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Coheed And Cambria - The Afterman - Ascension CD (album) cover


Coheed And Cambria

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4 stars Make no bones about it, I am fanatically in love with his band. I am truly crazy about them. I have been for a while now; tangentially since In Keeping Secrets.. and actively since Year of the Black Rainbow. Back in the IKSOSE: 3 days I was aware of them and liked their singles but I never made the effort to explore their discography. What can I say? I was a kid. They didn't sound like Slipknot or System of a Down so I couldn't be bothered. Later on though, once I'd reached the age of refinement and Black Rainbow came around I immediately found myself foaming at the mouth with need for their music. I gobbled up as much Coheed as I could in a very short period of time and thus began a long-standing love affair between me and my favorite band, not close.

Coming in at Year of the Black Rainbow, I wasn't as.. offended by it, as others may have been. I didn't hate anything about it and still don't. Of course, later on, once I'd explored the rest of their material, I gradually grew away from it. I went through a long period of never touching it. I still don't think it's a bad album; quite the contrary, there are a lot of aspects of it that are quite good. But it was different, just enough that most people (myself included) didn't really enjoy it as much as previous albums. Come The Year of the Mayans and Coheed announces a double album: The Afterman, parts Ascension in October and Descension in the following February. With that announcement came the debut single: "Domino the Destitute"

It didn't click with me immediately but when it did I was absolutely blown away.

It was almost like Year of the Black Rainbow never happened. Coheed and Cambria had gone all the way back to the Good Apollo sound, and it was great! It's very much a return to form for the band, as is the rest of the album. This can be attributed most likely to the return of Josh Eppard, the band's original drummer. The creative connection between Eppard (brother of 3 frontman Joey Eppard, if you didn't know already) and Claudio gave a lot of what gave The Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 their charm. Appropriately, that charm has returned with Josh.

This nearly eight minute gets the album off to a great start and takes one all the way back to In Keeping Secrets.. and the lengthy title-track that followed the short intro. The Afterman: Ascension does it the same way: the second track, "Domino", is preceded by a gentle, piano-led intro titled "The Hollow" the sets the stage for the rest of the album. The track feels like it would be at home on a Good Apollo; it doesn't feel quite as overproduced as a Black Rainbow follow-up would be. Indeed, the compressed and loud production of that album is gone and in it's place is the more enjoyable, palatable production of albums beforehand. While it's not quite as good as In Keeping Secrets... it's roughly the same sort of sound present on the Good Apollo duology. I found it to be an acceptable medium between the two extremes; as much as I enjoy their second effort, I also enjoy the hard rock leanings of later efforts. But not to the extent that Black Rainbow went.

Though this isn't always true of The Afterman. "Goodnight, Fair Lady" seems to break this rule with it's crisp guitar and vocal performance. It's much less of a hard rock epic than "Domino" or even "Mothers of Men" two tracks later. It feels much more modest and less bombastic, as their third effort did in general. This nod to previous sounds continues in the next track, "Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked" which brings back the heavy guitar and loud production of Black Rainbow while invoking the hard rock leanings of Good Apollo Vol. II. These winks at the listener (remember what I said about short intro -> long progressive opener?) cannot be coincidences. I feel like The Afterman: Ascension is deliberately calling back to every trope that the band invoked before their 2010 release. The infections refrain of "Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher" is likely another one as it reminds one of the conclusion of "Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow)".

Lyrically, the album's big set piece is the Key Entity Extraction suite, which tells four stories concerning the previous lives of the souls that Sirius Amory.. well, extracts from the Keywork (which a triangle-shaped collective of planets being held together by some hitherto unknown force ostensibly consisting of the souls of the deceased). In the interim, we peek into the life of his wife, Mary, who is grief-stricken with his absence but eventually finds someone else. Sirius meanwhile encounters two hostile entities, a mad woman obsessed with celebrities by the name of Holly Wood and a serial killer named Vic. Our protagonist unfortunately ends up badly injured by the end of the second encounter and has lost a lot of blood. The final extraction, "Evagria the Faithful", is primarily Sirius's apology to his wife and his acceptance of his pending death.

