Coheed And Cambria – [Album]

Saturday, 16 February 2013

After the reasonably abysmal response that the band received for Year Of The Black Rainbow in 2010, fans began to get justifiably worried. After the first installment of The Afterman was released in late 2012 though, many critics projected that the days of Coheed And Cambria existing as a heavier than hell, mathy metal outfit were counting down quickly. As it turns out, Coheed And Cambria's critics were right; Descension (the band's seventh full-length album) plays even further into the light, glammy and decidedly “un-metal” form that Ascension was already morphing into. At the sight of those words, fans' hopes will immediately begin to droop but, surprisingly, Coheed And Cambria manages to pull the whole mess out of the fire and turn in a more promising result as they wind this conceptual arc out.

There's no doubt about the fact that Descension is a pretty light-handed affair but, as “Pretelethal” slides in to open these proceedings, at least the band implies they've grown into this sound a little better and are better able to give a more consistent presentation this time out. Here, singer Claudio Sanchez' acrobatic vocals swing easier with the more alt-rockish guitars installed in the song. Not only that, but the rhythm section manages to assert a strong presence for the first time in years. In that way, the band doesn't allow “Pretelethal” to be a stereotypical “metal” affair and that makes it more interesting; right at the beginning, listeners will have their expectations of Descension (many of which were set by this album's predecessor) cast off, and they'll be eager to see what that might mean.

Those who chase Coheed And Cambria through the front door of Descension will find themselves rewarded with a combination platter of different sounds for them to sample, but which don't keep the band's concept afloat. Immediately after “Pretelethal” lets out, “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant” seeks to contrast it as a rumbling acoustic guitar calls to mind the glory days of Days Of The New and Nickelback, but then the band shifts gears again and steers into what feels like an Eighties pop-metal anthem in the form of “The Hard Sell” – the mood of which carries over into “Number City” which updates the sound and turns it into a more new millennial strain of pop metal.

The first half of Descension does enjoy a bit of success certainly, but it could still be rightfully called a mixed affair; the ground beneath the band's thematic is still soft. There are a lot of sounds that metal and prog fans will scoff at quickly, and many of those keep on coming as “Away We Go” pops it out (and even includes a cringe-worthy “Jersey Girl” reference!), and then “2's My Favorite 1” mixes a bit of alt-rock that the band doesn't play well into the proceedings and they pretty much give up on the idea of making a concept record before this album's done. With nothing left to say but with more than enough space left to fill on this CD, Coheed And Cambria raid the (mostly acoustic) pool of demos they made while preparing to record Descension. To be fair, the demos included here do sound pretty cool, but they really diffuse the album; they do everything but further the plot and/or concept everyone thought the band was trying to present, and listeners will feel like it's entirely possible that the band got as lost in the plot as they did.

So, “Is The Afterman: Descension a good album or not?” Yes and no, dear reader; there's no question that Descension starts out stronger than Ascension did, but the problem is that it loses steam early and never recovers. Because it was supposed to the second half of a two-part concept series, there's no way that it could have simply been pared down to make it a stronger and more concise EP because the concept would still have been abandoned, so that doesn't make for a valid solution. “So,” you ask, “what would have helped?” Better songwriting and a better grasp of plot, mostly; there are flickers of promise here, but nowhere near enough to keep half of a concept album afloat.


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine Coheed And Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension[CD Review]
Ground Control Magazine Coheed And Cambria – Year Of The Black Rainbow[CD Review]


The Afterman: Descension
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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