ALBUM REVIEW: Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
Photo Credit: Alexandra Gavillet
Ever since they formed more than two decades ago, Coheed and Cambria have never been fans of keeping things ‘simple’, something which has earned them their spot in the world of progressive rock/post-hardcore bands. In all these years, their fictional storyline has come to comprise almost 10 studio albums, as well as a few comic books and novels. Now, almost four years since their last effort, the story of The Amory Wars continues with Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind.
Serving as the second entry in a planned pentalogy, Vaxis II comes off the heels of The Unheavenly Creatures, which was released back in 2018. The connection is highlighted quite well in The Embers of Fire, which kicks off the album by way of a majestically orchestral callback to Old Flames. It’s immediately apparent that this sequel offers us a look at one of the new sides of Coheed and Cambria in 2022, as it introduces a sound that is in equal parts that of a soundtrack and a rock opera.
Where the Coheed of yesteryear would pretty safely fit into the progressive rock or post-hardcore spheres, the band’s sound has evolved quite a bit since then, as Claudio Sanchez & co. are now willing to experiment more than ever. This comes through in songs like A Disappearing Act, which offers a massive synth opening reminiscent of Rammstein track Ausländer, or the modulation effects found throughout tracks such as Love Murder One, a song replete with some rumbling basslines courtesy of Zach Cooper, or Bad Man which, save for some slightly cheesy lyrics, excels in its punchy rhythm and vocal delivery.
Vaxis II does dwindle in some spots, however, with the meandering pace of Rise, Naianasha (Cut the Cord) and the ballad sensibilities of Our Love slowing the momentum of the album quite considerably. This is a tad disappointing to see, as the former does feature some great instrumentation, though it fails to help the track overcome its pacing. Elsewhere, songs such as The Liars Club or Comatose feature some of Josh Eppard’s strongest drumming in years, though the latter can be quite disjointed at times, despite its strengths. Shoulders remains a standout track ever since its release as the album’s lead single, and Beautiful Losers offers a warm feeling of familiarity coupled with some great guitar riffs.
The real highlight of A Window of the Waking Mind, however, lies in the truly progressive offerings found on the album, which are, sadly, relegated to its latter half. Ladders of Supremacy features some foreboding and terrific guitar work yet again, which reminds one of a classic The Afterman: Ascension-era song, Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute, as well as giving listeners an occasion to hear Sanchez deliver some piercing vocal lines. Finally, the title track serves as the album’s closer, and it is glorious. It’s been a while since we’ve last seen Coheed offer a song of such a progressive nature, but the wait has been worth it.
Throughout its six parts, A Window of the Waking Mind reveals the story of our eponymous character, Vaxis, as a boy who gets caught within his own mind. The almost 9-minute song goes from an opening fanfare, to pounding drums and some very Latin-inspired guitars (echoing the likes of Queen’s Innuendo), while mixing in some chiptune elements, reprising the main riff of Rise, Naianasha, before taking the album full circle via the orchestral motif of Embers of Fire. It’s a great work which encompasses the breadth of sounds that the band is known for, as well as sounds which they have just recently started to implement into their music.
In the end, though at times it seems to wander aimlessly with some less than inspired choices, Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind is a more than suitable follow-up to The Unheavenly Creatures, acting as a sonic bridge between what has been and what will be in the world of Coheed and Cambria and their music. Now let’s just hope the wait for Vaxis III won’t be a long one!
Standout Tracks: Shoulders, A Disappearing Act, The Liars Club, Bad Man, A Window of the Waking Mind
For Fans Of: Rush, Taking Back Sunday, Circa Survive, The Dear Hunter, Thank You Scientist, The Mars Volta
Written by: Florin Petrut