Coheed and Cambria
The Afterman: Ascension


4.5
superb

Review

by Seth Barry-Hinton USER (18 Reviews)
October 8th, 2012 | 8 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Simultaneously a return to form and a step up.

It's been an eventful couple of years for neo-prog/post-hardcore outfit Coheed and Cambria. Their last album, Year of the Black Rainbow, was received to mixed reaction from fans and critics alike. It was still moderately enjoyable and technically proficient, but was bogged down by that same proficiency, overly grandiose stylings (and when dealing with a band whose music revolves around progressive-rock complexity, influences from all over the rock spectrum, and lyrics based on a ridiculous and original sci-fi/fantasy storyline, that is definitely saying something), and a general lack of emotional investment behind the music. And that's without mentioning their recent lineup changes, with both drummer Chris Pennie and bassist Mic Todd departing (one for the usual reasons, one because of a bomb threat brought upon by his pill addiction). But with their former drummer Josh Eppard signing up again and new bassist blood in the form of Zach Cooper, Coheed and Cambria have come out swinging once more with the double album The Afterman, produced after about a year of writing and seven months of recording. The first half (Ascension) will be released in October, the second (Descension) in February.

Straight away, it's clear from a single listen that Coheed was able to understand the failings of YotBR. One could argue that that album's problems stemmed from how the band had suddenly started taking themselves very, very seriously. Even the more enjoyable songs were weighed down by immense amounts of melancholy, a sharp departure from their self-awareness and sense of humor from previous albums. But on TA:A, they've returned to their previous, relatively light-hearted attitude. Which is not to say the music or lyrics are light-hearted, but that they are no longer so oblivious to themselves that they wind up being off-putting, as was the case on The Afterman's predecessor. Considering that their lyrics are, at their essence, science-fiction in the form of poetry, the last people that should be taking Coheed and Cambria seriously are the band themselves. Speaking of the lyrics, they're just as indecipherable as always unless you're reading the storyline as you listen, which can be something of a bother. In spite of that, they still retain relatability in many spots, which makes them tolerable, as does Claudio's ever brilliant voice.

The music is truly prime C&C. The album's opener, "The Hollow", is the traditional instrumental/nearly instrumental style that has opened all of their studio albums. Following on that song's heels is "Domino the Destitute", which just may be one of the best songs they've written in a while. It contains all of the elements that attracted punks and metalheads alike to them: lengthy but still attention-holding, with an assortment of pieces that fit well together and are influenced just as much by classic heavy metal as they are by punk in the style of Fugazi or At the Drive-In, layered underneath Claudio's borderline maniacal, very emotional vocals. And then it's followed by the title track at the opposite end of Coheed's traditional spectrum, with quiet yet strong guitars and reflectively soft vocals. There's a healthy balance throughout TA:A of their usual styles: hard and powerful progressive metal, soft and mystical pop-punk, and a couple of combinations of the two in the form of "Mothers of Men" and "Goodnight, Fair Lady". It's a strange fusion of musical styles, but it works incredibly well for them. And when it comes to the instruments, nothing is pushed out of the picture - the bass is audible and groovy, the drums are excellently done, the guitar takes dominance but still lets through its counterparts, and the vocals...I must break formality here and say that I love Claudio's vocals so much. Nor are there songs that feel superfluous or boring. The whole "Key Entity Extraction" series is fantastic, "The Afterman" is a well-done foray into indie pop, "Subtraction" makes an excellent ending/bridge to the next album...nothing here is weak.

Still, it's not an album without its issues, though they're few and far between. The first is the impenetrability of the lyrics, although that can be taken either way and isn't too much of a problem thanks to their versatility. The second, worse offender is the length. TA:A clocks in just under forty minutes and lasts for nine songs. As "Subtraction" fades out, the listener is left feeling hungry for more. This is probably thanks to the decision to bridge the gap between the halves of The Afterman by five months, rather than release them as a double album. Regardless, it's bothersome, and might just have been better if the album had been released as the full eighteen songs instead of the first nine now and the last nine later.

But despite the brevity, The Afterman: Ascension is a huge improvement over Year of the Black Rainbow, and stands on the same level as their first four albums while offering up some of their best material they've ever written. It's a perfect blend of Coheed's dual sides - those being their metal/punk fandom and their pop sensibilities - and the songs sound like the band is enjoying what they do again. Just as importantly, most fans of the band will love this as a return to form, and those new to them will find this a good place to pick up.



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user ratings (766)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Starblind (2)
    A rushed, sloppy, unfocused mess of an album....

    Cam McNeil (4)
    Year of the Black Rainbow will forever be known as a temporary detour in the increasingly ...

    Alex Beebe (4)
    The boys of Coheed release another ambitious installment in their series of concept albums...

    SowingSeason STAFF (3.5)
    The Afterman: Ascension marks indisputable growth for a band that up until this point seem...

  • Robert Lowe CONTRIBUTOR (4)
    Welcome home Coheed fans, The Afterman: Ascension is so good it erases the damage done by ...

    Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF (4)
    Coheed and Cambria regroup and release the soul successor to From Fear Through The Eyes Of...

    Brent Stephenson (3.5)
    Not a true return to form, but at the very least proof that Coheed haven't run out of stea...

    Alex Carlson (3.5)
    Coheed and Cambria's first half of their double album lacks a unified mood like their past...


Comments:Add a Comment 
JazzHands333
October 8th 2012


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bumped this up half a point and took out a couple critical pieces from when I posted this the other day, because I love it more and more every time I listen.

zxlkho
October 8th 2012


3465 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is the same review you posted before, yes?

JazzHands333
October 8th 2012


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes indeed, with some minor edits.

paxman
October 8th 2012


4084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not as good as YotBR

paxman
October 8th 2012


4084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

And it wasn't me who neg'd you

patrickfannon
October 8th 2012


886 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Simultaneously wrong and wrong. This album is bad. Really boring and bloated.

Frenchois
October 10th 2012


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So's your face.

Elcerco
October 13th 2012


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album takes a big leap forward from their previous stuff. It is completely 360°, Coheed-ly speaking, combining all the elements they have put through the years in a refined and harmonious way, in and among the tracks. It even has some "My brother's blood machine" in the end with "Substraction". And "Holly Wood the cracked" is among the best and most original of the album, despite what some people have been suggesting in the comments of other reviews.



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