Coheed and Cambria
The Afterman: Ascension


4.0
excellent

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
October 8th, 2012 | 19 replies | 1,737 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Coheed and Cambria regroup and release the soul successor to From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, all expected progression intact.

If you're Coheed and Cambria right about now, you're finding yourself in an interesting situation. With a catalog of commercial and critical success, you can pretty much do whatever you want to do - push the boundaries, release a safe album that'll appease the fans - whatever, it's your call. Creative freedom, they call it.

Of course, you also find yourself in the interesting position of being two men short of the usual lineup at the start of the recording process. Naturally, who you pick's going to play into what you end up with - so who's it going to be? If the acquisition of Chris Pennie, longtime drummer for The Dillinger Escape Plan, proved anything, it was that Coheed could pull down anyone; and if the frantic drumbeat and electronics of "Guns of Summer" proved anything, it was that personnel outside of masterminds Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever could have a dramatic influence on the band's sound. So, again, there's a huge array of options with an equally large room for impact on the finished product.

So, given the knowledge that Coheed brought back former drummer Josh Eppard and brought in the relatively unknown Zach Cooper “because he fit the band dynamic,” it should come as no surprise that The Afterman: Ascension sounds like a focused power-blend of the group's first three albums. After all, No World for Tomorrow, the first album without Eppard, came at a time not long after Eppard and former bassist Mic Todd had been fired for their various addictions and, with a drummer in escrow and a bassist who was surely growing more and more unreliable due to dependency issues, it's easy to see how the album became guitar dominated to the point where it created a clear shift in the band's paradigm. Follow-up Year of the Black Rainbow, too, proved a creature unfamiliar to the original pop-prog sound of the band, relying heavily on electronics and complex drumming (seemingly a hallmark of Pennie) that often sacrificed hooks for dramatic experimentation.

So now, using their creative freedom, Sanchez and Stever have decided on a lineup that brings back that ability to, as Cooper put it in his introductory video, "groove." Case in point, the hypnotic instrumentals of songs like "The Afterman" and "Evagria the Faithful" and their companion choruses create a sound so infectious that it will bounce around between the ears for days between plays. Tracks like "Mothers of Men" and "Goodnight, Fair Lady" generate a similar feeling of near nostalgia through Eppard's simple(r) pop rock beats backing up clever guitar hooks that go just far enough to catch and maintain attention. Of course, with Coheed there's always another wrinkle to the game, and with "Evagria" and "The Afterman," there's a newfound melding of electronic processing and an acoustic touch that come together in a light, spacey trance. Similarly, "Mothers of Men" and "Goodnight, Fair Lady" revisit tones previously heard on No World For Tomorrow and In Keeping Secrets, respectively, re-purposing them to new melodies that pump an energized nostalgic undertone into the album.

While Ascension is certainly lighter in tone than an album like From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, tracks like "Domino the Destitute," "Holly Wood the Cracked," and "Vic the Butcher" manage to deliver on a heavy, dark sound. The latter two also deliver on the catchy phrasing and light choral hooks employed more reliably early on in Coheed's discography through dynamic shifts in tone, while "Domino" links itself more closely to the lead-heavy tracks from No World that follow a bossy guitar-fronted epic format. But even songs as gritty and hard-hitting as "Holly Wood" are complemented by a serene chorus of clean singing from Claudio Sanchez that delivers the "hook and groove" that fans of the band have come to expect. After all, who can keep from singing along to a melodic

She's a few cards short of a full deck,
A joker in the game
She's got a bullet with your name on it
No doubt she's a mental case
?

Unsurprisingly, the use of electronics on the album has grown since From Fear, but they feel like a welcome addition rather than a full takeover, as was the case with many tracks on Year of the Black Rainbow (the one exception to this rule being closing track "Subtraction," which was originally intended as a track for Claudio's electro-pop side-project, The Prize Fighter Inferno). Used as an industrial compliment ("Holly Wood") or as an ethereal augment ("Evagria," "The Afterman"), electronics on Ascension are generally used as supplemental, atmospheric material, and are kept from assuming the limelight as they often did on Year of the Black Rainbow. And the balance seems to work out well - adding a science fiction feel to the space odyssey of the album without eating away the human element at its heart.

