Coheed And Cambria - The Afterman: Descension

A thoroughly thrilling entry in to Coheed and Cambria’s rich canon.

Label: V2 / Everything Evil

Rating: 7

Coheed and Cambria are nothing if not ambitious. The scale of their anthemic style defines them, and it can be summed up by the massive scope of their two-part concept album ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV’. The two volumes that make up that career-defining epic are both packed to burst with big choruses, bigger riffs and a loose but grandiose narrative. Those two albums were released eight and six years ago respectively, and after them, one would be expected to ask “but where do they go from here?” The answer to that was ‘Year Of The Black Rainbow’, a slight stumble for the band that nonetheless had its fair share of gems in the likes of ‘Guns Of Summer’ and ‘Here We Are Juggernaut’. After that though, Coheed and Cambria were keen to prove that their ambitions hadn’t dimmed slightly, and they launched into another two-album-long concept. The first part, ‘The Afterman: Ascension’ was released last year, and the second part. ‘The Afterman: Descension’ is nothing if not an incredible entry into the band’s canon, a fitting follow-up to a brilliant first part, and yet more evidence that there are few bands in metal today who are truly suited to wearing their bombastic nature on their sleeve.
Of course, one would be remised not to mention that there has been a narrative that runs through every single Coheed album, a continuing story for which ‘The Afterman’ is just another section. The scale of this epic is loose and conflicting, so for anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan, it would be simply baffling to attempt to sum up the whole thing concisely. The Afterman itself though is the story of a scientist who discovers the force that binds the 78 planets together that forms the ‘Heaven’s Fence’ alternate universe in which Coheed And Cambria’s story takes place. While this might sound strange to those unfamiliar with the band, none of that has to matter, as what’s most important is that each individual song on this album can be taken on its own, played out of context, and still work fantastically.
Opener ‘Pretelethal’ is a soft introduction to ease listeners in, but from that point on every song moves forward at an incredible pace. A number of songs feature brief intros and outros tying them into the story, but in between there are some of Coheed’s best songs in their lengthy back catalogue. For instance, ‘Gravity’s Union’, clocking in at just under seven minutes and featuring a number of varying time signatures and key changes, is pure joy for any Coheed fan, and although new listeners may be taken aback at first, the chorus is sure to blow anyone away. Indeed, this is undoubtedly the band’s forte, and there’s barely a song on the album that isn’t boosted to another level by a soaring chorus.
One criticism that could be levelled at Coheed and Cambria is that although the scope of their ambitions is undoubtedly grandiose, stylistically they remain stuck in a rut. These detractors may indeed have a point, and listening to their music in a marathon session can occasionally create an air of fatigue, but their style works, and when you go into it fresh, there’s nothing quite like them. On one occasion, early album song ‘Number City’, they do venture into drastically new terrain musically and it doesn’t really work. It almost sounds like a funk-metal crossover, then brings in a horn section, and it just feels disjointed. So perhaps they benefit from sticking to what they know and doing it very, very well.
There’s nothing much astoundingly new in ‘The Afterman: Descension’. There are some incredible songs, and almost every one has a moment where the band show just why they have the fervent following they do. ‘Dark Side Of Me’ is a brilliant ballad for their canon, and songs like the aforementioned ‘Gravity’s Union’ and ’2’s My Favourite 1’ will blow away first-time listeners and ardent fans alike. There’s a slight dipping point of ‘Away We Go’ and ‘Iron Fist’, and this album doesn’t stand up quite as well as either of the ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star’ epics, but nonetheless this is a thoroughly thrilling entry in to Coheed and Cambria’s rich canon, and it’s sure to fill the appetite of fans and new entries to Coheed’s bizarre and baffling world.