Ultimately, as expected, the lyrics stuck with me. Whether it be through infectiousness or simply the weight behind the words. Also as expected, there is a double-meaning behind each song. Whereas each Key Entity Extraction is a look into the life of an extracted quintessence, they also explore something on Claudio's mind. "Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked", for instance, is also about a fan that had made videos (described by Claudio as 'bizarro') and sent them over Twitter to him and his wife. The first Extraction, "Domino the Destitute" is also Claudio's feelings toward former bassist Mic Todd and the unfortunate decisions he'd made as of late. Fans of Coheed and Cambria's lyrical aptitude will surely not be left wanting by this album by any means, as the principal lyricist has not yet begun to lose his touch.

The Afterman: Ascension is an excellent album. It's everything a Coheed and Cambria fan could ever want and a little more. It's a cheeky nod to previous material with a story all it's own, not to mention a complete abandonment of the deviation that Year of the Black Rainbow took. If you were a Coheed fan that was turned off by that album you can feel free to come back to the light side of the Force, for you've nothing to fear. You will not be disappointed.

Report this review (#838993)
Posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have been using prog archives for a long time to discover new music and I think a review from me has been long overdue. I am a huge Coheed and Cambria fan, having experienced them live in an intimate setting. However, I will try to rate this album objectively, from a Prog perspective. Thus ends my little disclaimer and begins the review.

In many ways Afterman is a return to form for Coheed. Gone is the overproduced and compressed sound we had in Black Rainbow. (Thankfully). And it is very reminiscent of some of their best work. But there are a three very large reasons why this album only gets a 3 star rating.

1. The album doesn't take them anywhere new. Coheed has changed their style through every album... not dramatically but in some small way for better or worse. Afterman does not really take them new places. Every song feels like a call back to a previous album. Hollywood the Cracked feels like a Black Rainbow song and Vic the Butcher feels like an In Keeping Secrets song, and Evagria feels like something from IV, and Subtraction is material straight up from Claudio's side project, Prize Fighter Inferno, and so on. While this approach was well-appreciated by many fans and myself, I still can't help feeling disappointed that they took the easy path and didn't give me any substantial change.

2. The Afterman is a double album but for some reason it has been split into two separately released parts. I'm not sure if this is for marketing reasons or what, but this is the same thing we saw with Pain of Salvation and the Road Salt saga. Just release the whole thing at once, I say. The album ending feels abrupt and the length short compared to their earlier work.

3. The All-Mother's voice. Ew. Sorry I just can't take this album seriously whenever it talks. And this album desperately wishes to be taken seriously.

Having said that, I enjoy each song on this album. For instance the first track, Domino, gives us a wow moment with the beginning guitar solo and slow build up. The first verse will grab you and get you ready for an excellent journey. Unfortunately, the song never really delivers on its promise. There are still great moments in it, but it is held back by a lack luster 'first chorus' and a couple dragging jam-sections with boxing dialogue in the background. Claudio's vocals are in good form here and the conclusion really pulls it together in an energetic and emotional ending. The other stand out track for me is Evagria, which feels more recycled than Domino, but still boasts great composition and enough variation to hold my attention.

In short this album gets 3 stars. A solid release for Coheed. Fans will be pleased with the new material that stays true to their style and personality. And those who are not fans could give Domino or Evagria a try. Good, but non-essential.

Report this review (#849049)
Posted Friday, November 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Coheed is back...with a new agenda.

Ok, I think everyone should know that I'm a massive fan of this band. From being in bands that basically where cover bands of this band and buying everything they own, yea, I have known them for a long time.

Now, the build up to this album was rather secretive, and its interesting because usually Coheed treat a new album like the second coming of Christ. It might be due to the fact these guys are now signed to there own label, and not to a major one anymore. So really, buying this album is buying each member of the band a cheap KFC. So you should buy it out of charity really.

