Genre: Progressive Rock
Producer: Jay Joyce, Coheed and Cambria
Released: October 16, 2015
For the last twenty years Coheed and Cambria have been an oddbird in the world of progressive music: despite that their blend of progressive rock, pop punk and post-hardcore has sold hundreds of thousands of records in the U.S., the band is practically unknown outside the States. Their discography so far has told the story of Amory Wars, a science fiction storyline so elaborate and complex it makes Lost look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. With each album the band has delved deeper and deeper both into their storyline and into the sea of prog, culminating with their previous release, the uneven and divisive 2013 double album The Afterman. It was clear that the band couldn’t carry on to the same direction without crashing and burning like an overly long, uncommon time trainwreck.
Now, on their 8th studio album, the band decides to change their course so drastically one can’t help but wonder if the band wrote the whole album on opposite day: The Color Before the Sun seems to be the most accessible C&C record to date. It’s the first album that isn’t part of their saga, which is a welcome change because following the storyline spanning through across all types of media was about as easy as trying to fit your whole fist up your nostril. As a result the themes are more down-to-earth and relatable, which in turn makes the music much more emotionally loaded. While it might be much less exciting and even less inventive, it is much easier to get invested in the songs about the mundane than postmodern epics about supreme tri-mages, IRO-bot trinities and people crazy enough to name their sons Chess and Domino.
Abandoning the storyline for more traditional lyrics also reflects on the band’s unique flavour of progressive rock: the ‘progressive’ part has been toned down in favour of more straightforward pop sensibilities so hard that the term is used like an obsolete and convoluted hereditary title. The first power chord of the album opener “Island” is accompanied with “Pa Da Da’s” so chipper they wouldn’t be out of place in the opening of The Smurfs. The lead single “You Got Spirit, Kid” could be just as easily a lesser known deeper cut from the discography of Fall Out Boy. However, one should not mistake straightforwardness and simplicity for laziness. On the contrary, the the more traditional song structures have provided a clearer framework for the band to work with, allowing the band to write more coherent and focused material, free of superfluous frills and garnishes. The closing track, the masterfully crafted “Peace to the Mountain”, starts out like a folk song, growing slowly towards the magnificent finish. Both the faster, punchier tracks and the slower, calmer ballads deliver, with each track defending its place on the album.
Shaking up the old formula worked for Coheed and Cambria, even if their new one is much more conventional and safe than the one they used to work with: despite the missing hooks and kinks The Color Before the Sun is not only an all-around solid, well-written and cohesive record, but also a prime example how sometimes the simplest solution might just be the best one.