Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Coheed and Cambria's 'The Afterman: Descension' - Album Review

It was only last October that Sci-fi progressive rockers Coheed and Cambria released their sixth album The Afterman: Ascension so fans of the niche band were overjoyed when the companion piece The Afterman: Descension was released earlier this month. I have been a fan of the band for a good few years now and have enjoyed all of their albums up to this point for different reasons. Melody is always a factor in their songs, and despite complex song structures and plenty of technical guitar work - they never let this get in the way of a good tune. Ascension held a few of the band's best songs to date, with Goodnight, Fair Lady deserving a quick mention as one of the best songs that Thin Lizzy never wrote. I included the album in my Top 10 albums of 2012 list that I wrote for this blog. Descension really needs to be seen as the sequel to that album. While they could be enjoyed on their own, The Afterman albums really form one piece of work and could have easily been released as a double album. I am glad that Coheed and Cambria decided to release them separately though as this gave us chance to really get to grips with the first part before the second part came out. Often with double albums I find that there is a lot of filler, but maybe this is because the task of sitting through the double album is so daunting that I never really get the chance to focus on each track and uncover some hidden gems. That problem is alleviated here and as a result most of the material shines through.

The album starts with Pretelethal which is half an intro track and half a proper song. It follows on from where Ascension left off and sets the tone for the album with some delicate acoustic guitar and effect-drenched vocals from frontman Claudio Sanchez before breaking into a fully-fledged rocker that seems to bleed apprehension and despair through your speakers. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant is up next. Again, the song starts off with an acoustic guitar before a typical Coheed-style riff comes in that leads the song throughout. The verses are very bassy, featuring some great work from Zach Cooper before a soaring chorus with great lead guitar takes the song to the next level. Like the previous album, the band have largely removed soloing from their sound - instead focussing on the melodies to carry the instrumental sections of the song. This only serves to further implement their strong guitar lines into your brain - and they do not leave quickly! The Hard Sell follows and it has all the hallmarks of a classic Coheed and Cambria song. I am always amazed how much melody the band seem to get out of relatively simple guitar riffs and lines. Credit must go to Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever for continually coming up with so many memorable riffs. There is another very memorable chorus here, followed by one of the few solos that appears on the The Afterman albums. It is short and bluesy but fits the song really well and just adds to the overall melody. Up next is Number City and this features an almost 80s new wave sound that is a totally new avenue for the band. It does not sound like it should work, but it is a really great song and in my opinion, one of the best on the album. It is led by a driving bassline from Cooper before some Andy Summers' style guitar comes in. In fact this sounds like Duran Duran covering a song by The Police, as it has halmarks from both bands - yet it still sounds like Coheed and Cambria. A horn section helps to create the overall sound of the track and the chorus is so cheesy yet brilliant!

The next highlight is the arena rock stylings of Away We Go. With a sound akin to a demented version of U2, this is dark pop rock at its finest. The song soars yet remains accessible and would work well as a single. At times, the guitar work in the verses reminds me a little of Marillion's Sugar Mice - I wonder if the band are Marillion fans? The first single from the album is the introspective Dark Side of Me. It starts off as a slow-burning reflecting number before it really opens up into a anthemic rocker with a chorus that really sinks into your brain over repeated listens. You can really feel Sanchez's emotions oozing out of the speakers and while the song might sound slightly cliché, you cannot help but connect with the band and get involved in the emotions of the song. It is accompanied by an equally dark video that helps to bring the feelings of the song to the fore. The album closes with 2's My Favorite 1. It seems to sum up everything featured over the two The Afterman albums and contains some more melodic guitar work and some great vocals from Sanchez. It has a slightly more optimistic feel to it after the darker previous numbers. Coheed and Cambria's songs usually feature a darker content despite the overtly melodic nature so it is nice to hear a song that is genuinely uplifting from them. There is also a beautiful musical outro that brings the whole The Afterman saga to an end featuring some slow burning keyboard work. Overall, I would say that this album is every bit as good as Ascension and between them make a formidable piece of music that stands up with everything the band have ever done. Coheed and Cambria are always just bubbling below my favourite bands but with such a strong catalgue I may have to start re-evaluating them. These are some albums that I shall be enjoying for years to come!

The album was released on 5th February 2013 via Hundred Handed/Everything Evil Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Dark Side of Me.

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