After spending seven albums and eleven years building up an
elaborate sci-fi epic, in 2015 Coheed and Cambria took a step back from their
intricate concept, instead using their eighth album The Colour Before the Sun to explore frontman Claudio Sanchez’s
experiences as a new father.
Three years on, the prog-rockers are ready to dip
their toes back into the world of the Amory Wars with the first in a planned
pentalogy of albums, titled in wonderfully clunky Coheed tradition as Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures.
It’s a return to form musically as well as conceptually; among the fifteen
tracks in the album’s massive 78-minute runtime are some of the most
interestingly structured songs since the band’s early days.
The story picks up sometime after the events of Coheed’s
fourth album, No World For Tomorrow
(the fifth, sixth and seventh being prequels to the main saga), and follows the
romance between the titular unheavenly creatures, a pair of criminal lovers
struggling to escape from a huge space prison built from destroyed planets
named the Dark Sentencer, all while being hunted by their old partner-in-crime
Colossus and seeing visions of their unborn son Vaxis. If that all (understandably)
sounds a bit too much to follow, don’t worry – as with most Coheed albums, the
story is more of an added extra than a necessity for enjoying the music.
There’s definitely a lot here for hardcore fans to pick apart (and a
collector’s edition graphic novel to give the precise details of the narrative),
but The Unheavenly Creatures has just
as much to offer casual listeners, with its catchy hooks, big riffs and, as
always, Sanchez’s brilliant vocals.
The album opens with “Prologue”, the album’s only real
concession to pure storytelling; a short, melancholic piano melody is followed
up by an ominous voiceover laying out the setting, all backed by some
wonderfully sci-fi synths. The voiceover continues into the opening of “The
Dark Sentencer”, a big, heavy opening track with an insistent drumbeat, a great
guitar solo and a repeated “Hey! Hey! Hey!” which just begs you to pump your fist