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Having explored many vast and expansive sagas in cinema and literature, it became apparent to me that the most engrossing stories seem fraught with loss, agony, personal perils and strife. The darkest tales seem the most intriguing to the human intellect— the unexplored corners of the universe or our own psyches the most compelling. The same, I believe, is true of musical material. This certainly became more apparent to me upon receiving and listening to The Afterman: Decension, the latest record from Coheed and Cambria (admittedly one of my top-five all-time favorite bands).


As the name implies, Decension is a darker, grittier record than its predecessor, Ascension (you can read our review of that record here). The songs feel heavier, the tone more ominous and the emotional arcs of the characters more despairing and chaotic. That is not to say the entire album is bleak by any means, but the prevailing mood is gloomy when you consider the future of the universe in this saga and the characters that inhabit it.

While this may not sound like the perfect solution to synthesize meritorious material from, this installment of the Amory Saga is profoundly moving. Descension, as a whole, is as engaging and provoking as any of their previous efforts. Similar to the commonly-held belief that The Empire Strikes Back is the supreme installment in the Star Wars saga because of its grim tone and jarring revelations, we often learn the most about characters by seeing how they respond in the gravest of circumstances.


The parallel most readily apparent to me upon completing my screening of this album is the feeling I had upon hearing From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness for the first time. As a follow-up to In Keeping Secrets… the record had a lot to live up to. With that said, From Fear delivered in spades. I personally feel that album is as close to perfection one can get, because the material on that record was relentless. Every song built seamlessly on the last and there was never a moment where my attention or enjoyment waned. I will now say the same for Decension.

Coheed-and-Cambria-Lindsey-Byrnes-1While feelings of loss, self-doubt or loathing run rampant through Coheed‘s catalog, the themes are presented on this new record with particular flourish. As life informs art, I’m sure the band’s arduous journey over the last few years certainly informed the material on these last two efforts. I would also imagine the return of founding member Josh Eppard to the fold was a bit of an emotional elixir as well.


I should admit that the groundwork for my loving this record was laid long ago. I saw Coheed live while they were on the road in support of Year of the Black Rainbow in May, 2011. The band began their performance with an acoustic set, and at that time played a newly penned tune entitled, “Iron Fist.” That particular concert lasted two-and-a-half hours and showcased a wide array of the group’s greatest material. However, I ultimately left the venue humming, “Iron Fist.”  I could not wait to hear that track realized in-full on an album.


Concurrently, when Claudio first debuted his unplugged, artfully-shot video of, “Sentry the Defiant,” I was similarly smitten. Both songs were instant classics to me and I was eager to encounter how the tunes would evolve when fully-orchestrated by the band. By a bit of luck (or the band’s good sense), both tunes are contained on Descension; thus, I was predisposed to adore this record.


Taking that into account, I was absolutely blown away by how consistently addictive each track on this album is. The hooks are so prevalent throughout the record that your brain will scarcely contain them as they jockey for a position at the forefront of your focus. Taking nothing away from their last three albums (which were all glorious in my estimation), there is an urgency and vitality that surges from track to track on Decension that truly separates it from the pack. It absolutely parallels From Fear with how densely packed the compositions are with astonishing guitar work, as well as Sanchez’s patented anthemic bridges, choruses and lyrics that relentlessly attack your subconscious long after the listening has ended.

If you are a Coheed fan, The Afterman: Decension will absolutely ensnare your ear from the very first spin. The dynamic undulates wonderfully within each arrangement, making the listening a compelling and wholly satisfying experience. This is the band’s first effort that enveloped me as inescapably as From Fear did… and that’s an impact I cannot overstate, given that record holds a place in my desert-island top-five. There is not a single track on Decension I wouldn’t submit as a piece of exemplary songwriting. Thus, I cannot make recommendations for outstanding tracks, as they all had me riveted. It would be akin to immersing one’s hand in a bucket of ravenous piranha and being asked to point out which bit hardest.


I imagine I should conclude this love-letter, lest I salivate over the band so significantly that they seek a restraining order. However, I cannot recommend this record more heartily.


Brace for impact, ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who claimed that Coheed and Cambria was falling apart… I assure you, they are back and better than ever.


To quote Sentry, “Don’t close the coffin yet… I’m alive.”


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