After Coheed and Cambria’s recent efforts (the unpleasant “Year of the Black Rainbow” and the highs and lows of “The Afterman: Ascension”), I had major doubts that the group could regain any of their former glory. The first part of the Afterman tale showed some glimmers of hope, but still didn’t do it for me. On the flip side, part two is one of Coheed’s finest works.
One thing that really makes “Descension” so good is the feel of the music. This is the first time since “In Keeping Secrets” that a Coheed album doesn’t feel forced at any point. The need to be epic or change styles has made recent efforts feel less natural and takes away some of that raw intensity from their first two works. In “Descension”, the group seems to let the music write itself, rather than mold the music to the story – and this makes a positive impact on the album as a whole.
The album opens with “Pretelethal”, a straightforward passage that serves as a decent intro to the coming excellence. This is quickly followed by “Key Entity Extract V”, a heavier track with a classic Coheed feel. The combo of palm-muted and ringing chords in the main riff follows a nice rhythm, while the song follows with a heavy chorus. The track breaks at points to return to an acoustic lick and some heavier breakdowns, proving to be one of the more progressive songs on the album. In fact, the album actually is less progressive in nature than the group’s previous works – while this may sound like a deterrent, the album easily succeeds with its less-progressive nature. Also, in this first main track, Claudio puts forth some great vocals. This carries through to the whole album with Claudio showcasing the vocal abilities I have always enjoyed and felt were lacking in recent efforts (including “Ascension”).
Next up, is “The Hard Sell”. I cannot prepare you for this track in this review (you can check out the song here). The mix of varying rhythms, chunky guitar riffs, and searing vocals make this my favorite song on the album and (IMO) one of Coheed’s best. The song may be linear, but the way the song evolves is incredible. Once over, the listener is thrown right into “Number City”. This song feels like the group really allowed the music to take over. By no means a conventional Coheed song, “Number City” feels different along the lines of “Once Upon Your Dead Body” or “Blood Red Summer”. It effortlessly blends many genres to create a highly unique track that ends in one of Claudio’s most infectious vocal melodies.
Moving on, we come to “Gravity’s Union”, the album’s heaviest and longest track at nearly 7 minutes. “Gravity’s Union” has a “Final Cut” feel to it along with some styles of “In Keeping Secrets”, though with a much more progressive song structure. After the track weighs you down with its heaviness, however, the album takes you into its lighter side, beginning with “Away We Go”. There’s not much to say about this track – it is a straightforward rock ballad (not bad, but not great).
Following this we enter a two-track series of “Iron Fist” and “Dark Side of Me”. “Iron Fist” is a lighter track, but still quite powerful. Zach Cooper replaced Mic Todd on bass for this album, and while his talents are great throughout, he really shines on this song. His bass lines in “Iron Fist” really bring the track to life, and once the full instrumentation lets loose toward the end (including Claudio’s voice) the song swirls into melodic harmony. To follow “Iron Fist”, Coheed presents “Dark Side of Me”, the most emotional song on the album. While it may be another linear track, it is expertly crafted and contains the album’s most anthemic chorus.
After all of these movements, the album closes with “2’s My Favorite 1”, an upbeat track that rounds the album off nicely. While not particularly impressive on its own, the song closes with a nicely written outro to close out the two-album story – one that brings back feelings of “Ascension” opening, “The Hollow”.
For “Descension”, the whole group has really stepped it up. Claudio’s guitar work and impressive vocals, Josh’s fluid rhythms, Travis’ lead work, and newcomer Zach Cooper’s bass chops are all combined nicely into some of the group’s best work. Zach fits in nicely with the band, and his style sounds better than Mic’s (not that Mic was a bad fit). On the whole, Coheed and Cambria seem to have relaxed on this album, allowing their own personalities to shape the music. As I had said, this is their most natural feeling album since their early days, and in not trying to change or force their sound, the band has crafted an excellent album tied together by some nice dialogue sections. While not as progressive as their prior body of work, these tracks accomplish a lot without needing that progression. Anyone who is a fan of Coheed, or rock/alternative music should easily find something on the album to enjoy. Here’s hoping the group don’t return to the dark days of “Year of the Black Rainbow”.
Final Score: 8.4/10