Album Reviews

End Of Year Review: Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis -Act I: Unheavenly Creatures

91-22MSI17L._SL1200_Release Date: 5th October 2018

Label: Roadrunner Records

Continuing their tradition of unnecessarily long album titles, New York genre-bending prog-rockers Coheed and Cambria return with an ambitious ninth album. Returning to their signature ‘Amory Wars’ concept after 2015s The Color Before the Sun departure into more conventional themes, this latest monolith of a record is as indulgent, ambitious and introspective as any fan has come to expect from the now venerable Coheed.

Made up of a whopping 15 tracks and with a runtime that almost hits the 80-minute mark ‘Unheavenly Creatures’ is a daunting prospect yet Coheed and Cambria manage to entertain throughout, avoiding prog pitfalls of bloated tracks and incessant experimentation. One of the things that sprung out on my first couple of listens is how well ‘Unheavenly Creatures’ fits in with Coheed and Cambria’s catalogue. For a band that’s changed a lot over their time as a band, this record manages to encapsulate all aspects of their unique sound. ‘The Gutter’ and ‘It Walks Among Us’ fit right into the fuzzy metal musings of ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’, and ‘The Dark Sentencer’s’ epic rock jaunt, however, wouldn’t be amiss on ‘Good Apollo… Vol I’, whilst title track ‘Unheavenly Creatures’, which features one of my favourite choruses of the year, is reminiscent of the band’s early works.

This isn’t however, a history lesson in the shape of an album, the band most definitely show signs of progression, with songs like the boisterous ‘Toys’ or extravagant ‘Old Flames’ proving that Coheed and Cambria still have some darkly playful tricks up their sleeve. The former is an upbeat rock song, complete with soaring vocals and blistering guitar solo, one of the most conventional songs from Coheed in a long time. The latter, ‘Old Flames’ is a dancier power pop number (see the video below), with an insanely catchy chorus and masses of singalong moments.  

One of the standout features of Coheed Cambria has always been Claudio Sanchez’s chameleonic voice, and on ‘Unheavenly Creatures’ he most definitely delivers. Never getting boring Sanchez’s meaningfully powerful voice delivers throughout, from every snarling drawl in ‘Queen of the Dark’, to characteristic falsetto in ‘Old Flames’. Elsewhere, I think it’s important to note the fantastic production on the album which creates incredibly crisp instrumentals, none of which ever get lost in the mix, allowing you to focus on different parts in every listen through. From the gloriously layered instruments, harmonies and already sublime vocals, I’d go as far to suggest that this is Coheed and Cambria’s finest album since 2005s Good Apollo…Vol I.

A varied fare, the album fits fantastically within Coheed’s already illustrious discography. A hefty runtime makes it an endeavour to listen too, but it’s an ultimately rewarding one as the band deliver their most varied, and dare I say it exciting album yet. Unfortunately, I don’t think the album is going to bring many new members into the Coheed and Cambria fold, but it will most definitely please any long-time fans, with its throwback sound.  

Rating: 8/10

Recommended Tracks: ‘Unheavenly Creatures’, ‘Old Flames’, ‘True Ugly’

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