It's difficult to judge Coheed and Cambria by any kind of conventional standards, because the genre of emo/prog/space rock is pretty much only inhabited by them. Yes, they have influences and you can stretch for comparisons, but they're pretty alone in their own little niche.
Year of the Black Rainbow is the band's fifth disc, but it comes first in the story of Coheed and Cambria, the parents of the story's protagonist, Claudio. Casual fans can overlook the details of the sci-fi plot but still get excited for the catchy choruses. Hardcore fans will want to buy the deluxe version of the album, which comes with a behind-the-scenes DVD and, for the first time, a novelization of the album. If the book is as good as the music, fans should have a lot to look forward to. A deal is already in place to continue producing more novels.
The two songs already released - "The Broken" and "Here We Are Juggernaut" - are broken up by perhaps one of the strangest and most aggressive songs written by the band. "Gun of Summer" finally shows off newcomer Chris Pennie's true drumming skills (he was a founding member of Dillinger Escape Plan). Claudio Sanchez's vocals are layered with the scary voice effect from In Keeping Secrets' "Al The Killer," and aggressive upbeats add to a very unusual sound for the group. What you think of this song may make or break the album for you.
"Far" feels like the lost track from Claudio's side project, The Prize Fighter Inferno. He has been performing the song acoustically on tour, which should be a special treat. "Pearl of the Stars" is a slow song in the vein of "Mother Superior," and it ends with a jam that sounds eerily on-purpose like Good Apollo's "The Final Cut." Also making a repeat appearance is Claudio's scream that leads into "The Crowing," which you can catch in "In The Flame of Error."
If you're the kind of fan who likes "Favor House Atlantic" but don't understand what the hell it's about, look no further than "World of Lines," a fast-paced song with the kind of sing-along chorus that the band is known for: "Just leave us alone/if it's not worth her, let it go." Rinse and repeat. Expect the song to come to the Rock Band Network soon.
For the fan, Black Rainbow is everything you'd hoped: epic, catchy, and easy to listen to over and over. For the non-fan, it is easily the most accessible album since In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.
Coheed and Cambria is XBOX Live's Artist of the Month and all their music videos are available for download in the Zune Marketplace. They also just won MTV's Musical March Madness by upsetting the favorite, My Chemical Romance.