Born as a musical accompaniment and extra layer for the fans to unearth of The Amory Wars sci-fi saga, a story and series of comics written by frontman Claudio Sanchez, Coheed & Cambria‘s craft is just as expansive, engrossing, and wholly extravagant at times as the tales that they tell.
Their last record, ‘The Color Before The Sun’, took a brief pitstop from its conceptual narrative to act somewhat as a breather from it, but also for Sanchez to focus on and discuss his world instead of the one that he has created over the past two decades.
Now, the band have returned to the larger-than-life world of The Amory Wars with album number nine, ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’.
Setting the tone as the one and only support act during their UK tour, their first few shows following the record’s release, are San Diego’s CHON . The instrumental outfit avoid the common pitfall that many bands in their area tend to fall into of becoming too much of a showoff and overly self-indulgent, and instead strangely manage to pull off an almost perfect balance of catchy licks and riffs whilst also showing off their creative chops.
The entire Manchester Academy descends into darkness whilst the eerie ‘Prologue’ plays over the speakers. The frail piano keys are tapped, and an ominous voice emerges to set the stage for the evening that Coheed & Cambria  have in store for us as they transport is straight into ‘The Dark Sentencer’, and from here we’re treated to over an hour of saga enveloped prog rock pleasures.
Throughout the evening the band dip in and out of several corners of their discography. ‘Devil In Jersey City’ makes a pretty early appearance, pumping the energy of its pop-punk tinged bounce into the room, much like ‘Blood Red Summer’ does, and and even these early 00s cuts don’t sound at all dated more than a decade after their release. ‘Wake Up’ takes position as the ballad of the evening, and even the more playful ‘Old Flames’ is a hit.
At other points, Coheed & Cambria show their more creatively ambitious numbers. The back-to-back one-two of ‘Unheavenly Creatures’ and ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3’ show various points of the timeline in The Amory Wars, and the dual axe work of Sanchez and Travis Stever ebbs and weaves between one another and, coupled with some animalistic drum work from Josh Eppard and the groove edge from Zach Cooper, these musical journeys whisk us away and are over before we even realise it.
The more dark turns also prove to bolster the set further. ‘Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood And Burial)’ and its more sinister undertones of its lyrics are accentuated by Sanchez‘s vocal delivery, despite his generally higher register and, of course, when it comes to the grandiose set finale ‘Welcome Home’, with its thunderous pace and climax of an apocalyptic dual solo, ironically home is the last place that we want to go tonight.
The thing that sets Coheed & Cambria apart from their other conceptually driven cohorts, and to that effect has also allowed them to remain relevant and grow for so many years, is that they can make a story that’s otherworldly seem of this world, and suck us deep into it with a progressive yet catchy rock vessel.
You can check out our full photo gallery from the show here.
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