Review Summary: A rushed, sloppy, unfocused mess of an album.
So, believe it or not, unlike most fans of Coheed, I've managed to go for almost a whole month without hearing even a single track from this record. Why, you ask? It's simple, the fanboy wankery over anything bearing the Coheed namesake has increased since the band made their breakthrough with Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume I: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
is just plain ridiculous. I've seen the band live three times and met them twice, both with the current lineup and the Chris Pennie lineup, I've bought all their releases on the release day since No World For Tomorrow
, and I've been able to observe their evolution with each album. Now yes, I bought this album on the release day, but I figured if I gave it time for the dust to settle so I can actually give it a good listen on my own accord, I wouldn't feel the pressure to follow the flock of sheep who can't seem to be honest because of their love of "The Heed". Need evidence of such wankery? Visit the Cobalt & Calcium forums. So, I listened. To the thirty six minute conversation. And yeah, thankfully it was mercifully short, and it wandered with no direction, but I listened.
Now, yes, this album is a step up from their previous effort, Year of the Black Rainbow
. They've gotten rid of Chris Pennie, a drummer who seemed to be convinced he was joining a The Mars Volta tribute band, and they got Joshua Eppard back. They've also ditched the electro-metal sound that was baffling and a sign of the band lacking creativity. But does that mean this is a good album? Nope.
If anything, The Afterman: Ascension
feels like a supergroup album. In case you're living in the stone age, supergroups are typically when a bunch of talented and well known musicians from well known bands collaborate for a full length album, combining their musical talents into one sound. It doesn't feel like any one of the bands from any of the musicians but rather just the sound of them playing together. I say this is the case because none of the songs feel like actual songs, but just a bunch of ideas jumbled together, with no direction behind any of them whatsoever. A lot of songs just drag on and repeat the same section over and over and over and just end. Others have the insulting, "verse/chorus/verse/chorus/verse/chorus" song structure- and I realize the band has a lot of songs like that, but here, none of the sings have catchy choruses or hooks. It's as if the band decided that since they're doing a double album, they're going to just gather some ideas and run out the door with them.
"Subtraction" is one of the worst tracks in Coheed's career. It's every ballad cliche in the book, with a cringe worthy electronic backing track that would make even The Postal Service cringe.
"Holly Wood" is almost as if Claudio was listening to some crappy post grunge band like Theory of a Deadman and decided, "hey, let's rip these guys off for one track... We've been original for four albums, we can lack creativity any time we want!" it sucks. Period. Even that chorus, "Holly wood, holly wood!" or the repeated chants of "Ha-ha-ha-ha-Hollywood!" just hurt my soul. Can't believe this is the same band that did songs like "Justice in Murder" or "Al the Killer".
"The Afterman" is an example of the directionlessness I stated above. It has a nice riff, but is just 5 minutes of a song that goes nowhere. I like Claudio's voice on it as well, but it just seems to wander and doesn't amount to anything at all.
"Evagria the Faithful and "Vic the Butcher" are about the same. Both repeat too much and lack in versatility. I honestly can't say I remember a whole lot about them. One of them even sounds like a friggin' Rihanna song. I kid you not.
There's maybe two tracks on the whole album I like: "Goodnight Fair Lady" and "Domino the Destitute". "Goodnight Fair Lady" is a catchy tune that is a nice throwback to Good Apollo, and while it's too short, there's a lot to like about it. However, even that song goes in one ear and out the other, with no lasting effect on the brain. And this isn't why I listen to music- I listen to music to absorb it, to get lost in the melodies. Thankfully, there's one track where that comes in handy- the latter tune, which is an eight minute epic, and I mean EPIC. Domino is what Coheed is known for, big, long epics that feel like a musical journey. The "Hahahahaha" part is dark and creepy, which really adds a sinister air to the song. It's sad that this is really the only song that manages to have a lasting impression on the whole album.
My guess as to why Coheed took the double album route is that they threw too many ideas together, and it didn't amount to much except just... Too many songs. So to make more money, they divided the tracks and made two albums, and released one before Christmas. Or, they just decided to give us an album of weak tracks to tease us for an album of absolutely great tracks. I say this because when I saw them open for Iron Maiden earlier this year, right at the front row, they played a song named "Sentry the Defiant", which gave me hope that Coheed could be back on the path to greatness. And I hope they can prove me right with the next album, predictably titled The Afterman: Descension
. Either way, this is a pretty weak start for a double album and I sure hope they pulled it together and will force an amazing album down my throat next time. I guess every band has a "boring phase" in their career. And after four straight great albums (well, NWFT being to a lesser extent), I'll safely excuse YOBR and this as a boring phase from which the band will hopefully recover.
Oh, and who decided to package the album this way? Whoever thought using a small piece of plastic to keep the disc intact on the cardboard clearly needs to be fired. I actually almost broke the disc the first time I listened to the album. With this kind of mentality in the music industry, it's hardly a surprise everyone is going for the "a few clicks and it's on my iTunes" route nowadays.