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Coheed and Cambria – “The Afterman: Ascension” Review

Coheed and Cambria are heading in a new direction. Gone are the Amory Wars stories, giving way to an entirely new tale, “The Afterman”. They also have altered their sound as well on this album (more on this later). Looking back on their past works, it is no secret that their first three album were phenomenal works of high-concept, progressive rock (in particular “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”, my personal favorite). Following that was “No World for Tomorrow”, which still had all the ingredients for a great Coheed album, but was flawed with overly produced sound and an … feeling throughout that the band was trying to hard to make the songs sound “epic”. Then came “Year of the Black Rainbow” which, to me, was just an extremely poor release. Now, with the return of original drummer, Josh Eppard, and a new storyline to tell, how does this new album fit in with the Coheed library?

The album opens with “The Hollow”, a very well-done track that sets the mood for the story to follow. Keyboards back a conversation between a man and another being, followed by a variation on the classic Coheed riff that signaled a lapse of time. This opens right into “Domino the Destitue”, a very powerful track, and by far, the best on the album – this song really displays the best of Coheed. Some very nice guitar riffs lead into Claudio’s vocals (I have always been amazed by Claudio’s ability to sing complex patterns while playing some intricate guitar riffs) and the rest of the group’s entrance. The track on the whole progresses very well, and features a few different movements in standard Coheed progressive fashion. By the midway point of the track, I was already thankful for Josh Eppard’s return. Chris Penne just did not fit in well with the group, and his rhythms were quite bland and in many instances never really added to the songs. “Domino” fits in some usual chants and nice breaks, including a very interesting part with a boxing match being announced over the background track.

After the intense opening, the rest of the album seems like a letdown. “The Afterman” and “Evagria the Faithful” both lack a true Coheed sound, and would fit much better on another Prize Fighter Inferno album. “Mothers of Men” at least has some meat to it, but this is quickly follow by a lackluster “Goodnight, Fair Lady”. These songs are all extremely linear and lack any variation. Where is the progression that I so enjoyed in previous Coheed works?

“Holly Wood the Cracked” has a grating chorus, but is redeemed by a more calm and nicely done bridge section. This quickly reverts back to the straining feel from earlier in the track. It seems very jarring to move from these two types of sections in the song. This track is followed by “Vic the Butcher”, which is a redeeming track. The music brings back the nicely layered work that I remember. This is the second best song on the album, as there is actually some progression in this song, including movements between two powerful chorus sections that compliment each other quite well (one a climbing section, the other a powerful swirl of squealing guitars and pounding drums).

The album ends with an acoustic track, “Subtraction”. I can’t really say anything that positive about the track. A very “meh” feel, and a poor way to close the album on the whole.

Looking back at the group’s past work, this album just can’t compare. As a new chapter, there are some rays of hope that the group can again attain their prior level of excellence, but also some changes that need to be made. The group is known for its progressive movements, and for the most part these songs lack that piece of the puzzle. Further, Claudio may have produced some smoother vocal parts as time has gone on, but in doing so, has seemed to regress in his ranges and vocal melodies. I could never say he has a bad voice, but I just wish he would use his gift to its fullest extent as on “Good Apollo” and prior albums. With two very strong tracks in “Domino the Destitute” and “Vic the Butcher” and a strong return by Josh Eppard, the album is still worth a listen for fans and any rock listener, though the rest of the album is just content with staying afloat next to these songs.

Final Score: 6.8/10

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