For those who have followed Coheed and Cambria's Amory Wars saga from the beginning, Year of the Black Rainbow will scratch the itch of fulfillment until it bleeds. This is the musical prequel (please leave your Star Wars jokes at the door) to vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Claudio Sanchez's saga, concluding the the longest concept album in rock history -- five volumes' worth. It is lofty in its pretensions, but there is so much great music here, that even when its influences and filler are subtracted, it stands as a monolithic testament to singular ambition, focus, and realization. That said, like the other volumes in the adventure, this one can be taken completely on its own as a very solid album of hard and heavy yet melodic prog rock and metal. The lyrical references, while specific to the Amory Wars, are universal in their sentiments and emotions. The set opens with a moody instrumental, full of ambience and a piano played sparely before erupting dynamically into the “The Broken,” with dueling guitar lines between Sanchez and Travis Stever. Chris Pennie's drumming with booming tom-toms and kick drums, builds new rhythmic patterns while underscoring a basic mid-level hard rock chug. “Here We Are Juggernaut” is an anthem with a tight, catchy melody in both verse and chorus, with overdriven, riffing guitars, thunderous drums, and vocal harmonies that literally soar. “Pearl of the Stars” is an acoustically based, atmospheric ballad with a dubwise bassline by Mike Todd on the chorus. “In Flame of Error” and “When Skeletons Live” are stop-and-go examples of melodic prog metal at its best. The set closes with the title track, a dark, drifting soundscape of a tune that takes shape about halfway through its seven minutes and roars all the way to the finish for a stellar climax. As a band, C&C either inspire rabid adoration or complete dismissal; that won’t change with Year of the Black Rainbow. That said, any fan of heavy progressive rock music may find this music to be of compelling interest, whether one buys into the conceptual nature of the Amory Wars or not.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek