Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow Review & Opinion

Year of the Black Rainbow is the 5th album from Coheed & Cambria and unlike the previous cd's does not continue the sci-fi story of Claudio Kilgannon. Instead this album is a prequel to everything they have done before and comes with a very distinct shift in tone from what fans have become accustomed too. To try and pin down the difference in its simplest form would be to say that musically it is much heavier and driving but at the cost of some of the complex melodic structure that made the previous albums so engaging.
One thing that has not changed is the writing. Claudio's lyrics and vocals still have a poets way about them and the way he weaves them in and out of the music is very much what has become a mainstay for the bands sound. The only problem is with this album the bass and drum parts are so predominant that it can sometimes feel lost. Other albums were very guitar and vocal-centric and it feels like the mixing has turned a complete 180 on YotBR. Several songs still have the feel of classic Coheed tracks like The Broken, Here We Are Juggernaut and This Shattered Symphony, but then there are outliers like Guns of Summer that are completely out of left field and feel somewhat out of place. Even the ballad track Pearl of the Stars suffers from this mixing issue which makes it sound far more sinister than the lyrics imply. In fact, it seems to prevalent to be an accident and can only be accounted to a conscious decision for the tone. 
Which brings me to my last major issue, the tone and flow of the album. While most of the tracks are very good songs in their own right they have a way of feeling somewhat disjointed and separate from each other. Where as in previous albums each track lended itself to a progression and had continuous themes flowing through it (in both lyric and melodic ways) that linked everything together and gave it a sense of structure and story. This is the biggest thing missing from this album in my opinion. While it could be allotted to the fact that these are different characters and therefore different rhythms and themes or just a shift in direction in general is debatable, but for a C&C album it is something that fans have come to praise and revere them for and as a result leaves something sorely missing. 
Overall Year of the Black Rainbow stands fairly well in it's own regard, but when compared to the rest of the band's catalog it is definitely the outlying entry in the story. Fans will find things to like in it but will feel as though something is missing. In the end it pains me to say this but...
Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow
3 1/2 out of 5