Review: Coheed and Cambria - 'The Afterman: Ascension'

This review was originally published on Under The Gun Review.

Artist: Coheed and Cambria
Album: The Afterman: Ascension
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Hundred Handed/Everything Evil

Sometimes bands don’t hit their notes quite right. While they may be masters of their own craft and play their instruments with the utmost precision, the ending result of a year’s work writing and months of studio sessions may be… disappointing.

Coheed and Cambria made their way into my life with The Second Stage Turbine Blade, my heart with In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3, and my top 5 with Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. The two records that followed, however, just didn’t strike the right chords for me. Their fourth studio album, No World For Tomorrow, was a grower. Their fifth was barely listened after its first several plays. There was something missing… Something evidently found for their latest release. The Afterman: Ascension is a true return to form and will do my best to do it justice in so many words.

After an eerie opening reminiscent of introductions and interludes past (see: The Ring in Return, Keeping the Blade, etc.), Ascension kicks off into the lead single, “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute.” Powerful and epic, “Domino” instills that feeling often felt when listening to the band for the first time. Drummer Joshua Eppard is a welcome return, as his recognizable sound drives one of the band’s biggest epics in years. In fact, I credit this left-handed open percussionist for a great deal of the album’s appeal.

One of Coheed and Cambria’s silent and often forgotten strengths has been the ballad. While not a ballad in the most traditional sense, “The Afterman” is heavily layered and exquisitely composed. A respite before cutting into “Mothers of Men” which, to a nostalgic ear, sounds like a wayward cut from Good Apollo, Volume One with a brighter sheen.

“Goodnight, Fair Lady” continues the trend of songs from eras past. With band newcomer Zachary Cooper’s introductory bassline, I was convinced I was listening to In Keeping Secrets for the first time all over again. The same can’t be said, though, for the bassline leading into part two of the Key Entity Extraction. “Holly Wood The Cracked” is a venomous staple outdone only by the forcefulness of the third segment of the four part suite. “Vic The Butcher” is a powerhouse that literally TAKES your attention.

The Key Entity Extraction ends with part four, “Evagria The Faithful.” The band refuses to back down from its musical onslaught with their best chorus since “Feathers” two albums before. It’s here that I should note that the guitar work is a thing of beauty. Known for his incredible ability on the axe, Claudio Sanchez has outdone himself on the lyrical content as well. I’m eager for a future graphic interpretation of this record’s story.

As the album leads out with a somber “Subtraction,” I find my faith restored and a sense that Coheed and Cambria is back where it belongs. I think the best thing about The Afterman: Ascension is the notion that The Afterman: Descension is a short matter of months away.

Score: 10/10

Read my review of The Afterman: Descension here.