At the tail end of 2012 Coheed and Cambria released The Afterman: Ascension, the first volume of the double album prequel to the previous album that was a prequel to the story in the other albums. Makes perfect sense, right?. January saw its follow up The Afterman: Decension released and I have had it playing almost non stop. I enjoyed Ascension a lot, but for me the icing has been added to the already very tasty cake in volume two.
It’s well documented there’s a story and mythology throughout Coheed and Cambira’s discography, but I’ve rarely found any record to feel like it has a start, middle and end in traditional story format. Regardless of the fact that I discovered my interpretation of the story is completely wrong after many hours spent scouring the forums of fan site Cobalt and Calcium, the album is much stronger for the feeling of a concise piece of fiction.
However, if you wanted to listen to a story, you’d have bought an audiobook; the music here is what matters. The album is a superb mix of everything that Coheed has offered in the past from the longer epics, here in the form of “Sentry the Defiant” and “Gravity’s Union”, the heavier brooding songs such as “The Hard Sell”, and power pop in closer “2’s My Favourite 1” and “Away We Go”, one of the cheesiest tunes the band has ever created.
There are some stellar highlights too; most notably “Number City”, which is a fusion of funk, jazz and pop. It’s initially quite odd with a deliciously enjoyable bass line throughout, some crazy jazz style trumpet, but is simply a hugely enjoyable song even if its lyrics are like an episode of General Hospital. Be warned that if you’re listening to it in the car, half way through is an ambulance siren that more than once has had me looking around for blue lights.
“Sentry the Defiant” is one of my favourite songs and I think the best of the character based “Key Entity Extraction” series, the first four parts of which appeared on Ascension. It’s the final three tracks though that seals the deal for me. Firstly, “Iron Fist”, an introspective acoustic/electronic track with regret filled lyrics. I can imagine it being written as a much heavier song, but it works so well as it is that I can’t imagine it any other way, especially when it steps up the final few minutes and introduces a quirky backing vocal.
“Dark Side of Me” and “2’s My Favourite 1” are polar opposites of each other and bring a beautiful ending to the tale of Decension. The latter is quite depressing as its protagonist destroys themselves from the inside, yet finds redemption, love and happiness during the undeniably cheerful album closer. The cheerfulness is let down slightly by a melancholic outro, though that does serve to bookend the double album when listening to both back to back.
I suspect Decension is destined to become one of my favourite Coheed albums. It’s a perfect complement to Ascension and I reckon better than Year of the Black Rainbow, although it maybe doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Good Apollo albums. Regardless, I’ve played it considerably since its release resulting in the band knocking Lamb of God off the top of my personal all time Last.fm chart.
I’d argue there still wasn’t any purpose in splitting The Afterman tale in two. It would have worked just as well if not maybe better as an epic 20 track album. Hell, knowing Coheed and Cambria though, a 20 plus track behemoth might well be lined up for the next chapter in the ever expanding Amory Wars universe.