When looking for adjectives to describe Coheed and Cambria and their latest effort, The Unheavenly Creatures, I kept going back to the same word: epic. Coheed have never been strangers to expanding their repertoire of complex space odysseys and intermingled stories of fictional characters, but on this LP they have genuinely created something quite remarkable.
This album grabs your interest directly from the first notes of “Prologue” that sets that stage for all that will come next in this saga. From the shiny and brilliant packaging of the entire album and its artwork, it’s hard not to get directly sucked into the vortex of Coheed’s world on this fantastic record.
“The Dark Sentencer” was the first single released from the album, and for a good reason; it’s one of the stronger songs Coheed and Cambria have written in this decade. With the ever-brilliant dual guitar attack from Travis Stever and lead vocalist Claudio Sanchez, everything seems to click early on for this band. They continue to put out music that encourages deeper dives into not only the backing story, but the intricate parts of the songs themselves. “The Dark Sentencer,” sounds like a direct call-to-arms to Coheed’s fan-base, and makes it abundantly clear that this new chapter has all of the staying power that people have been clamoring for.
The title track, with its synth dream pop piano interlude in the beginning, leads way to the aggressive guitars from Stever and Sanchez, with a strong backing beat courtesy of drummer Josh Eppard, breaks way to the well-timed hook and chorus when Claudio sings, “Oh, pretty angel, swinging from your cable/I fear, my dear, the end is near/So run, run, run, run, like a son of a gun.” As strong as the opening single was, I kept coming back to this track as one of the ones that sold me on this record.
The choice to have a slow-burner of a track like “Toys” early on the sequencing may be seen to be a misstep to the untrained ear, but you need to trust in the process of Coheed’s story-telling to fully appreciate what they were going for on the record. The hooks and pre-choruses, in particular, are consistently solid throughout this LP, and you can tell that Coheed is firing on all cylinders and not taking anything for granted as they move us track-by-track.
The down-tuned “Black Sunday” lets the catchy hooks take a brief backseat to the darkness that paints over the song. The lyrical content matches these darker tones found in the music with lyrics such as, “I’ll be the air you need when your lungs give out/Teasing, teasing, teasing.” The latter half of the track brings back some more of the hope from the despair found in the early stages of the song, and the closing choruses and chanting reminded me of the final notes of My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade.”
The dark themes stay around for a bit in the middle portion of the record with songs such as “Queen of the Dark” and “True Ugly.” On the latter, Claudio shouts, “Divine, these monsters of flesh and bone/Oh, they make hate look so easy, loathe their kind/Oh, show me your true ugly,” it’s hard not to strip away some of the story for a bit and look at our society of spineless politicians spewing lies that they re-brand as facts. When making these types of comparisons, Coheed can become relatable in today’s world that seems to be growing darker by the day. However, the beauty of Coheed’s message, and story, is that these times never last forever.
This is never truer on a song like “Love Protocol” which features a memorable chorus of, “Hold on to me/Tell me you’ve got me, sweetheart/The world is doing dim in my gaze,” and it’s the closest we’re going to get to a power ballad from our entrusted rock juggernauts.
The second half of the record is filled with hit after hit, end-capped with some of the best songs in Coheed’s late-career catalog. “The Pavilion (A Long Way Back” features one of my favorite lyrics of hope in recent memory with, “Hang on, it’s clear that the roads about to get rough/Oh, can you hear its ringing its left in my ear?/Over and over, the light hits the dusk/It’s a choice that I make but for us I choose to give it all up.” In a lot of ways, this record is about looking for what matters most in our lives: finding that person we love and would do absolutely anything for, even as the world around us turns to shit.
Other standout moments from this record, one that seems to have no shortage of them, is the blazing “All on Fire.” The songwriting and musicianship have once again returned to epic levels, and Coheed deserves our undivided attention as they guide us through a story that has many key takeaways. The “monsters” and “creatures” they reference in this album could easily be metaphors for the shallow and shameless people we have all likely encountered in our lifetime, but Coheed and Cambria have always allowed this to be open to interpretation for their fans to take their ownership of these songs. If the space odyssey story works for you, great, you can run with it. If you love these solid rock songs, that’s cool too as they are writing some of their best songs to date here.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t highlight “Old Flames,” that features a rare piano-driven ballad that still fits into the grand scheme of the artistic vision they were going for. It’s also the closest Coheed have come to writing a simple pop-bliss song destined for new heights on the radio since “Blood Red Summer.”
The closing song, “Lucky Stars” drives the point home that Coheed and Cambria wanted to solidify on this record: don’t lose hope in what matters most in your life, and continue to strive for what makes you happy in this mad world we live in. As I mentioned earlier, this epic landscape of a rock masterpiece should not be viewed as a band that was having trouble finding their footing in some of their more recent work. Instead, this is a band that truly knows the meaning of coming “home” in the many connotations of the word. “Thank your lucky stars that we can call this ours,” is Sanchez’s way of saying that they have found peace with what comes next in this never-ending book we call Coheed and Cambria.