Ascension does feel a bit short, but that's to be expected what is essentially only half of a full double album. "Subtraction" is as good a cliffhanger ending as any album could ask for and, in some way, its light, looping melody even feels like intermission music. For a concept album incorporating small dialogue breaks to introduce tonal shifts between tracks, it's good to have an ending that can work as a pause between start and finish without destroying a sense of flow.

In the end, Ascension comes across as a soul successor to From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness and its predecessors by picking up a penchant for writing hooks and memorable choruses. Placing Eppard back behind the kit has brought a certain pop vitality back to the sound and it seems that the duo of Eppard and Cooper have also succeeded in putting a lot of head-bobbing groove back into the sound from an instrumental perspective. While the previous two albums were certainly not bad, Ascension sees Coheed and Cambria recapture a certain youthful, contagious energy that reminds listeners that despite all of their technical prowess and innovation, this is still a band that can keep the fickle attention of radio listeners. As for whether or not the sound will stick: it’s anyone’s guess. But with a track record like theirs, even if they do decide to switch things up dramatically, it's hard to believe that they'll start struggling anytime soon. But for now, it's not hard to be content grooving along with Ascension until the latter half of The Afterman comes along in February.



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user ratings (723)
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 EMERITUS (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 ...

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

    Seth Barry-Hinton (4.5)
    Simultaneously a return to form and a step up....

    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 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, here's another one. I'm a huge Coheed fan. There's no way I wasn't doing this.

I expect to see 20 reviews up by tomorrow.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I always forget you can't BBCode taglines.

figure337
October 8th 2012



420 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review. You pretty much nailed how I felt about the album. The most annoying thing to me about this record is the transition from "Domino" to "The Afterman" is so sudden and juxtaposed that it takes me out of the album a bit. Pos'd.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



7160 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I totally agree. Good write-up!

I was going to write my review of this some time this week, but I guess I'll pass and write about something more obscure.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks!

Yeah, I'd kinda agree with that. I think the spacey intro to "The Afterman" is meant to serve as a warmup transition before the vocals and the marching snare key in. And the way Domino ends with a build, I can't really think of a better way to do it. So it is what it is, I guess haha.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Find something cool, Greg! Most of the reasons I love Sputnik are found in the rare moments where someone reviews a great album I never would've heard of otherwise. I still gotta check out that new Beardfish sometime too, btw.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
October 8th 2012



18577 Comments


so many coheed reviews, so little time.

Digging: Somos - Temple of Plenty

greg84
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



7160 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Well. I already know plenty of records released this year that needs to be reviewed. I actually have difficulty picking out what to review.

The new Beardfish is well worth getting. It's also most definitely better than this imo.

ThroneOfAgony
October 8th 2012



3485 Comments


I don't even have enough space on my hard drive to get this

wow, I need an external hard drive PRONTO

figure337
October 8th 2012



420 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There can be only one coheed review

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I can't even get this because I'm completely out of space on damn computer


Or, if you have a flashdrive, download to that and run it from there.

Or you can stream from Rollingstone.com. Or listen from YouTube, since it's all been up there for days.

ThroneOfAgony
October 8th 2012



3485 Comments


Thanks, I got it one of my 4000 pen drives, it's pretty awesome so far

Xenophanes
Emeritus
October 8th 2012



10553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Album is really solid. Wasn't sold at first but it's got that old Coheed feel mixed with the best parts of their two past records

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

KINGSTATICTHETHIRD
October 8th 2012



613 Comments


^^^

exactly this. good shit.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yup, that's the long and short of it, haha.

CaptWaffles
October 9th 2012



192 Comments


"Holly Wood" is a bit silly, but "Goodnight, Fair Lady" put a big goofy smile on my face. I still wish Claudio would sing like a girl again though.

Great review

johnnyblaze
October 9th 2012



2569 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review man. kind of reads like a 4.5, but very well written.

Digging: The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 10th 2012



1917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks guys.

Yeah I kinda wish he would sing like a girl again, too haha. I'm staring to wonder if he just can't anymore, which is understandable. "Goodnight, Fair Lady" is such a Keeping Secrets/Good Apollo 1 throwback it's hard not to love it.

Apollo
October 11th 2012



10083 Comments


Just wanted to see how you write. This is well written, I pos'd, but the length was too long and length isn't everything. Anyways, well done.



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