Awesome rock band Coheed and Cambria have been an awesome rock band for well over a decade now. Not only are they an awesome rock band, but their albums tell the story of The Amory Wars, a sci-fi saga taking place in a fictional galaxy and have been accompanied by a sprawling series of comics, a novel, and an awful lot of confusion. Except now, apparently, they don’t. Whether or not Coheed and Cambria’s story has finished, The Colour Before The Sun is the first album not to exist within the Amory Wars world.
Previous albums should have come with manuals detailing exactly how to read and interpret each song; The Amory Wars is notoriously intricate and any inconsistency and weirdness in Coheed albums has always been forgiven, based on the assumption that it all fit into a plan that we were only part privy to. On TCBTS though, the inconsistency in style becomes a tad jarring and there’s nothing to justify it. Lengthy, proggy song ‘The Audience’ would be great on any other Coheed album; it would be prefixed with a weird chapter name (see ‘The Velourium Camper’, ‘The Willing Well’, ‘Key Entity Extraction’) and we would have taken it gladly and pondered, in our quieter moments, what it all meant. Distortion, both vocal and instrumental would have worked as an effective tool in terms of world and character building. Here though, a song without a clear chorus or concept and full of odd melodic twists and turns, while interesting, doesn’t necessarily make for enjoyable listening.
Chordal similarity across ‘Atlas’, ‘Young Love’ and ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’ is a lovely bit of album craft, making for an excellent trilogy of songs and a solid core of quality in what can feel a slightly jumbled body of work. ‘Atlas’ is the album’s most satisfying example of traditional Coheed song writing and construction, with a perfect balance of complexity and accessibility. In terms of quality it’s right up there with the best stuff they’ve done. It also spearheads the second half of the album, which is by far the superior. It’s full of typical C&C story building tropes from short, sharp exclamative segments to intros and outros which scream of narrative that was never finalized; the unfulfilled hint is hugely frustrating.
Final track ‘Peace To The Mountain’ shows that Coheed have lost none of their creativity and instrumental scope. Wouldn’t it be a lovely way to round off an album full of inter-galactic, murderous bastards though?
All of this sounds a bit like I’m yearning for the past, criticising the creative choices of an ever-evolving musical entity and refusing to judge the album based solely on its own merit and you’re right, that’s exactly what’s happening. The album feels cobbled together of bits and bobs suggestive of something larger but which never quite follows through. In fairness though, where it shines it’s blinding; no one can deny the sheer quality of songwriting that’s gone into big hitters ‘Island’, ‘Here to Mars’, ‘Atlas’ and ‘YGS,K’. Buy it, enjoy the hell out of it and share in my frustration.