Now on every album, Coheed do something different, and as usual, they can be notably seen. From the mixed reviews of Year Of The Black Rainbow from critics and fans alike, Coheed decided to ditch the weird production and dark Nine Inch Nails sounding atmospheres, and go back to songwriting, and it worked like a treat on this album.

The songwriting has actually become a lot more compact, and a maturer sound is really appearing on the album. The songs sound more contemporary at times and more to the point. The length of the album also helps the feeling of being "compact". It's over in heartbeat, and it feels like you just listened to a great string of songs, in order. Usually Coheed albums are a bit longer, and more filler moments can be heard, but this format really works well for the band, and the sequel to this album will also match the feelings felt on this album.

Now concept wise, the band have taken a different approach. Instead of one linear narrative, it focuses on different events and character profiles, as the protagonist Sirius Armory travels back to his past and sees the life through different characters eyes. An interesting idea for a concept, and a great idea to cover an entire double album (in fact, it reminds me a little bit of Ayreon's Flight Of The Navigator double album)

Musically, the band have changed a bit, especially with a new line up. Josh's return to the band has brought back the more rockier drum sound, and new bassist Zach Cooper is just an amazing bassist, who gives the album a certain warmness. Claudio's voice is also better than ever too. Also, I suggest seeing the band live (as I did in November) for an amazing experience. This band will always be dear to my heart.

1. The Hollow - An amazing intro to the album. The atmospheric keyboards, the creepy narration. Perfect way to keep a listener to keep on listening and wait for what's happening next. 10/10

2. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute - Ok, I have to admit. When this song was leaked, I was a bit obsessed with it. Out of all the Coheed epics, this is probably my favourite. Also, out of all their longer songs, this seems to be the most compact one. Nothing really gets boring, every section is as enjoyable and interesting as the next, and a lot of climaxes will be heard throughout. Also, it is probably one of Claudio's best lyrical moments. This definitely goes on the top of my list of favourite Coheed songs. 10/10

3. The Afterman ? One of Coheed's more softer moments. A very beautiful yet tragic song. The strings on this song are nice touch as well. 10/10

4. Mothers Of Men - One of my least favorite songs on the album, but when considering Coheed, that's like saying my least favourite cake. One of the more rhythmical songs on the album, with a very interesting arrangement throughout. 9/10

5. Goodnight, Fair Lady - A pop song about date rape. Only Coheed could get away with this. The date rape does add a touch of dark humour to the song, but other than that, its incredibly joyous and catchy. 10/10

6. Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood The Cracked - This would have been one of the shining moments on this album, the only problem I have with it is that it's too short (usually songs need to be cut down for some bands, Coheed need to make them longer). A more darker side to Coheed, and a flashback to some of the darker material on Year Of The Black Rainbow. One of the albums best chorus' as well. 9/10

7. Key Entity Extraction III: Vic The Butcher - The albums most rocking song. A great sing along chorus and some really kick ass fist in the air moments. This will run around your head through the next few days. 9/10

8. Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful - Probably one of the nicest Coheed softer moments. A very melodic tinged song with a very powerful chorus. I'm glad Josh is back as well, because the drumming on this song really is top notch and some of his best. 10/10

9. Subtraction - An odd way to end off an album, but rather pretty and nice. The arrangement I think is great too, especially the use of keyboards. I have heard that this was supposed to be a Prize Fighter Inferno song, so you can expect a few electronic glitches and soft keys. 9/10

CONCLUSION: This may not be my favourite Coheed album, but after thinking it through, this may be the album that I would give to someone if they wanted to get into Coheed, because it really has everything, and a little bit more. The band have changed a lot over the years, but there's eve stabs back at there older sounds, and even more on the 2nd part of this album (which I will review at some point as well). The shortness of the album also helps a lot more. A very compact little package. Also its Coheed, so expect a masterpiece of music and songwriting.


