usual, the album closes strong and heavy with rocker “The Audience” before toning back for another semi-acoustic song, “Peace to the Mountain”, with swelling violins and proud trumpets, the last two songs lasting almost 13 minutes.
Much like The Early November’s past efforts, many songs have segues near the end of the track that lead to the next one with little disruption to the flow of thought or sound. It’s that effort of connection that makes this album flow like a story and retain a classic sense of Coheed and Cambria.
Lyrically, much of this album tells the story of becoming a father and the anxiety and love that comes with it. While not to the focus of every song, there are hints and subtle nods throughout. For a storyteller like Claudio, this sounds like a terrible idea in theory, but in practice, it’s just another part of the story he writes, regardless of the character, and no less important or sincere. In “Eraser”, he sings, “Oh, middle aged bring me a crisis / What am I worth? Does the truth hurt?” before bursting into a chorus of “I never wanted to be this me / Show me back then the kid before the man, I don’t think this me is who I am”.
But with the imminent arrival of a child, he manages to wash away the worry and the middle-aged crisis with a respect for responsibility in “Atlas”. The song delivers some absolutely gorgeous lines, like a verse midway through the song, “Only now I’ve come to this moment in my life / Bits and pieces to a puzzle, with no regrets / …As you life’s surely about to change for the better half / Now on your mark, get set, clock starts to count / Cuz boy, everything’s about to go down”. It’s followed up shortly with “I’ve had my share of leaving this retreat, but never did it once feel like anything like you, you see / And if there’s any good thing that comes from my way / It’s that you won’t be anything like me”.
This is the first Coheed and Cambria album that feels different than their past few albums, and succinctly similar to their best efforts all at once. Depending on which of their styles you prefer, this album may be a disappointment. It’s also a perfect stepping stone for anyone who may have been intimidated from their vast discography and the mythos behind it all, and a breather from the dense layering of rock the band has warped for the last decade in favor of simpler harmonies that land just as favorably. Only a band like Coheed and Cambria could ever forge a new path while sounding so overwhelmingly nostalgic.
by Kyle Schultz