Coheed and Cambria – The Unheavenly Creatures
Progressive Rock | Alternative Rock
For the casual fan, Unheavenly Creatures feels as though many of Coheed’s trademarks have been dialled up a notch – both their finer points and their flaws. It marks a return to the Amory Wars setting – the band’s labyrinthine sci-fi comic book world. I have a deep love for concept albums, but Coheed’s web of otherworldly narratives has always eluded me. Try as I might it still feels as complex and convoluted as playing several games of chess at once. And while as with most concept albums it can be enjoyed without picking apart the story, you do need to follow it if you want to experience the album to its full potential. Even by prog standards, this record is about as nerdy and cheesy as they come. If the artwork wasn’t enough of a giveaway, you just need to listen to the likes of ‘Toys’ and ‘True Ugly’. It’s a behemoth of a record clocking in at around an hour and 20 minutes, one of the band’s longest, and proves to be a bit of a slow burner at times.
Despite its shortcomings, Creatures is still a triumphant return to form, arguably up there with In Keeping Secrets and Good Apollo. The epic opener ‘Dark Sentencer’ boasts riffs reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s ‘Aces High’, and ‘Black Sunday’ is easily the album’s heaviest offering, but both of these are anomalies in a record that places greater emphasis on melody and accessibility. Surprisingly, as a fan of Coheed’s heavy and progressive side, I think the album greatly benefits from this focus on concise, hook-heavy tracks. The run of tracks at the start of the second half is the best example; ‘Love Protocol’ has some of Claudio’s best vocal work, album highlight ‘The Pavilion’ features superb percussion, a swell of strings and a monster chorus, ‘Night-Time Walkers’ dabbles in electronics and sounds like a John Carpenter soundtrack, while ‘The Gutter’ shares some spectacular nods to Queen at its climax. Creatures doesn’t quite reach the peaks of some of their previous work, but as a whole its their most consistent record to date and is sure to draw in plenty of fresh fans looking to dig deeper.