"The Afterman: Ascension"Concept albums can be a death sentence. Not that they should be avoided like the plague. But to have a singular plotline like Coheed and Cambria has done is almost unheard of – you may as well bury yourself somewhere near the bottom of the charts with the other musical lepers. But they’ve done it, undeterred; an exception to the rule. And the commercial success in which it’s all unfolded is a testament to both their inventiveness and business acumen. Alt-rock, post-hardcore, progressive rock, call it what you will, Coheed and Cambria’s music and themes occupy another world. Or at least they’re intended to do so. Their latest, The Afterman: Ascension, opens another two-part chapter in The Armory Wars saga, and by commissioning Josh Eppard (drums) and Zach Cooper (bass) some of the lyrics we’ve swathed our minds around thus far are nothing short of epic:

Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute

Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the DestituteCoheed and Cambria’s first single off the album vehemently throws down the gauntlet, kicking up dirt and challenging predecessors—chest out, fist in the air, shit grin on face. The near eight-minute long opus cuts through the air with surprising dexterity. Stever thrashes with seething guitar rifts while Zach Cooper and Josh Eppard round out the rhythm section into a complete package: [LISTEN]

We made our beds to lie in them proud
Proud of our great mistakes
This warring knife the flash of its blade, turnabout face

 

The Afterman

Inspired by the death of a friend’s wife, “The Afterman” slows things down to a warm melodic bounce. Accenting Sanchez falsetto voice are thin layers of fine instrumentation; Stever lightly chops through a sea of melodies while Cooper and Eppard keep the rhythm in perfect time. It’s a retrospective piece, and an example of how Coheed and Cambria can stretch their range without losing their foundation: [LISTEN]

Your selfishness has robbed you of the man you could’ve been

I wouldn’t change a thing about you

I love you dearly, my friend

Key Entity Extraction II: Hollywood the Cracked

“Hollywood the Cracked” is Coheed and Cambria’s scathing attack on Hollywood. The song opens with Sanchez and Stever slashing-and-burning each other relentlessly with rapid-fire guitar riffs. The exchange injects Sanchez’s vocals with a familiar sense of urgency, and as the breakdown hits, his words unexpectedly soften and elevate; taking on a whole new meaning. It aptly compares Hollywood to a loaded gun, a weapon of destruction hell-bent on planting a bullet in your mind’s eye. And what Coheed and Cambria is trying to say is that you have every right to be pissed. Fight back: [LISTEN]

She’s cracked, and when she’s gone there’s no coming back

Watch her fingers she’s gonna pull the trigger

Then the bodies will run

Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher

Another right-cross intended for the powers that be, much like the previous two “Extractions,” Coheed and Cambria rain upon this song with thrashing guitar riffs, and thundering drums causing a violent maelstrom of tension. Sanchez confronts his antagonist and makes no illusion as to what he sees. He responds with a lyrically violent, pressure-packed punch to the gut: [LISTEN]

We’ve got your number

We can reset the system screen

Hang your secrets, hang em’ up, hang em’ up now

 ’Subtraction

The closing song on the album is a softer ballad, one that reflects the sad nature of broken relationships. It’s deep, remorseful, and full of raw emotion. It’s also the biggest hunk of cheese on the album – yet it works, as it cuts the rage into manageable pieces. It leaves things unresolved, which sets the stage for the second half of this project (The Afterman: Descension) due out in 2013: [LISTEN]

You thought you had enough

But maybe you didn’t know

That this stage holds our show