Review Summary: Coheed and Cambria close out the Afterman saga with a dark and textured tale that tops its predecessor in nearly every way.
You’d think that after pursuing six albums surrounding the same conceptual universe that a band would eventually run out of ideas and flounder around, desperately looking for new tales to tell in order to stay relevant. That’s not the case with progressive alt rock band Coheed and Cambria
. While they haven’t reinvented themselves with every album, there always seems to be new ground to tread for the New York braniacs, especially guitarist, frontman and mastermind Claudio Sanchez. The band’s massive Amory Wars universe reached a spacey, but enjoyable point with their 2012 album, The Afterman: Ascension
, the first half of the Afterman
double album. Coheed and Cambria’s second Afterman
, picks up right where Ascension
left off. But it doesn’t just continue the saga; it achieves a massive high for the storyline while also broadening the mood and themes introduced in their 2012 record. If Ascension
was holding your breath and diving into the Afterman’s world, Descension
is gasping and clawing your way back out.
“Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant” without a doubt, is a huge highlight on Descension
. Even long after its debut at live sets, the track stands tall as one of Coheed and Cambria’s most intense compositions in their extensive discography. It really culminates every bit of ingenuity that the band has delivered since The Second Stage Turbine Blade
. The brief soft spots throughout the track are subtle, small pit-stops across an adrenaline-soaked joyride of a track. Claudio Sanchez’s lyrics continue to reach out beyond the mythos, and very much like in Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV: Vol. 1 – From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
, they have potency and hold relatable themes, something that felt surprisingly absent in Ascension
. It was well worth the wait.
Unlike its predecessor, which focused on discovery and unknowing, Descension
is all about weight, confusion and the feeling of struggle. “The Hard Sell” is a furious mix of Sanchez’s razor-sharp guitar (echoing “Gravemakers and Gunslingers” from No World For Tomorrow
) and his melodic croon. It definitely says something when the prelude (which takes place in the form of “Pretelethal”) is worth head-banging to. At times, it can start reaching for that overly dramatic and huge sound of Year of the Black Rainbow
, but Descension
has a deeper tone to it that persists throughout even the lighter tracks like “Number City”, which focuses an alternative groove that would fit in well on the band’s debut album. While these almost instantaneous left-turns in tempo might feel disorienting at first, it all settles into a comfortable and enticing point. This is a dark album and Coheed and Cambria flesh out that darkness in many different, but still cohesive ways.
Altogether, Coheed and Cambria understand not only their mythos, but the feelings and thematic moods that grew from it. This is very apparent in the softer ballad “Iron Fist” and its follower “Dark Side of Me”, with the latter filled to the brim with poetic and mystifying lyrics alongside a fantastic and intense musical composition. Josh Eppard’s thundercrash of a drum line stands with Sanchez’s nimble guitar playing. The closer, “2’s My Favorite 1” is classic Coheed, breathing emotive lyrics, melodic vocals and a sense of storyline completion. It definitely has its ups and downs, but every second of the album feels purposeful and has something to tell.
The Afterman: Descension
isn’t a flawless mix of heaviness and experimentation, but it does make some very impressive steps forward from its other half. While the tempos differ from songs like “Iron Fist” and “The Hard Sell” the songs still sound linked (much more so than in Ascension
) and that dark mood persists even when the riffs become softer and the lyrics more optimistic. Coheed and Cambria has closed this chapter of the Amory Wars without stumbling. The loftiness of the band’s ambition isn’t wasted with Descension
; they’ve made something thick with purpose with this album, while not ignoring their honed musicianship and past successes. It can stand alongside From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
and The Second Stage Turbine Blade
as one of their richest and most textured works. Not only that, it’s also one of their best in years.