Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension
Record Label: Hundred Hand Inc.
Release Date: October 9th, 2012
In 2010, the band released Year of the Black Rainbow produced by Atticus Ross and Joe Barresi. For Black Rainbow, much of the album was based on soundscapes that the band then built the songs upon. Pennie also had chance to showcase his talents in the studio this time around especially on rolling tracks like “Guns of Summer”. The album charted the highest of any previous Coheed record at #5. While faring well on most music review sites and magazines, the new direction sharply divided fans.
Then the band ran into another dramatic turn of events. While on a tour with Soundgarden in July 2011, bassist Mic Todd was arrested for robbing a pharmacy. Due to the incident, Todd and the band officially parted ways. Soon after, Pennie also left to apparently focus on other projects. This initial shock to the fan community faded away when in November it was announced that original drummer Josh Eppard was returning. Furthermore, the band was hard at work in the studio crafting a new record.
In April 2012, it was announced that Zach Cooper (AM to AM) would be joining the band on bass. Through the usual Coheed method of timers and cryptic videos, the title of the new album was revealed to be The Afterman (forever destined to be referred to as The Aftermath). The record would be released in two parts, Ascension and Decension.
The concept behind The Afterman began when Claudio’s wife Chondra received news that one of her friend’s had passed away over Facebook. The title track was birthed from this incident and as he put it, “…sets the tone for this album”. The Afterman story is a precursor to The Amory Wars and takes place even before Year of the Black Rainbow. It follows Sirius Amory (pronounced sigh-rus) and his exploration of the Keywork (the energy holding Heaven’s Fence together). As he explores he encounters that this energy is comprised of the souls of the dead. Why wouldn’t it be?
The album begins with “The Hollow” which is a piano driven instrumental. It features voice overs of the characters Sirius and the All Mother (the artificial intelligence operating the spacecraft’s computer systems). An old theme rears its head in the middle of the track and instantly strums the chords of nostalgia. Overall, it’s simple but the atmosphere does well to set the scene for the following eight tracks. Next up is “Domino the Destitute”, a sprawling eight minute epic that is sure to please fans of songs from The Willing Well suite. Eppard drums with refined ferociousness while Sanchez’ and Stever’s guitar lines weave back and forth. Cooper also displays his ability to sink into a neat groove, a good example during this section, “Welcome to the everlasting all-time low. Please put your hands together for the ever failing one man show…Domino”.
“The Afterman” breaks things up a little bit with a mellow tune. The song enters with a palm-muted main riff and melodic picking then layers on. With Eppard providing a soft drum roll, Sanchez begins, “She gave her heart to a falling star. When news filtered through of his tragedy, all the walls went up”. The emotion and the backing strings had to the tearjerker quality of the track (break out the tissue box for this one).
“Mothers of Men” begins with a gritty riff and smoothly delivered verse that dives into an infectious chorus. Initially, the song was inspired by the Occupy movement and translated to the story about how the entities confined to the Keywork are protesting their situation. “Goodnight, Fair Lady” follows and continues the Coheed tradition of pop influence but this time with a particular nod to Thin Lizzy. The song comes across almost like a scene from a musical. Indeed, Sanchez recounts that one night him and his wife were at a restaurant. At the bar there was a particularly creepy man whom Claudio likened to a predator in wait. Claudio further imagined a sudden spotlight hitting the man who then proceeds to perform as if in a theatrical production.
Next is a three song suite consisting of “Holly Wood the Cracked”, “Vic the Butcher” and “Evagria the Faithful”. “Holly Wood” is in many ways akin to “Al the Killer” from In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. It features distorted vocals during crazed verses and clear, melodic chorusing. Furthermore, it is the first Coheed song to make use of a baritone guitar. “Vic” has the energy of a Second Stage song with the composition of a Black Rainbow track. The shouts of “Hang your secrets, hang ‘em up, hang ‘em up now” are sure to turn into a great crowd moment during concerts. “Evagria” is the sweet part in this…suite. The track features jazz musician John Medeski laying some fantastic synth work, a groovy beat from the rhythm section and Sanchez with a particularly soulful vocal delivery.
The album rounds out with a Prize Fighter-esque cut entitled “Subtraction” as the bridge to Descension. Overall, The Afterman isn’t likely to impress those who have shied away from Coheed in the past. On the other hand, it is easy to see that many fans will feel that the band is in the best shape it’s been since the initial rough patch back in 2006. The album feels like a more natural progression from the Good Apollo I era than No World for Tomorrow did. It also feels like the band is writing music with more ambition and focus again. With the amount of time the band put into this album, I’m definitely look forward to the second part come February.
Wayyyyy too much history in the opening paragraphs. The first paragraph should draw the reader in and, from there, go into detail about the album. You could easily convert all the lineup changes into one paragraph. Hell, two sentences ever.