Review Summary: A frustratingly average and give-and-take effort from a group of musicians clearly capable of so much more.
Coheed and Cambria are one of the most polarizing bands of the new millennium, mainly due to No World For Tomorrow
. After they set the bar somewhat too high for themselves with Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
, people found themselves torn on the following album; people either liked or disliked the band's attempt to bring a more metal edge to their sound. The base got even more torn when they went the electronic route with Year of the Black Rainbow
. Depending on who you may ask, that album is either one of their best or one of their worst. And while they didn't win any new fans with The Afterman: Ascension
, at least the existing fan base took a fancy to it, and it's not hard to understand why. It does somewhat restore their classic sound and even has the 8 minute epic that would show up on their old albums, plus they replaced Chris "I can't seem to go more than 10 seconds without doing another long drum fill" Pennie with their old drummer, Joshua Eppard.
Now, 4 months after the release of Ascension
, the second part, Descension
is finally out. Whether or not it was necessary to turn The Afterman
into a seperately released double album is still a good question (though probably to make money or to give fans something to look forward to before Christmas), but that's not really the question I was asking myself when I heard this album- I was asking "Why does this album seem so unfinished?" It's not by any means a bad album, and I'd listen to it over Year of the Black Rainbow
any day. But a lot of the songs seem like they had a lot of good ideas and rushed out the door with them.
One big complaint I have about the album is the sound quality. The mastering of the album is atrocious. The problems are easily detectable right off the bat- the guitars are way too loud and everything else sounds like it was coming from the other room. At times Claudio's vocals are barely audible unless you turn it up to a deafening volume, and Josh's drums can't even be heard on some of the heavier tracks. There's zero headroom on any of the songs- even the vinyl sounds really bad (maybe that's the turquoise vinyl, the purple vinyl is transparent and transparent vinyls usually have good sound quality). Putting the CD in and bringing up some songs on Audacity brought some very obvious clipping to attention- some songs look like solid walls, even. Ouch.
As for the songs- a lot of them sound like a bunch of demos. "The Hard Sell" begins nicely, and as soon as the guitar kicks in the song has sort of a The Wall
edge that I like, but the "Ooh ooh ooh" parts really just aren't necessary and sort of kill the mood. The song doesn't really do anything noteworthy until the chorus, which, while catchy, won't really leave a lasting impression. "Away We Go" sounds like a poor man's "Feathers" and a 90s pop-rock song. It's really forgettable and could easily be a b-side. "Gravity's Union" sounds like the band is trying too hard to replicate the days of Keeping Secrets
, but there is a glimmer of hope- at the 4:45 mark, the song finally gets entertaining and gives us a nice fade out. Sadly, we had to wait until the 4:45 mark for that last part, and that's never a good sign. "Dark Side of Me" is an agonizingly dull power ballad and while Claudio's vocals sound nice on it, it feels really out of place on the whole album. And I appreciate the band trying to end the album on a good note with "2's My Favorite 1", which is eerily reminiscent of "God Send Conspirator" and sounds like the closing credits to a good movie, but it's over too quickly and that pointless interlude at the end (it sounds like they're trying too hard to end the album in a similar note as that scary piano part at the end of said example) doesn't help matters.
But, there are some good songs too. "Sentry the Defiant" is a good example, and I remember hearing it when they opened for Iron Maiden earlier this year (it sounded better there, obviously). The song brings back the metal sound that No World
brought to the table and starts off the album on a good note. "Number City" is fun, catchy, and very reminiscent of No Doubt with its ska punk sound. It's a very unexpected move from the band and I'd love to hear them play with that sound in the future. And despite what some people say here, I really like "Iron Fist". It has a nice country sound to it and the slide guitar passages also add a real 70s ballad twist. It is a nice example of the band trying new things and really succeeding. I'd definitely not be surprised if it became a concert staple, that's for sure.
Coheed's latest album will ultimately divide fans, and it won't win any new fans either. If you don't like the band's more experimental route, well, it won't change your kind. For me though, it's really disappointing because there so many parts on the album that tease to the fact that it my get better, and very few of the songs have that "start-to-finish" vibe... they sound very rushed and unfinished. If this were another band perhaps I wouldn't be so nitpicky, but this album comes from a band that are so much more capable than what's offered here.