Review Summary: "Welcome Home."
Figuratively speaking: this is not the Coheed you heard on The Color Before the Sun.
I am immediately immersed in this world and narrative. Eerie effects mix with a furiously complex, predominantly minor-key backdrop of guitars to create a tonal quality that is melancholic yet frantic.
The overarching thematic quality here will be of a desperate plight.
Altogether, Claudio's songwriting sounds the most inspired that it has in years....
Everything is on-point. They pull it off. They pull it ALL off. Nothing here sounds phoned-in.
Speaking of Claudio's contribution: versatile vocals from crooning to downright menacing - no missteps in that department. He soars like he hasn't since Good Apollo.
When he sings "Run run run run run like a son of a gun!" it isn't cheesy at all.
I mean it. He's never sounded so emotive and polished, his lyrical game is next-level ridiculous, and there's no lack of creativity or passion.
And it's all so deliciously authentic.
This is the aesthetic that Coheed has been crafting since From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness - and dialed up several notches. That's to say there's not much of an emo aesthetic to be found here; this is much more reminiscent of the anthemic stadium rock found in No World For Tomorrow, although bigger and - honestly - better. Tentatively: way better.
The flow is seamless between tracks: not only in terms of the seams themselves, which are tastefully done, but also in terms of the way the story shifts and the mood changes from song to song. The "narrative arc" and pacing of the album are flawless. Acts are strung together largely by a number of recurrent lonely piano motifs (somewhat true to form); these are truly haunting and successfully set the stage for each dose of....
Flurries of trademark crunch guitar; thumping drum grooves; prominent bass licks; creative riffing and key changes; a commanding lead guitar presence; emotionally shocking bridge sections; epic solos; anthemic breakdowns; and lots (and lots) of (effective) atmosphere, telling the story of the latest chapter of Claudio's gloriously f***-ed up multi-medium sci-fi space opera.
Despite its almost 80-minute runtime, I never started wanting this to end. Not a moment was wasted and it was over practically before I knew it.
Without giving too much away....
There are things in this album that you haven't heard Coheed do before, but it sounds like they should've always been doing - over-the-top things which project a soaring "devil may care" attitude rather than being awkward and jarring. Expecting the unexpected will become your standard listening posture for what is in my books an exceptional thrillride of pure artistic expression.
It benefits from a more careful listening session though; it can be a bit overwhelming at first depending on what you're used to. There really is a lot to absorb here - probably more than we're used to from Coheed, and that says a lot for a band like this.
It's not for everybody, that's for sure.
But if it is for you: know that all of the familiar pieces are there (and more), and the album twists and turns through them in such a way that is so fresh that none of the impact of the band's sound is lost in that familiarity. At the same time, Coheed turns up the bombast (even more) to an inhibition-shattering effect that demands your attention.
It's complete with a somber and mostly-acoustic closer that deserves special mention simply because of how emotionally affecting it is, being quite the change-up... The emotional impact of the closer is enhanced by its standing in such stark contrast to the previous 14 tracks - not to say it sounds out of place; rather, a stripped-down closer is exactly what this kind of album called for to provide a perfect sense of closure to the experience.
I do love this band dearly, but I'm not blinded enough to try and call this a classic at this early stage in the game (it needs to stand the test of time); however, it's more than just good - it's great at least and arguably superb.
It's consistent alright. It's a consistently excellent progressive masterpiece, it's a potential classic and it's a powerful work of art.