Coheed and Cambria – “Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind”
Coheed and Cambria’s hit rate as a band is astounding. With a catalogue spanning 20+ years, every concert setlist is a “greatest hits” show. Every Spotify playlist you try to make for them ends up being 40 tracks too long, and by the time the Tesco shop is done you’ll not even be a quarter of the way through. Yet somehow, they continue to consistently impressalmost universally.
Where some may highlight missteps in their extensive discography, an avid fan will find growth and development. The leap from their origins with their initial “Shabutie” EP’sand debut album “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” to this current release “Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind” is a long one, and a lapsed fan who hasn’t kept up with their constantly shifting sound may find this leap to be far too vast. Even the change in style from tracks on “Vaxis I: The Unheavenly Creatures” such as ‘Queen of the Dark’ to the pop-meets-Rammstein opening minute of the new track ‘A Disappearing Act’ and the ethereal electronic opening of ‘Bad Man’ makes you question if this is the same band at times. The integrity and sharpened quality of the song writing on “Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind” will quickly sweep aside any doubts you may have about the identity of this band debuting these new bold sounds at this stage in their career. Sanchez and company know what they’re doing, and more importantly they know what they want to do. With that being said, if they say “you need an album of prog-meets-dancefloor anthems” as second volume of the Vaxis saga, then that’s what you want. Don’t question it – just go with it.
The singles ‘Shoulders’, ‘Comatose’, and ‘The Liars Club’ released in the lead up to the album’s release may have served only as a primer for this album, though they are undoubtable screamers that will take triple digits of repeats before they get old. These tracks themselves were even quite different from each other, with ‘Shoulders’ and ‘Comatose’ instantly becoming new favourites and playlist highlights for years to come. ‘The Liars Club’ channels some of their more energetic songs and enters the very exclusive pantheon of “Coheed song requests most likely to be entertained by a DJ in a rock club”. The other single ‘Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord) blends their more intricate sounds with this same aforementioned energy that will no doubt leave you smiling, but good luck trying to get the Cathouse DJ to spell ‘Naianasha’.
Old fans of bigger and grander prog epics of theirs like ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’will hopefully find plenty to like in the last quarter of the album; the track ‘Ladders of Supremacy’ starts a 3-track closing section that channels some of their best and most cinematic efforts of the last two decades. The closing title track is enormous, sweeping through habitually eerie spoken-word sections, massive guitars, and a ‘lighters-in-the-air’Meatloaf piano section leading to a well-earned crescendo that sees off the ‘Vaxis’ journey for another few years.
In short: yes, the lads have done it again. Once you get onboard with some of the more daring musical decisions of the middle third of the album (and I suggest you do try and get onboard with it) you’ll quickly realise just how good this release is and how well it fits alongside “Vaxis I: The Unheavenly Creatures”. Now begins the long wait to “Vaxis III”, but at least we have a brilliant collection of songs to last us until then.