Proggish bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Queensrÿche have shown that albums can tell a story and still be entertaining, and even compelling. Others, unfortunately, attempted this kind of literary rock with half-baked concepts and/or execution. No one can accuse Coheed & Cambria of that. Frontman Claudio Sanchez told an epic science-fiction tale — a detailed and complex Amory Wars arc — across the band’s past four albums, intertwining the story with a spirited metallic emo soundtrack. Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever survived the band’s near breakup three years ago to complete the story on No World for Tomorrow. Even then, Sanchez was concocting a way to continue telling the tale.
On Year of the Black Rainbow, Coheed & Cambria take a page from the George Lucas playbook and go the prequel route, envisioning the events that presaged the Amory Wars. Unlike Lucas, they craft something that stands with the original. Sanchez sings with the same histrionic abandon that’s defined the band and proves that they have mastered the art of thematic storytelling in songs that work well on their own, like the swelling prog-punk of “The Broken,” the prog-metal intricacy of “Guns of Summer” and “This Shattered Symphony,” the emo-Rush blast of “Made Out of Nothing (All That I Am).” — Brian Baker