The Color Before the Sun, Coheed and Cambria's eighth album, is the prog metal group's first outside the Amory Wars saga. These records -- appended by an impressive series of comic books -- are rock & roll's equivalent to space opera. Until now, they've been the focal point of the band's -- and composer/guitarist/frontman Claudio Sanchez's -- identity. In these songs, dictated by his own life events (leaving spacious Upstate New York for cramped Brooklyn, becoming a father, and eventually returning to the countryside), the mask is off. Their themes of adjustment, restlessness, defiance, and acceptance resonate with poignancy, anger, resentment, and even humor. Some are fueled by catchy hard rock/pop-punk hooks with anthemic choruses, while others offer knotty, dissonant angles and breathtaking instrumental interplay. They all suit Coheed and Cambria. Jay Joyce's production is not only sympathetic; it's gorgeous. "Island" contains a massive layered wordless chorus, cranking electric guitars that reference the Clash's "Police on My Back," and a blasting punk-pop hook. It's a lighter, breezier version of the band's classic sound. "Colors" (a power ballad), "Here to Mars" (a midtempo, soaring hard rock love song that's sure to be a concert favorite), and "Ghost" (a solo acoustic number that recalls "Pearl of the Stars" in its hushed vocal dynamic) are the three best sequenced songs here. Their contrasting musical and lyrical tensions are resolved in the power drive of "Atlas" (Sanchez's son's name), a nearly seven-minute prog metal rager with shifting tempos, harmonic feints, overarching riffs, and an angular yet infectious melody. First single "You Got Spirit, Kid" is a testy punk-pop anthem that offers a sly homage to Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy and reflects some of the melodic ideas on In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth. Sanchez offers his bittersweet take on the angst of adolescence and, as its video illustrates, the song would have been right at home in a soundtrack for a film about high school. "The Audience" is heavy metallic prog. Its lyric reveals that Sanchez finally has the courage to come out from behind the curtain of his stories and characters and give a damn about negative feedback. It is also over six minutes long, with a monstrous bassline and slippery syncopated drums; it would have been right at home on The Afterman: Ascension. "Return to the Mountain" commences as an acoustic ballad but gradually becomes a maximal testament to the beauty of acceptance of life on its own terms. It comes complete with thundering kettle drums, sweeping strings, classical brass, and a large choir, and is inspirational. It's one of the most beautiful songs Sanchez has ever written and hints at future musical possibilities for Coheed and Cambria to explore. The Color Before the Sun is not the band's best record, but it is utterly inspired and almost nakedly sincere. It will likely play well to fans, but even more importantly, perhaps attract new ones.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek