Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
Released: June 24, 2022
Claudio Sanchez // Vocals, guitars, keyboards, synths
Travis Stever // Guitars
Zach Cooper // Bass
Josh Eppard // Drums
Much like the epic and unprecedentedly massive science fiction concept and story that courses through all but one of Coheed and Cambria’s ten studio albums, the band’s relationship to their astonishingly loyal and vested fan base is – at its core – one of dramatic, unconditional, and shamelessly unique love. Embraced initially as part of the crest of emo/punk’s popularity in the mid-2000s, Coheed have long ago shed that ham-fisted genre pigeon-holing and steadily ascended and developed into a class of musical experience and impressiveness all their own. Since the last millennium concluded, this group of artists have always worked to be at the top of their game; ceaselessly focusing on bettering themselves and their band sonically with every release, and all through an obvious persevering love of their craft. It’s something that fans recognize and gravitate to with a lasting passion this reviewer hasn’t seen and felt with any other band in his lifetime. Always creatively exploring, never resting on laurels for formulaic cash-grab albums, and delivering epic and perspicacious releases time-after-time as a result is one of Coheed’s many pervading hallmarks. They are their own genre, and new album Vaxis 2: A Window of the Waking Mind is further proof of the fact because it’s f*cking amazing.
Melodically, lyrically, and narratively, Vaxis 2 picks up at the immediate completion of 2018’s gargantuan and glowingly received The Unheavenly Creatures. That album’s penultimate and uplifting tune ‘Old Flames’ is accompanied and amplified by Vaxis 2’s intro tune ‘The Embers of Fire’. For anyone paying attention, these identical echoes of a previous album’s riffs and patterns are a stalwart of Coheed and Cambria since their first release some two decades ago. You needn’t keep up with the backing sci-fi journey to recognize them, but this one early and consistent creative choice has made such a huge difference in giving their entire eclectic discography a deft synergy.
The new album rapturously erupts out of the gates with a quartet of songs so utterly stirring and emotionally engaging, that it’s hard to pin a higher watermark of sheer rollicking musical assuredness to any other four-song chunk of the band’s previous nine studio albums. Stadium-sized prologue ‘Embers…’ spills straight into the stomping and rapturous ‘Beautiful Losers’, before bleakly-themed but infectiously punchy ‘Comatose’ thumps through to a final, punishing fill on the drums that’ll leave mouths agape upon first listen. Drummer Josh Eppard is not fucking around on this record. His introduction of consistent double kick and particularly tricky structures and clean back/off-beat accentuations are complete standouts. The man has never sounded better. Wily, immediate head-banger/hard-rock classic and first single ‘Shoulders’ is a prime example, and it also rounds the aforementioned quartet of amazingness before V2 takes quite a swerve into previously unexplored territory.
Frontman Claudio Sanchez’s penchant for vintage synthesizers is on glorious display throughout Vaxis 2, but never more on ‘A Disappearing Act’. Thumping amidst clouds of epic electronic warbles and hums, the song’s bridges and intros sound far closer to a Rammstein classic than any traditional Amory Wars Prog/Metal/punk anthems, and the chorus and verses channel some serious pure pop energy. Much of this song wouldn’t sound out of place on a euro-goth dancefloor in the late 80s, and by golly, it’s a slice of magic as a result.
A track-by-track rundown will spoil much of the remaining eclectic surprise Vaxis 2 has to offer, safe to say mid-album pop-punk callback ‘The Liars Club’ is your new favourite song and massive, diverse closer ‘Window of The Waking Mind’ is a sporadic and deeply enjoyable, full-blown descent into heavy prog-rock territory.
Vaxis… never falters, nor has any parts that leave others clouded or forgotten. The entire LP is meticulously structured to work as a harmonious and unputdownable listen throughout. It may be Coheed and Cambria’s most accomplished album; no small feat over twenty years of consistently brilliant and exciting songwriting. Claudio and fellow guitarist Travis Stever absolutely shred across glossy 80’s rock solos, complicated and picky dalliances into time-signature swiveling prog licks, ear-worm hooks, and most everything in between. Watching and listening to these two guys so seamlessly control their instrument is always astonishing, and they’ve hit a more broader and marvellous spectrum of styles and riffs on this album than any previous. Zach Cooper’s always-reliable bass tracks stand out in particular on the heavy ballad ‘Blood’, and math-pop-rock hybrid ‘Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord)’. The bloke is a complete credit to the band’s entire experience, and without whom so much of Coheed’s tunes would be so regrettably thinner.
If you’re an established Coheed and Cambria fan, Vaxis 2 is going to blow your god damn mind. If you’re ready to go beyond dipping your toes further than Coheed’s few globally-recognized hits, the exemplary and near-perfect journey that is Vaxis 2: A Window of the Waking Mind is a prime place to start. It’s album of the year until something better comes along (good luck, everybody else)!
Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis 2: A Window of the Waking Mind tracklisting:
1. The Embers of Fire
2. Beautiful Losers
5. A Disappearing Act
6. Love Murder One
8. The Liars Club
9. Bad Man
10. Our Love
11. Ladders of Supremacy
12. Rise, Naianasha (Cut the Cord)
13. Window of the Waking Mind
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