Sound Check: Coheed and Cambria’s The Afterman: Ascension
By Daniel Daw
There is something to be said about concept albums: Some fall flat on their face while others far exceed expectations. Coheed and Cambria’s most recent album, The Afterman: Ascension does just that, combining beautiful — and at times intense — music with interesting characterization and expertly crafted lyrics.
This album welcomes former drummer, Josh Eppard, and newcomer Zach Cooper; both musicians provide strengths on their respective instruments that truly add to this album.
The album begins with a somber instrumental track, “The Hollow.” Beginning with eerie yet calming piano, this track as a whole sets the tone for the entire album. There is a spoken track introducing a very creepy and inhuman voice that makes an appearance in a few later tracks.
Ascension continues to “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute.” The track features an excellent intro with a strong solo that really gets moving as the song goes on and as Claudio Sanchez’s vocals come in. At this point, the song picks up speed in a fashion reminiscent of the band’s earlier songs.
The title track, “Afterman,” provides a not-so-traditional ballad which is layered beautifully with an almost ethereal singing style. The song has a certain sadness to it; according to Sanchez, it was written after a very close friend of his wife had passed away. This song was the one to really cement this album and its sequel The Afterman: Descension — coming out in February of 2013 — as concept albums.
At first there seems nothing really off with “Goodnight, Fair Lady;” musically it sounds pretty charming, a nice bass and guitar line that really mesh well together with what is being sung — that is, until the lyrics become clear. After a few listens, the lyrics begin to sound pretty much like that one sleazy guy who always seems to hang around in bars.
Probably the best example would be the following chorus: “Turn me over, roll me around/ To find the truth that I don’t want found/ Oh, don’t believe everything you hear/ I’m the snake waiting for you and eventually you’ll come to me,” and “It’s my sin to be your biggest mistake.”
“Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher” is a tour de force of a song. Powerful vocals combined with the excellent instrumental qualities present through this album make this an incredibly strong track. The common theme through the album is the songs deal with a specific emotion or state of mind, in this track there is a passionate anger seeping through the music and the lyrics.
This album ends in a similar way that it began with “Subtraction.” It is somber but it brings forth a subtle happiness and a great one to close this album on.
Overall, this is a very strong album, with playing to a particular emotion and the human condition, whether it is a feeling of rising then falling, loss, anger and more. From what Coheed and Cambria brought to the table with this album it will be exciting to see what they give us in The Afterman: Descension.
Best Tracks: “The Hollow,” “Afterman” and “Key Extraction III: Vic the Butcher”