Coheed & Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension
Hundred Handed / Everything Evil
Progressive Rock / Alt. Metal
9 songs (38:29)
Release year: 2012
Coheed & Cambria
Reviewed by Kyle

Before diving into this review I feel that it’s necessary to clarify my stance on Coheed & Cambria’s 2010 release Year of the Black Rainbow. Returning to my 2010 review of that particular album leaves me with a sickening sensation, a “holy shit I overquoted that thing by at least fifteen points” kind of feeling. I can’t even remember liking that album very much, and I certainly don’t feel that it deserved words of high praise. My only conclusion is that review was a product of blind fanboy-ism, a denial to the masses proclaiming that one of my favorite bands was certainly not becoming irrelevant. Three years after that review (and nearly two years since writing my last review; yes, I suppose this is my way of announcing my return to and I’m ready to apologize for that biased piece of music “journalism”. That being said, Coheed’s new duo of albums – particularly the first part, The Afterman: Ascension - is certainly worthy of praise. These releases find Claudio Sanchez & co. not only at a creative high point, but also at the most surefooted stage they have ever been musically.

Ascension is a mish-mash of all the styles previously explored by the band, although the term “mish-mash” perhaps undersells what the band has accomplished here. Prog rock / metal epics, grooving indie jams, atmospheric ballads, and straightforward hard rock tracks all find their home here, and all of them certainly feel at home. Ascension may be a diverse little album (it runs for less than forty minutes, which is insane considering that C&C has never released anything shorter than fifty minutes before this record), but all of these songs still manage to gel together in a style that is unmistakably Coheed. Perhaps more importantly, this is a fun album, and certainly more entertaining than anything the band has done post-Good Apollo Part 1. This may be due in part to the return of drummer Joey Eppard, who had been absent from the band since the aforementioned Good Apollo. While his replacement Chris Pennie was a perfectly adequate drummer, his style was too safe for the band and more suited towards standard hard rock. With the return of Eppard, the band has regained its old groove, giving the songs more room to breathe thanks to Joey’s tendency to steer clear of rigid, predictable patterns.

Speaking of musicians, Claudio Sanchez sounds better here than he ever has. He sounds more in-control of his voice than he did when recording C&C’s first three albums, yet gone is the restraint he exhibited on the two albums prior to Ascension. Love or hate his voice, Sanchez gives an admirable and emotional performance here, from the crooning in title track The Afterman to the psychotic ramblings exhibited in Holly Wood the Cracked. His flexible voice suits the eclectic nature of Ascension incredibly well, and each track has something different to offer. Domino the Destitute is one of the better epics the band has ever written, a tense, heavy track with a meandering structure and dramatic vocal moments that evoke memories of The Willing Well series found on Good Apollo Part 1. Goodnight, Fair Lady is another highlight, an indie rock track sporting enough groove and catchy pop hooks to make this one of the definitive “gets stuck in your head” song of Coheed & Cambria’s catalog. Other high points include The Afterman, which begins atmospheric and romantic before chunky arena rock guitar chords barge in, while the short-but-sweet Holly Wood the Cracked acts as a spiritual sequel to fan-favorite Coheed track Al the Killer with its sinister verses and oddly beautiful chorus.

Not all of the songs here are great, and Ascension’s final third is its weakest link; the songs become less interesting, less energetic, and less weird. Yet despite these weak tracks, Coheed & Cambria has crafted a sound on The Afterman: Ascension that somehow feels more complete than any of their prior works. There is a vision at work here that comes together almost perfectly thanks to great performances, solid (as always) production, and mostly fantastic songwriting. It’s difficult to explain how, but each facet of the band’s sound unites wonderfully on Ascension in a way that, though not my favorite Coheed & Cambria album, makes it technically their best. The band has never been so focused in their vision, and it makes me incredibly excited and eager to see what they will bring us on their next album… but that’s right, this is part one of a double album! Stay tuned for my review of Descension where, in addition to a critique of the album, I will provide plot details and explain how Coheed & Cambria’s crazy, brilliant sci-fi concept fits into the framework of both albums.

Killing Songs :
Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute, The Afterman, Goodnight, Fair Lady, Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked
Kyle quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Coheed & Cambria that we have reviewed:
Coheed & Cambria - Year Of The Black Rainbow reviewed by Kyle and quoted 85 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 reviewed by Kyle and quoted 93 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - No World For Tomorrow reviewed by Ben and quoted 85 / 100
Coheed & Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV. Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness reviewed by Daniel and quoted 94 / 100
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