Coheed and Cambria from Nyack, NY are a really unique and amazing band. I hated them at first. When I first heard their jam, “Delirium Trigger”, I turned to my buddy that I was hanging with and said, “Who is this band? This chick’s vocals suck.” I have since grown to rue those words. I absolutely love this band now. All of their releases are awesome in their own way. Their last album, Year of the Black Rainbow was their weakest work. Their album prior to that No World For Tomorrow was a step down from their three classics albums before that. This had me kinda worried about the status of this band and new album.
Thankfully their current album, The Afterman is amazing and a complete return to form. The first half of the double album, Ascension was one of my top 30 albums of 2012. This is the second part of the Afterman series. I am looking at this album as an individual release here but it is a part of a really amazing whole.
The whole album tells the full Afterman story so it makes sense that there are so many parallels across both parts. They parallel each other on the second track of both albums, pieces of the Key Entity Extraction set of songs. “Sentry the Defiant” and “Domino the Destitute” are both epic songs reminiscient of jams like “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3” or “Welcome Home”. Both are heavy, driving songs that have intricate guitar work, thundering drums and plenty of gang vocals. Also, the ballad rock song on each are very similar. “The Afterman” and “Dark Side of Me” both conjure up a well of emotion.
There is a really neat dynamic between the AI character (All Mother) and the protagonist, Sirius Amory. One of my favorite moments on the album is when the All Mother asks Sirius in “Dark Side of Me”, “You fought to withdraw from a location which has incited severe quantifiable pain and nearly terminated the mission. It nearly terminated your life. Yet you decided to set course to return to it. I am not equipped to understand human rationale. Sirius, is this what love is?” LONG PAUSE. With a barely audible response, Sirius replies, “Yes.” Powerful. The interaction between All Mother and Sirius throughout the disc makes for poignant skits that enhance the ambiance and mood of the album.
The album eases you in with Pretelethal. It is short and kind of pretty, asking the question, “Who will repair this broken heart?” The vocals are spacy and dance across a thumping bass line before the song kicks in, full force. The second song, “Sentry the Defiant” truly jumpstarts the album. This song is ‘the’ epic tune that this band does so well. It starts off with a lone guitar and then really kicks in. It hearkens back to the sound of the first three albums. That makes a lot of sense because it was helmed by Michael Birnbaum & Chris Bittner, the same geniuses that helmed their first three and most highly regarded albums.
In reference to the lyrical content, lead singer/songwriter Claudio Sanchez said that as much as he wrote this album as a part of the Amory Wars, there was a lot of personal stuff tossed in here as well. You can hear that in the lyrics here. “Oh you wear your façade so well, covered up in a plastic shell. You’re a liar to everyone around you, just don’t forget” and “Face the honest truth, you were never you. I’ll be defiant, the lion, give them a fight that will open their eyes.” I also loved the interaction between Sirius and the All Mother at the end of this song. Sirius- How long have we been away? All Mother-“Approximate evaluation-547 days” “Sirius, do you still want to go home?” It keeps you in the mindset of the story.
“The Hard Sell” has such a cool groove. More of those personal lyrics are interspersed here, “I stood by everything I loved. When you never understood me much” and “You’re selling out to be him.” The guitars definitely have a strong rock sound, they chug and they are heavy all the while being melodic and catchy. As much as I respect Chris Pennie, this is one of the songs that represents why I am really glad to have Josh Eppard back. His unique sound on the drum kit anchors the rhythm section and makes it great. It is awesome to have him back.
The next tune, “Number City” sounds like a funky 70s song. Try to not sing along to the chorus, “Honey, release my heart, if you, honey, release my heart, you let me go.” This song is so unique. I love the spacy sounds in the background and the horns are also a nice addition. The fun continues with the counting part at the end. This will be a blast to sing along to live.
“Gravity’s Union” is a gem. This song shines because of its epic scope and sound. It continues in the personal nature of story telling that reveals some of Sanchez’s life, “And I was wrong to let you go, I accept my mistake, but you will never know.” The end of this song brings to mind the soaring outros of the IKSSE:3 days. “CAGED. Locked in perpetual motion.” The band repeats this refrain over and over as the song fades out, and you get that epic sound and feeling that is so great. The ending of this song is tremendous.
“Away We Go” is just classic NJ-based Americana rock. This song feels kinda like a Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen song. This song is a neat little tune reminiscient of tracks like “33” and “A Favor House Atlantic” just a short catchy jam. The line, “Believe me, take my word. I’ll never break your heart and away we go. My little Jersey girl” is lovely. Coheed also has a knack for crafting catchy little acoustic tunes. “Iron Fist” continues that trend. The song has a really beautiful guitar solo. The combination of Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever create some great solos throughout the album.
The next song, “Dark Side of Me” is the perfect single. It is non-threatening and very groovy thanks to that thick bass line. As much as it is laid back, it has a really good build up. It also has some really great melodies. I love how Claudio’s voice trails off as he sings the title, which is great. I also love the line in the chorus, “There is no weight that can bury us beneath the ghosts of all our guilt, here on the dark side of me.” The woahs, and ohhhs make the song even more monumental! I almost can’t stand it how good it is.
“2’s My Favorite 1” is a great closer. There is more of that sentimental and personal side of Claudio Sanchez here with lines like, “Two hearts beat as one” and “You were my wish. I admit that I will never feel alone, once I call, you home.” The instrumentals are as beautiful as the words. Piano is a nice touch, and the harp as an outro is absolutely gorgeous. Such a lovely and subdued way to end it.
The Afterman album is the perfect return to form. I now have another example to cite when people say that there are no good double albums.