After a mere one-album break, 2018’s The Unheavenly Creatures saw Coheed And Cambria delve back into the Amory Wars story that had dominated the majority of their recording career. This is the second part of what is, according to the band, a five-act storyline from that universe, and concentrates on a couple running from tyrannical forces.
That alone may be enough to make those who never connected with the band’s brand of emotional prog want to sprint for the hills. But, while Vaxis II is a typically bombastic, sprawling set, the beauty of Coheed has always been that even if you don’t give two hoots about the lore, they pen songs that can stand alone without knowledge of their sci-fi-based melodrama. Take the album’s first single, Shoulders, for example. Critical plot device or essential character development it may well be, and all power to you if that’s what you take from it, but ultimately, it’s a hell of a riff, has a chorus that clings to you like a particularly needy puppy and is full of disco handclaps that are cooler than Polar Bear poo. Big. Tune.
Structurally, Vaxis II does follow a fairly well-trodden path for Coheed; fill the first half of the album with absolute bangers like the modern pop strut of A Disappearing Act and the punky chug of Comatose before really flexing those creative progressive muscles toward the end of the album. The eight- and-a-half-minute-long closing title track is so bloody grandiose it makes Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain sound like an early Misfits demo.
Ten albums into a stellar career, and with standards remaining incredibly high, it might be easy to start taking Coheed And Cambria for granted these days. Shame on you if you do; even taken in isolation, Vaxis II is a superbly realised vision from a band whose ambition knows no bounds.