ALBUM REVIEW: Coheed & Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind

After a brief hiatus from the overarching conceptual narrative that their previous catalogue followed, 2018’s Vaxis- Act 1: Unheavenly Creatures saw Coheed & Cambria make a welcome return to The Armory Wars saga, commencing a new tale within the narrative, one to be told across a five-album span. A span that follows the titular and, currently, little-known character Vaxis, who at the point of Act 1 is unborn but an almost guiding hand to his parents Nia (Sister Spider) and Nostrand (Creature) in their escape. A welcome return with glorious results which means anticipation is rife again for the follow-up as the narrative continues on Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind (Roadrunner). Where Act 1 largely comprised of deceptively sprawling songs and hit a near eighty-minute mark, Vaxis II’s repertoire is generally more succinct with songs around the three-to-four-minute mark. Arguably a more commercial-friendly effort, that thought belies the still present depth within even shorter songs and the areas of innovation throughout which still feels unmistakably in character for the band, despite clear differences to its predecessor.

Following the grandiose intro of ‘The Embers of Fire’, first song proper ‘Beautiful Losers’ is a short entity that is enveloped with a sense of hopefulness despite the trying narrative focus. Indeed, ‘Beautiful Losers’ is also a quick reminder that the emotional resonance transcends the conceptual focus for those who perhaps do not follow it; with “Beautiful losers, you’re my hero” being a sincere refrain with clear possible wider application.

The following brace of ‘Comatose’ and ‘Shoulders’ are in comparison much more upbeat entities that feel akin to both their post-hardcore roots and characteristics as well as the shades of metal that were clear on the likes of 2007’s No World For Tomorrow.

‘A Disappearing Act’ is the true curveball of the album with its almost instant, euphoric sounding near-rave / dance passages towering over the song, whilst lyrically it has a defiant quality in its narrative. An aspect of a pop influence reoccurs throughout the album and never truly feels out of character for the band; for example, the synth driven bridge in the anthemic ‘Love Murder One’.

It is towards the end where the longer, more expansive songs come in to play. Firstly ‘Ladders of Supremacy’ which begins with a brooding tone and building guitar lines and powerful drums. A notably darker entry of the album which feels akin to Act 1 in that it is both explorative but has moments that immediately hook the listener. Finally the shapeshifting ‘Window of the Waking Mind’ is a multifaceted journey which closes on the familiar orchestral tailpiece which matches the albums open. A point which rings home the depth and range in this album even with a shorter timespan and almost deceiving conciseness.

As a narrative piece Vaxis II continues on from the engaging sub-story that its predecessor set in motion and of course means it is important for those invested fully in the lore of The Armory Wars. For those less engaged in such, it is not an identical offering to the first in this saga, more a different side to a band who rarely follow the norm. There are moments which are clearly more suited for wider crossover than their prog aspects often allow, yet such moments still feel unquestionably Coheed & Cambria and are hardly alien qualities to them, simply more noticeable than in much of their catalogue. Very few bands are as inventive and layered yet still tap into your emotions in a primal way even aside from narrative, and Vaxis II is a welcome reminder that Coheed & Cambria can do this, no matter which direction they choose to come from.


Buy the album here:


9 / 10