Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Embers of Fire
02. Beautiful Losers
03. Comatose
04. Shoulders
05. A Disappearing Act
06. Love Murder One
07. Blood
08. The Liars Club
09. Bad Man
10. Our Love
11. Ladders of Supremacy
12. Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord)
13. Window of the Waking Mind

COHEED AND CAMBRIA's "Vaxis II" is the second installment of an already announced five-part story that stems from vocalist Claudio Sanchez's comic book series "The Amory Wars". Since the band's inception, they have used the majority of their records as a way of telling an epic science fiction tale of power struggles in space, with the characters Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon at its center. Whether you're aware of this sprawling plot or not, "Vaxis II" offers plenty of entertainment and quality tunes.

COHEED have always had a talent for writing feel-good songs, even when the subject matter is dark. The combination of Sanchez's sinfully sweet voice and the band's ability to write memorable, upbeat choruses has carried them through two decades of success, and that legacy continues with songs like "Comatose" and "The Liar's Club". And like COHEED are also wont to do, "Vaxis II" sees the band dipping their toes into a variety of genres, including classic rock ("Shoulders"),  dance music ("A Disappearing Act") and '80s pop ("Bad Man"). That's not something most artists could do flawlessly, but it absolutely works for them.

The fact that this is a concept record is, naturally, most obvious at the beginning and towards the end. "The Embers of Fire" sets the scene with a girl singing over soft piano before bursting open into an orchestral overture with resounding percussion. "Ladders of Supremacy" opens with more than two minutes of cinematic instrumentals. The final track, "Window of the Waking Mind", is a concluding narrative that is nearly nine minutes long, featuring everything from acoustic guitar to spoken dialogue to what sounds like a legitimate movie soundtrack.

While they certainly serve their storytelling purpose, these songs may be too involved for the casual listener who would rather sing along to "Beautiful Losers". But even if some of the more theatrical elements may lose some people, they're part of why COHEED have maintained such a loyal following all these years, and "Vaxis II" will surely retain it.

Author: Taylor Markarian
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