There is a moment around the 48 minute mark of the hit VH1 television program Behind the Music when the viewer has turned a corner after watching all the pain and turmoil a group can experience. It is the moment where the band has come back smarter, stronger and more determined than ever to be the absolute best that they can be. For Coheed and Cambria, that moment is now as their just released album The Afterman: Ascension begins a bright new chapter for a band that has seen it’s fair share of senseless Rock n’ Roll tragedy.
While Coheed and Cambria will forever have a loyal fan base, many would argue that the band’s last effort, 2010’s Year of the Black Rainbow left a lot to be desired. A prequel to the band’s previous four concept albums based off The Armory Wars saga felt uninspired and lacked that special charm that separated Coheed from all the other bands that spend their summers on the Vans Warped Tour. While the story of the characters known as Coheed and Cambria may be over, the band’s sixth full length record still manages to takes place within The Armory War saga. This time around, the band is tackling the origin story of Sirius Armory.
After kicking things off with some serious robot Mommy issues on the introductory track The Hollow, the album immediately kicks into full gear with Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute. With a long history of monstrous album opening call to arms such as In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 and No World For Tomorrow, Coheed and Cambria have hit it out of the park on Domino The Destitute. Is it any shock that fans are already chanting for this song to be played in the live setting? With plenty of guitar riffs worthy of jolting the Richter Scale mixing with screams of We Are Together, We Fall Together; the first part of Key Entity Extraction’s character development sets the tone by alerting long time Coheed fans that the band is indeed back to the fine form found on their first two major label releases.
There is something to be said about Coheed and Cambria having certain song formulas. There are the call to arms, the quirky pop numbers, the ballads and of course straight up 21st century rock and roll. Starting with 2009’s cover of The Church classic Under The Milky Way, Coheed and Cambria has been known to experiment with a mellow almost ambient sound. Where the song Far from Year of the Black Rainbow was a step in the right direction, The Afterman has truly perfected this formula. Inspired by the Coheed mastermind Claudio Sanchez’s wife learning via Facebook that someone close had passed away, The Afterman slowly builds up into a glorious bout of emotional struggle that the band has yet to convey on record. While the awkward flow from Domino The Destitute into The Afterman is unexpected, in the grand scheme of the entire album, it works.
As the band’s six full length recording plays on, the material manages to get stronger and stronger. Mothers of Men could easily be mistaken as a B-side from 2005’s Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness. Once you make it past the opening riffs that sound eerily similar to Michael Jackson’s Beat It, the song opens up into a big bright chorus featuring some of the strongest vocal work of Sanchez’s career. Goodnight, Fair Lady allows new bassist Zach Cooper prime real estate to shine as his low end grooves give this cleverly crafted pop song strong legs to bounce upon.
The second half of the record focuses on three additional characters of the Key Entity Extraction. It’s clear from the get go that Holly Wood The Cracked is damaged goods as the short and energetic rocker manages to mix angry riffs and severely distorted screams with massive amounts of melody. Vic The Butcher makes up the third part of the Key Entity Extraction and per a recent conversation with Rolling Stone, was inspired by a night at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Sanchez shared the following inspiration with Rolling Stone:
“One night I went to Madison Square Garden to see a show, and I actually got into an altercation – it wasn’t physical, but it was escalated to the point where it could. In the middle of MSG, I could hear people calling out ‘Coheed!’ I knew if I didn’t leave that moment that something was going to happen.”
The final Key Entity Extraction chapter found on part 1 of this double album (Part V will appear on 2013’s The Afterman: Descension. You can check out a live clip of the song here) is Evagria The Faithful. Clocking in at over six minutes in length, the band manages to create a new formula as the thunderous drums of the recently returned Josh Eppard mix with minimalistic tribal infused dance riffs in the spirit of such groundbreaking NYC based act the Talking Heads and TV on the Radio. As exciting as this new musical exploration is, it is once again Sanchez’s vocals that will be stuck in your head for weeks with a heartbreaking Goodbye Forever chorus sticks inside your cranium.
The Afterman: Ascension closes with the soft ballad Subtraction. Mixing acoustic guitars and the same robotic sounds that kicked off the album, part one ends on a rather somber note. However for Coheed and Cambria this moment in time is anything but a downer. The band has managed to rekindle the spark and passion that made In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 and Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness such incredible pieces of work. Yes there is a formula to Coheed and Cambira, and while the band can’t be blamed for straying and exploring new styles over the past couple of albums, The Afterman: Ascension is a much needed return to form and the band’s best work in nearly a decade. With the bar set high with Ascension, February 2013 can’t come fast enough.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.