Coheed and Cambria are one of the few bands in rock music that are able to transcend any particular “scene” and reach across the aisle and capture fans regardless of their genre affiliations. Equal parts Fall Out Boy and Rush, Coheed have swayed the spectrum from delicate emo ballads and pop punk anthems to quasi-technical and experimental songwriting that pull from influences such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. It’s no wonder that the group have gathered a highly devout and passionate group of fans, having shared the stage with everyone from Green Day to Slipknot and basically everyone in between. It’s an advantageous position to be in, for sure; the band have earned the freedom to play whatever and with whomever they desire.
Because of this, every Coheed album cycle is different. With their universally hailed double record The Afterman, Coheed reinvigorated interest in their Amory Wars story and created some of their most progressive and immediately catchy music to date. After The Afterman‘s chapter closes (and the band’s progressive cred doubled down upon by touring with Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles), it seems that the pendulum has swung back in the opposite direction for the follow up, The Color Before The Sun, which eschews the Heaven’s Fence and Keywork lore entirely in favor of slightly reeled-in and conservative approach that bolster’s the bands catalogue of obtuse pop-prog crowd-pleasers.
With the goal in mind to make a more personal record through doing away with the conceptual pretense, it follows that a simplified and to-the-point style of songwriting would appear as a side-effect. Claudio is no longer hiding his emotions behind proxy characters, and the songs certainly feel streamlined as such. The breadth of The Color Before The Sun is largely in the vein of Coheed classics “A Favor House Atlantic” and “Wake Up” rather than “Welcome Home” or “The Writing Writer.” This is a far cry from the dark and atmospheric early works and instead feels at home with the 00’s pop punk/emo scene in terms of to-the-point anthemic songwriting, most notably on singles “Island” and “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid.” “Atlas” expands upon this style as well while managing to fill out six minutes without using labyrinthine structures or progressive interludes.
Across the record, other tracks such as the comfortably somber “Colors,” the space-rock love ballad “Here To Mars,” and the grandiose finale “Peace To The Mountain” paint Coheed in a delicate light, perhaps tapping further into the well of inspiration that brought us the emotional conclusion to The Afterman: Descension. In this sense, The Color Before The Sun does feel like a logical follow-up to the more accessible ideas from the band’s preceding opus. Fortunately, the record’s grooving black sheep “The Audience” (and to some extent, “Eraser“) fulfills the need for heavier material and is reminiscent of “Gravity’s Union” in tone and structure.
However, there’s still a chance that fans may come away disappointed due to the shortage of dark and experimental music the band have become known for. The off-kilter metallic stomp at the end of “Island” and the bluesy Floydian trip at the end of “Spirit” feel like throw-away teases of what could have been. The Color Before The Sun also suffers from pacing issues; the lethargic “Young Love” saps all the energy from that would have carried from the surrounding tracks and would be better left on the cutting room floor, and “Ghost” could have been better served as the record’s penultimate track to bring the mood down after “The Audience.”
It’s easy to critique The Color Before The Sun for what it is or isn’t, but at the end of the day, the record is actually quite fun and contains tracks that stand alongside the band’s best work. It’s a farce to assume Coheed would ever sit still for very long given their history, and regardless of their given style of the moment, they’re proven masters of their craft. The Color Before The Sun may not be their most progressive or immediately haunting listen, but it’s a grower that is uplifting and powerful.