The mythos behind Coheed and Cambria’s concept album career is exhausting. Along with five albums, there are comics and graphic novels that broaden the story of The Amory Wars to a dizzying scope. Finally, it seemed, the initial story behind the characters of “Coheed” and “Cambria” was completed with 2010’s Year of the Black Rainbow. Then the band announced a double album, to be released in two parts, giving the back story behind everything they had previously released. Entitled The Afterman: Ascension and The Afterman: Descension, the two albums follow Sirius Amory as he shoots into space to discover what makes “The Keywork” function.
Confused yet? Don’t worry; you don’t need the storyline to enjoy the music. The Afterman: Descension picks things up where Ascension, released in October 2012, left off and sees Coheed and Cambria experimenting while preserving their prog-via-emo rock sound, all with mixed results.
Descension has the bombast of previous efforts in songs like “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant” and “The Hard Sell”. The former is more emo and the latter more metal, but both will satisfy longtime fans. Softer ballads like “Iron Fist” and “Away We Go”, on the other hand, lack the power of the aforementioned tracks, a forgettable stretch unfortunately in the middle of the album.
Then there’s “Number City”, which introduces an almost indie rock vibe. Opening with a funk-inspired, Nine Inch Nails-fuzz bass line, the music blows open into a bouncing guitar line and trudging drum beat leased out by Modest Mouse. Later on, they toss in some bursts of brass and doubled vocals shedding a whole new light to the band — and a few turned pages to the album’s story.
All the songs showcase lead singer and resident myth-maker Claudio Sanchez’s powerful, emotional voice– the band’s strongest weapon. While Descension lacks the razor hooks of “A Favor House Atlantic”, it does have Sanchez at his most visceral. His growl and howl on “The Hard Sell” are reminders that he has some of the best pipes around– and that he has more than one way of using them, unlike many others.
The Afterman: Descension will keep old fans happy, but it won’t be gaining new ones. It’s not that the storyline is too involved; it’s just that Coheed and Cambria have been doing this same thing for nearly a decade. But if “Number City” is any indication, they might find that more sonic experimentation and less complication suits them well.
Essential Tracks: “Number City”, “The Hard Sell”, and “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant”