Despite not following the canonical storyline of Coheed & Cambria‘s created universe The Amory Wars, and indeed a somewhat deviation from their typical template for the grandiose, their previous studio effort (2015’s ‘The Color Before The Sun’) was a refreshing turn after the ‘The Afterman’ duo records.
Now, follow-up and ninth record, ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’, returns to the band’s The Amory Wars concept introducing a new story arc; based around Nostrand and Nia, two lovers turned bank robbers who seemingly have been separated for years.
Unfortunately, the story gets a bit lost in translation as, at 15 tracks and 79 minutes long, it’s often a challenge to keep up with the musical content let alone the underlying concept running through it. After all is said and done though, such is the catchiness of Coheed & Cambria‘s output, time flies by relatively quickly and the experience never seems to wane.
The record starts with a spoken word introduction full of electronica and haunting intrigue in ‘Prologue’, which segues nicely into first track proper, ‘The Dark Sentencer’. At almost eight minutes, the band’s stall is set out pretty quickly, but the chorus has got a cool galloping aspect to it with a strong hypnotising riff running throughout to make that time sail by pretty quickly.
‘Unheavenly Creatures’ commences with a retro video game-style intro complimented by a simple riff that kickstarts the song, whilst ‘Toys’ is incredibly playful throughout (no pun intended) with an extremely memorable chorus that makes the track pop into life and a superb guitar solo from Claudio Sanchez towards the end.
Harking back to the immediate accessibility of their 2005 hit ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Queen Of The Dark’ is one of the highlights on the record, combining some skyscraper melodies with a hauntingly eerie chorus showcasing the emotive talents of Sanchez‘s voice.
The step up in heaviness here is clear to see and invokes a sound that is epic and masterful in equal quantities, which brings us nicely to the diverse range of the band. This is readily apparent throughout the record whether it’s on moodier cuts ‘Black Sunday’ and ‘The Gutter’, the ethereal beauty of ‘Lucky Stars’ and ‘All On Fire’, with the latter’s graceful piano-led introduction, or the catchy nature of ‘It Walks Among Us’ which hands down wins the award for the best lyrics on the record, incorporating a bouncy style that will stick in the memory long after the song has been played.
If you were introduced to this band and prefer the more simplistic pop-rock/alt rock sensibilities found on their last album, ‘The Color Before The Sun’, you might be put off by the strong leap back to a more progressive sound and concept on ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’.
Yet, those with the patience and intrigue to allow it to consume you and dig deeper will find that this record continues to give new experiences with repeated listens. If you invest in this album, you’ll certainly reap generous rewards.
After getting into alternative music during the mid 90s with the rise of nu-metal and pop-punk, I’ve gradually spread my interests far and wide and have a real love for metalcore, prog metal and tech metal. Amongst other things, I am a husband, father of two amazing kids, heavy metal DJ, and video game/book/nerd enthusiast!