REVIEW: Coheed and Cambria go big on ‘Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind’

Coheed and Cambria, Vaxis II

Coheed and Cambria, “Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind.”

Progressive rock quartet Coheed and Cambria has never shied away from bombast and grandiosity. The band’s expansive catalog spans genres and seemingly time and space, fusing storytelling across mediums. Frontman Claudio Sanchez has intertwined the story arc of his graphic novel series The Armory Wars into the better portion of the band’s catalog. The band has taken that same mindset to fusing genres, ably moving through prog rock to emo, punk and metal. On Vaxis II, the band tends to operate more within the modern rock and emo, delivering a melodic rock opera sure to appeal to My Chemical Romance fans.

Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind
Coheed and Cambria
Roadrunner, June 24

The 12-track set is preceded by dramatic opener “The Embers of Fire,” which has Sanchez repeating the refrain “We all go walk in the flames,” over a heavy beat. This naturally transitions into “Beautiful Losers,” a soaring track lyrically elevating the underdog over a heavy guitar riff.

“When you’re left with zero, beautiful losers you’re my heroes,” Sanchez sings in the chorus. While known for his impressive range as a vocalist, Sanchez actually works more in the middle of his range, only occasionally rising to the upper reaches. Here and throughout, his intonation sounds a lot like Gerard Way.

The urgent pop-punk-inspired “Comatose” is instantly memorable, driven by the rapid-fire drumming of Josh Eppard. That immediacy defines many of the tracks, giving them a liveliness that bursts from the speakers. Things get decidedly heavier on “Shoulders,” a riff-heavy and groove-forward cut that shows off Sanchez’s supreme vocals. It’s aggressive and in-your-face while still maintaining a melodic sensibility, making it one of the standouts on the album.

While Sanchez’s lyrics reference a narrative that exists beyond the album, it’s by no means a prerequisite to know the story before diving into the album. These songs stand on their own to consume. “A Disappearing Act” brings an interesting juxtaposition of heavy and soft—clashing heavy guitar riffs with synths and pop-leaning melodies all coming together for a bouncy chorus. Things get more exploratory as the album moves along with the unorthodox rhythmic patterns of “Love Murder One.” Even as the songs get more structurally complex, they never lose their anthemic quality.

Mid-tempo rocker “Blood” even leans into some funk and pop while staying true to the heavy rock personality of Coheed and Cambria. Meanwhile, “The Liars Club” taps into pop-punk, mixing urgency with an earnest delivery. Each passing track continues to build on the one that preceded it, building to a climax like a film or novel.

“Bad Man” jumps between moody and atmospheric mid-tempo rocker and dark driving pop anthem—and has a sizzling bluesy guitar solo!

The tempo cools drastically on “Our Love,” a vocal-heavy track built more on synths and loops than riffs.

The album’s final three tracks dig the deepest into the Coheed and Cambria’s most ambitious tendencies, clocking in from about five minutes to nearly nine minutes. “Ladders of Supremacy” is almost orchestral in its precision, mixing progressive rock with a classic metal overtone. The song is a triumph, dramatically rising and falling with each musical twist and turn. “Rise, Naianasha (Cut The Cord)” works as a companion piece to the prior track, picking up where it left off and keeping the momentum moving forward. “Window of the Waking Mind” is an absolute journey.

This story originally misidentified drummer Josh Eppard. We regret the error. Follow writer Mike DeWald at

(2) Comments

  1. Rick

    Man Chris Pennie left the band in 2011 and Josh Eppard has been back for almost 12 years. If you can't do that much research you have zero business reviewing their music, or anyone's for that matter. You should be selling patio furniture on the freeway.

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