Report this review (#897542)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars *Lots of Potential Spoilers*

I had listened to Coheed for a couple of years before I ever looked into the ACTUAL STORY that was taking place. I really just liked the music (for the most part) and tried to figure it out on my own. Then time passed and I just kind of... forgot to find out what was actually going on? I don't know, I listen to a lot of music and it's a pretty big dedication to read tons of backstory (in addition to other comics I keep up with). But when I heard about the Afterman duo, I decided it was probably about that time (considering how far back it goes in the storyline). These albums have a special place in my heart, they motivated me to do my research.

When I first heard "Domino the Destitute" (later to be known as "Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute") I was not impressed. Upon first listen, it seemed very basic and though I would later come to enjoy it, I kept wishing for more from the album. It was the radio edit and it lacked the flavor I would later find DID, in fact, exist in this eight-ish minute long anthem of the downward spiral.

When the video hit the net, I lost my poop.

There had been several incredibly key points that didn't make the radio waves. Points that made this 2D track 3D and all-encompassing. The video told the story and it gave me chills, a goosebump inducer to boot! That was when my interest in the entire project went from "uh oh" to "THERE IT IS!"

Like many Coheed fans, the first thing I heard of either album was Claudio's acoustic demo of "Sentry the Defiant." There were few things I wanted more than to hear a studio version of it. But I was kind of irked to see it wasn't in the track list, and would be on the following album. No, the Children of the Fence and I would end up waiting a year for that slice of awesome. But that story is for another review.

A:A delivers on its name with the simulation of the rise and the pressure built from the ascent, which causes damage to the eventual vessel that is Syrius Amory (the protagonist of the tale) will accrue. You will quickly find that his ascent is not exactly a heavenly rise into Peaceville. . It's really more of a "the higher up you are, the harder the impact of the ground" tale. Though it has very beautiful moments, such as the title track "The Afterman" and the forlorn "Evagria the Faithful," the events taking place are sometimes a little unsettling. Such as the "Goodnight, Fair Lady," which oddly enough is probably one of the more songs you'll hear about someone trying to DATE RAPE a woman (Amory's wife) by putting a Forget-Me-Now in her drink. But because it sounds like a Rush rock opera/musical, it's easy for the actual words to go over your head if you haven't heard Claudio explain what it's about via Youtube video. It would actually be a great tune to serenade a dame with if it weren't for the underlying menacing vibes. I would love to cover it in a public setting, but I also don't want to roll the dice on whether or not I will EVER SEE A VAGINA AGAIN BECAUSE OF IT. Still, a great little ditty!

The Key Entity Extractions were definitely the heavy hitters of the album. They pull you into the emotion the spirits (Domino, Holly Wood, Vic, Evagria) were experiencing at the end of their lives. Domino falls to his vices and poor decisions, so you feel the fall. Holly's vanity took over her mind and resulted in violent action. Vic... well Vic's a [%*!#]in' asshole, so the anger and destruction is very present in his memories. Evagria, love and loss.

The song's final track, "Subtraction," I have a hard time fully enjoying. It's by no means a bad song, I just thought it was better suited for Claudio's side project, "Prize Fighter Inferno." I would later find out that it was originally intended for PFI. So every time I hear it it pulls me out of the C&C element. Granted, both projects have stories based in the same universe... but they're so very different styles. It serves as an alright cliffhanger for the next album, so I try not to see it as the "last track" of the album. I try to see it more as a beginning to the midpoint of the whole picture.

A major change in approach with this album is Claudio's vocal parts. His voice seems to have matured in some way, so you won't hear his high parts if you have hangups about his voice sounding "ladylike" on occasion (I definitely thought it was a chick singing when I heard them for the first time in high school, and I know I'm not the only one who thought that when "A Favor House Atlantic" hit my head. Though I've gotten used to it and now really dig it, I can definitely see why Claudio's past vocal choices turn some people off to their music.

