Coheed and Cambria are probably one of the most interesting bands in the world, for several different reasons. Not only are they incredible musicians with an incredible work ethic, they are also the only band that has come even remotely close to taking Rush‘s crown for making prog music not only cool again, but also making it relevant and inventive. Giving it substance as opposed to just pandering to musicians. The single most interesting thing about Coheed and Cambria is that they have created an entire universe, literally, that their music inhabits and has subsequently branched out into the realm of comic books and graphic novels as well as a soon to be produced by Mark Wahlberg motion picture.
The band’s first five albums take place during The Amory Wars which was set in the world of Heaven’s Fence, a collection of 78 planets interconnected by the Keywork, and saw the rise of the Kilgannon Family (The titular Coheed & Cambria, along with their son Claudio) who fought against the tyrannous Wilhelm Ryan, the saga concluded with the bands last album “Year Of The Black Rainbow” which was also the stories prequel.
It is with that knowledge in mind that the bands latest album “The Afterman: Ascension” can be seen as the Prometheus to the The Amory Wars’ Alien, in the sense that whilst the stories take place in the same fictional universe they are very much separate from each other.
“The Afterman: Ascension” focuses on the story of Sirius Amory, the wars namesake, and whilst its not entirely clear whether the album takes place before or after the war, one would have to assume that Sirius has a part in it, but this story particularly focuses on his journey around the Keywork and some of the people he encounters along the way.
I’ll admit that I was never a massive Coheed fan until I heard “Year Of The Black Rainbow” then I started paying attention and worked backwards through their catalogue, so it was with some anticipation that I waited for the release of this album and I can tell you now that it did not disappoint. From the 2001: A Space Odyssey feel of opening track ‘The Hollow’ all the way to the 30-Seconds-to-Mar-esque finale of ‘Subtraction’ this is Coheed and Cambria at their heaviest and their most immediate. The tracks on this album appear to be a lot shorter than on previous records and with the whole album clocking in at just shy of 40 minutes not a single moment on here is wasted.
The crunching electronic edge on ‘Key Entity Extraction II: Hollywood’, ‘The Cracked’ and ‘Key Entity Extraction III: Vic The Butcher’ are some of the heaviest and most pounding straight up metal songs that the band has ever written. They show that they can hang with the big boys when they want to. Also displaying a somewhat darker more sinister side to the band they have kept hidden until now.
‘Mothers of Men’ has a guitar intro reminiscent of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Beat It’ it also features a beautiful female vocal that works well playing off of the main vocal from Claudio Sanchez, its one of the many moments of beauty that soar amongst the darkness on this album. ‘Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria The Faithful’ being another moment of pure pop brilliance that features some an incredible bass line as well as world music style tribal drums,
The title track is a subtle spacey dreamy track that works as a perfect bridge between the more guitar driven ‘Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute’ and the aforementioned ‘Mothers of Men’.
The great thing about “The Afterman: Ascension” is that it is never a slave to its concept, each track has its own identity and is allowed to breathe and be its own entity whilst at the same serving a higher purpose throughout the course of the album, it also serves as a tantalising precursor to the second part of the story in the form of “The Afterman: Descension” which will be the second part of the story and the focus of the second album in the Afterman series.
It is hard to say which parts of their universe or which colourful characters Coheed and Cambria will throw into the mix next, but we can rest safe in the knowledge that with each new release Coheed and Cambria are becoming a more stronger musical entity and that they are only just starting to scratch the surface of their creativity, and the sky truly is the limit for the space boys from New York.