Coheed and Cambria
The Afterman: Descension


4.0
excellent

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
February 5th, 2013 | 24 replies


Release Date: 02/05/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Descension proves a solid, forward-thinking album to fans, but probably won't change any made-up minds.

I’m starting to think that most of the critical world has turned on Coheed and Cambria. From cries of "false prog" from detractors who probably never enjoyed the band’s brand of pop-inspired experimentation to fans who lost faith following No World For Tomorrow, public opinion has decidedly soured. And, citing No World For Tomorrow, there’s decent reason for the turn in opinion – the album’s stadium rock approach was creatively tepid at best (sans the closing quintet of “The End Complete”). Things didn't get any better with the initially heralded but quickly overlooked Year of the Black Rainbow, either. Public opinion turned, and suddenly Coheed had become the golden boys who’d hit a slump.

To contrast, a lot of people saw the first half of this most recent release, double album The Afterman, as a return to form. Claudio, himself, remarked that the music felt reminiscent of his younger days as a musician – something that was apparent in the similarity between the tone of first half Ascension and that of From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. And, so, some of the naysayers gave way. Well, at least a little bit.

Yet, fear not, good naysayers! Coheed have done something on The Afterman's second disc, Descension, that is sure to push you away yet again. “What could that be?” you might ask with an eye-roll. Well, Coheed are experimenting with their sound again. While Ascension committed most tracks to the tone and form of those on From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, Descension pulls a few tricks from the playbooks of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 and maybe a couple licks from From Fear. But, mostly, it’s an album that sees Claudio and company getting playful with their sound again by incorporating new techniques, inspirations, and hell, even a brass section on "Number City." And, detractors beware! That playfulness and change is a good thing.

Think about it. We wouldn't want to hear another twenty attempts at recapturing the pop-prog wonder of albums like The Second Stage Turbine Blade – they just wouldn't turn out the same this late in Coheed's career. Would you really want to hear In Keeping Secrets, an album described by the artist as an emotionally-pummeling breakup album, written by happily married men? While Coheed took time to figure out where exactly it was they wanted to go (on No World For Tomorrow and Year of the Black Rainbow) as they've matured, we finally have the product of their past and present with hints towards their future on Descension.

Tracks like “Sentry the Defiant” (pretentious heading omitted) continue the darker third-album leanings of predecessors like “Vic the Butcher,” while the Keeping Secrets vibe of back-handed optimism is smattered on tracks like “The Hard Sell,” “Iron Fist,” and “Dark Side of Me.” But it’s in tracks like “Number City” where we see the so-called signature sound coming under heavy fire from friendly sources, dropping all pretense and borrowing without shame from The Police to create an upbeat, head-bopping pop-prog track. And while it’s firmly rooted in the sound of its genre’s ancestors, it’s notable that, for an album which gives so many nods to the band’s own storied career, this track plays a different ballgame. “Away We Go” and “Gravity’s Union” take similar cues (though not from The Police) and show that Coheed are perfectly willing to defy expectation and do something a little different. The best part is that that little bit “different” shows versatility and self-efficacy: after more than eleven years as a band, they’re still working on improving themselves, and while it’s been a bit of “the fans be damned” on albums prior to The Afterman, the experimentation is well-integrated and should be offensive to only the snobbiest of listeners and those who despise change.

That’s not to say that many tracks don’t pay their dues to the back catalog – “Iron Fist” may have one of the catchiest choruses in the band’s discography, falling just short of the “woah-oh”s of “Blood Red Summer.” “Away We Go” has the kind of fluttering and shimmering leads you’d expect from a cleaner version of “Junesong Provision” while maintaining a freer, more pop-inspired mentality. And, maybe to the album’s detriment, “The Hard Sell” pulls influence from the radio rock of No World For Tomorrow.

New or old, self-inspired or forward-thinking, when taken as a whole, the tracks on this album are well-written, catchy, and inventive. But that’s Coheed's standard fare, and most of the critical community seems to have grown cold to that. Will Descension be 2013’s album of the year and blow our minds the way The Second Stage Turbine Blade did back in 2002? No. But in any case, it may be enough to sway a few new fans and satisfy return customers. As for those who've already made their minds up about Coheed and Cambria? Well, you can paint a smile on a rock, but that rock isn't going to get up and laugh along with you anytime soon.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


2003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Third review in - that's not bad for this album, right?

Digging: Thank You Scientist - Maps of Non-Existent Places

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


7096 Comments


I'm surprised there's not 20 by now.

Kris.
February 5th 2013


12345 Comments


three well-written reviews for this in 24 hours NOT BAD SPUTNIK

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


7096 Comments


And that's without a staffer/contrib in sight. I must say that this review is the best so far Thompson. pos'd

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


7096 Comments


And that's without a staffer/contrib in sight. I must say that this review is the best so far Thompson. pos'd

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


2003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks guys. I actually wrote this earlier in the day, just didn't have time to edit it until now (been a rough day in a lot of ways).

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


50510 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Everyone who reviews this will become contributor

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


10271 Comments


Sweet review, man. And I feel you about having a rough day, today sucked in many many ways for me haha.

I requested a feature for this one, but I also know the mods are swamped with requests. Hopefully they'll pull through!

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013


7096 Comments


Is that like the code to get in "Must have one Coheed review under belt"

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


2003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Boss, man. Thanks Jacob! Sorry you've been having a rough day, too. Maybe the moon's just in a shitty spot.

Rev
February 5th 2013


9436 Comments


gonna give SSTB and IKSOSE3 another shot, if I dig em i'm gonna get the two Afterman releases

foxxxythnksustnk
February 5th 2013


2132 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

great review

Acanthus
February 5th 2013


9543 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This sounds good, liked the review too.

Digging: The Knife - Deep Cuts

foxxxythnksustnk
February 5th 2013


2132 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ur next mister sugartkuaoad

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


10271 Comments


Your opinions are so neutral, man! You should make them more extreme or something!

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


2003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Quoth the silent potato: "False prog."

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


10271 Comments


Not enuff Sithu Aye up in hurr.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


2003 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I haven't listened much to Invent the Universe, but Isles is still my jam.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2013


10271 Comments


Invent is pretty good, but Isles is just flawless. I sometimes consider 5ing it...

KILL
February 5th 2013


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

:/

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out



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