Sanchez has become a better story teller, no longer relying on graphic novels to fill in the blanks. The segues seem less random and more supplemental to the story. It is another era in the Coheed & Cambria lore, and in a way it's them at their best. I wouldn't say "The Afterman" is their best work to date, but it's definitely a new angle on a story that is still being told. If I was introducing someone to the work of C&C, I would probably start with something from "Ascension" or "Descension." They've learned a lot of things about songwriting and it shows in these albums. People that are very anti-Coheed probably aren't going to get into this, but I say give it a shot if you're open to the possibility that MAYBE... just maybe... you'll hear something you like.

Report this review (#987620)
Posted Friday, June 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After a couple of unremarkable albums, including the truly awful Year of the Black Rainbow, which simultaneously was too ambitious and aso had very little in the way of actual execution of any ideas, all complete with the terrible production, Coheed and Cambria managed to redeem themselves with The Afterman. What happened here is that much of the songwriting was cleaned up and made more consice, integrating the catchy hooks and riffs into the songs without compromising any impact or complexity. While the songs here may be more simplistic compared to those on the larger scale albums, especially the Good Apollo duology, these are undoubtedly some of the best songs that the band has ever put out, and this is definitely one of my favourites by Coheed and Cambria.

While The Hollow starts things off in an atmospheric, pleasant way that ultimately sets the tone for the album, it's on the band's greatest song Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute that things kick into high gear. As is customary with any C&C album, the frst true track is both one of the best on the album, and is an anthemic epic that will both cause you to pump your fists in the air and then have the majority of it staying in your head for ages. Domino the Destitute takes both of these aspects, and then amps everything up, telling an entire story, containing some truly epic riffs, and managing to be both incredibly emotional and downright awesome. It's also clear that this is one of the band's proggiest songs, having a distinct chorus, but the rest of the song moving along through countless verses and melodies, each one incredibly memorable, which makes it an absolute blast to repeatedly listen to, as the song is unpredictable, yet easy to listen to. Other songs take on a more conventional approach, such as the pleasant, subdued title track that encompasses a lot of the pop elements present in the band's discography, but still sounding really unique in the sense of the soft riffs with a really lovely guitar tone, all brought together by the symphonic instruments adding another layer of beauty. Mothers Of Men is another song that provides interest, with harder hitting riffs that would often signify an upbeat, energetic song, instead being another one that's fairly slow in pace, both working well, with the signature C&C sound, mixing pop punk and pop with proggy elements and a bombastic storyline. My second favourite section of the album is the 2 next songs in the Key Entity Extraction suite, both being some of their most heavy and energetic material. Hollywood the Cracked is a heavy, abrasive song filled with distortion and screaming, that then is elevated to whole new heights once Claudio Sanchez begins singing cleanly, unleashing some of the best high notes in his career and just in general being at some of his absolute best in terms of vocal work. While the song is over quickly, the noise in the last 30 seconds or so acts as a brilliant precursor to Vic the Butcher, which is incredibly energetic and is one of those songs that I find incredibly hard to not sing along to. I love the certain demented quality it has to it with the creepy backing vocals and the lyrics describing one of my favourite pieces of lore by the band.

Overall, despite there being a couple of moments that interest me less than others, the album as a whole is easily one of Coheed and Cambria's best, with tight songwriting and incredible hooks and instrumentation in general, being varied, yet never to the point where it becomes cumbersome. I prefer The Afterman: Ascension to Descension, despite both being very good, and this one being more rock oriented, while Descension was far more eclectic. I'd recommend that a newcomer to the band would still either start with their second or thrid album, due to being more indicative of the band's overall sound, but this is an excellent album for sure.

Best songs: Domino The Destitute, Hollywood the Cracked, Vic the Butcher

Weakest songs: Goodnight, Fair Lady

Verdict: Less proggy than some of their past works, but definitely for the better, putting some sort of restraint on their ambitions, causing the album to not get out of hand in the same way that year of the Black Rainbow did. While this is part 1 of a 2 album series, you can honestly listen to this by itself if you want to, as Subtraction ends the album in a way that does provide closure, although I'd still recommend to listening to both in a row.

Report this review (#2220868)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2019 | Review Permalink

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