Music Monday: Coheed & Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension and Descension

Albums: The Afterman: Ascension and The Afterman: Descension by Coheed & Cambria

Released: October 9th, 2012 (Ascension) and February 5th, 2013 (Descension) 

Band Info:
Coheed & Cambria is an American progressive rock band that formed in 1995 in Nyak, New York and released their first full-length album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, in 2002. Fraught with line-up changes in the mid-late 2000’s, the band currently consists of founding members Claudio Sanchez (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Travis Stever (lead guitar, backing vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards, backing vocals), and bassist Zach Cooper who joined the band in 2011. Coheed & Cambria are known for their use of odd time signatures, concept albums based on a science fiction story by Sanchez, and their rabid fanbase. The band has released eight studio albums; the first seven albums all focus on the Kilgannon family and their role in the war to save the worlds they live on from the evil Tri-mage Wilhelm Ryanwith, while 2015’s The Color Before the Sun is the only non-concept record. The band returned to the sci-fi concept with their newest album, Vaxis – Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures, which was released on October 5th.

Band Photo
Coheed & Cambria circa 2012

**Spoiler Alert – Story Details Ahead**

The Story and the Songs:
The story of The Afterman is about Sirius Amory; the scientist who discovered the Keywork and found its use as an energy system. This takes place years before the events of Year of the Black Rainbow, and sets up a new protagonist.

Ascension
“The Hollow” is a typical introduction track that includes dialogue between Sirius and the All-Mother, his ship’s computer. He is on a mission to go into the beams of energy that connect the planets of Heaven’s Fence, and the unknown can be heard through the synthesizers passing through a mysterious keyboard part. As Sirius enters the energy field, he suddenly sees the life of a boxer in “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute”. A return to the band’s prog-rock past, this song has multiple movements within and tells the story of a boxer who wanted to be the champion so badly that he fell in with gangsters and reaped his deadly reward. Sirius’s ship is destroyed in the energy and his wife, Meri, learns of this in “The Afterman”; she believes him to be dead and struggles with the separation of finding out through the news. “Mothers of Men” makes use of a riff reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, and tells the point of view of the souls in the Keywork. “Goodnight, Fair Lady” is about Sirius’s wife being hit on by a sexual predator in a bar; this disturbing subject matter is juxtaposed by the playful pace of the music as she is saved by a police officer who she soon begins to spend time with.

The story returns to Sirius in the Keywork as he sees the life of a disturbed fan of fame in “Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked”. Her story is blown apart by the entrance of Vic, a former military general who committed atrocities during his lifetime in “Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher”. As Sirius’s strength fades, a calming spirit finds him and “Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful” describes his coming back from the brink as he is saved by the entity. “Subtraction” references the previous album in its use of sampling and acoustic guitar as Sirius yearns to be back home with Meri, bringing the first part of the story to its conclusion.

Descension
“Pretelethal” brings more intensity and foreshadows the darkness ahead; as Sirius floats into another entity, he hears the story of Sentry, who was hung by Vic for refusing an order in “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant”. Sirius is found and wonders at how he will tell the world that the energy they use comes from the souls of the dead in “The Hard Sell”, which features a guitar solo that is reminiscent of Pink Floyd. “Number City” stomps in with its bass drum and follows the pattern of difficult subject matter in a fun song as it describes Sirius and his wife getting into a car accident and him trying to make sense of it. The accident itself is told in the prog-rock powerhouse, “Gravity’s Union”, that details the regret Sirius feels as his wife is in critical condition.

The slowing EKG beeps in “Away We Go” lead into a surprisingly positive song about Meri passing from the world of the living. “Iron Fist” and “Dark Side of Me” see Sirius moving through his grief at his wife’s death and wishing he had been kinder to her before her passing. However, it occurs to him that he may see her again in the Keywork, and “2’s My Favorite 1” has him plan to return with renewed vigor.

The Afterman: Ascension and The Afterman: Descension work as a connected piece and on their own; each album has a different tone and yet feels like part of the whole. The is a lot of variety in these albums, so any fan of the band can find at least one track to grab onto, whether it is the heavier “Gravity’s Union” and “Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute” or the ballad “Dark Side of Me”. This double album brought a lot of new fans to the fold and encouraged those disappointed by the previous album to stick around with its callbacks to the band’s earlier catalog. The reason I know so much of the story is that I was able to preorder the deluxe version of the album that came with art done by Nathan Spoor for each individual track and song explanation written by Sanchez.

Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from each album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!

Song recommendations: Ascension: “Mothers of Men” , “Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher” , “Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful” Descension: “Number City” , “Gravity’s Union” , “2’s My Favorite 1”

The Afterman Vinyl.JPG
My vinyl copies of The Afterman: Ascension and The Afterman: Descension.
1
The slip case and covers of the Deluxe edition.
2
Art by Nathan Spoor and the lyrics of the song “Evagria the Faithful”.
3
Story explanation and behind the scenes commentary for one of the tracks.
4
Facsimile of the Sirius Amory Award from the story.

Social Media:
Band Website
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube

Previously: Year of the Black Rainbow

The images featured in this post can be found through the hyperlinks below.
Album Cover – Ascension
Album Cover – Descension
Band Photo

 

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