Coheed and Cambria – The Color Before The Sun
Certain songs have a supernatural, transcendental way of taking you on a trip down memory lane, for better or for worse. A certain lyric, melody or association with a song can turnover your memories like soil on a dry autumnal morning. That pop punk song that was playing when you had your first kiss, that heartbroken ballad that mirrored your own turmoil at just the right time, it’s that powerful, cutting ability that music has me dedicating my life to it like some kind of masochistic slave. When music speaks to your soul and mimics your own head and heart it can be both cathartic and distressing, but I love that.
And in that respect, The Color Before The Sun makes a painful listening for me, unfortunately. It’s not so much the content, but the story behind it that haunts me. Before the shit hit the proverbial fan, this was an album that, while not particularly breath-taking, saw the band oozing the kind heart-warming class we know and love them for. Now it reminds me of someone, of something we had that that died like the summer months and withered in the growing cold.
In the past Coheed and Cambria have played their prog meets pop brand of music through a prism of cinematic and fantastical sci-fi tales; it has been the foundation in which the much loved New York quartet have used to cement themselves as an integral name in modern alternative music. But while much of the lyrics on those releases have dealt with issues faced by frontman Claudio Sanchez at various points in his often troubled, often love-filled life – certain happenings in the Armory Wars metaphors for the writer’s own vices and torments – they were penned through a veil, using the characters within the saga as his exorcists. With the story taking place in a mind boggling galactic universe his imagination handcrafted many years ago, it provided a bit of distance for Sanchez between using his music to vex and still maintain an air of privacy. It was a clever way of separating his personal and work life. Those characters were his scapegoats, his voodoo dolls.
A father now however, he and the band have felt it time to blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors. The Color Before The Sun is the first record to not follow any form of conceptual format and the result is more honest, bare and vulnerable.
“This is the first record where I’ve experienced fatherhood; this is a new phase in my life. So why not make it a new phase of Coheed and Cambria’s life as well?” said Sanchez in a recent interview with Metal Hammer.”
"By stripping away all the magic and glistening frivolities of The Armory Wars in favour of a more streamlined, humility pocked approach, they’ve found a magic that songs of space and wizards could never dream of."
And, in a way too, The Color Before The Sun is a more magical album than some of its predecessors for it. Previous efforts, especially double album The Afterman delved deeper yet into the phantasmal realms of their defining saga, yet, by stripping away all the magic and glistening frivolities in favour of a more streamlined, humility pocked approach, they’ve found a magic that songs of space and wizards could never dream of.
Like Mastodon before them with The Hunter – and later with Once More ‘Round The Sun – the focus here is micro rather than macro. Each song stands of its own accord, rich in character and individuality. Island’s bright yet fragile chorus is an uplifting highlight while Here To Mars – probably the most prominent spectre of a past I’m moving away from but in which, by association, this album is anchored – is gorgeously honest and sweet. Perhaps to some the lyrics are cheesy, but to me they are the words born from the beating heart and soul of the man who belts them out atop an aptly spacey instrumentation.
The individual focus has given them a fresh lease of life, particularly for those who felt that the band had vanished down a slightly unyielding creative path of late. Instead of each song being a chapter or scene in a greater story, they are mini tales of their own standing, and ones which see Sanchez’s soul personally bore onto you, the listener, and not through some fictional creation. On no track are his emotions as honestly showcased on the sweet, touching, Colors. A song about the vandalism of the country house that was meant to be the home in which he raised his son the words are cutting. ‘And when the world comes crashing down / Don't make a move, don't make a sound / Just watch it fall, watch it come down / Feel it as it goes, does it feel good to let go?’ backed by genteel, elegant chords and a swaying drum beat, show their frontman to the world in a brand new light.
And so there are parallels. An album anchoring itself in a period of my life I’m trying my damndest to move away from, for Claudio Sanchez, these are the words and sounds of a cleansing process; a record with more of his own blood sweat and tears staining its canvas than ever before.
While some of the song transitions are sketchy – one element of their concept albums still present here – it is very much a solid Coheed and Cambira record. It nestles within the confines of their sound. Young Love a graceful song, You Got Spirit, Kid brilliant fun and The Audience more menacing and abrasive. It’s consistent, emotional and fun. Few fans of the bands will see this as a disappointment.
Words: Phil Weller