The Afterman: Descension (2013)
This band was originally despised by me for no other reason than hating lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Claudio's giant hair and whiny voice. They were just fucking irritating. In 2005, I was working as label manager at Eulogy Recordings in Florida and was sent to CMJ in NYC. I had access to the VIP balcony area for the Coheed & Cambria show. I was really only there for the free drinks and food, and was more looking forward to seeing Diamond Nights and Against Me! in the coming days. I had a nice buzz going on and saw a tray of hors d'oeuvres going round that looked tasty & meaty, and as I made my way to attack they were slowly being picked off one by one. I moved in on the last morsel on the tray and another hand went for it. I was faster, popped it in my mouth and smiled at the loser. It was Matt Pinfield of MTV! Ha!!! Unknown to me, he was also the VP of A&R for Coheed's label Columbia Records. I remember he looked like he didn't think it was as funny as I did. Anyhoo, the lights went out and C&C went on. I wasn't paying too much attention, then I heard the Zeppelin-esque stomp of "Welcome Home" kick in and squirmed my way to the rail to get a view. There was a giant guillotine behind the band and this massive head of hair bouncing above a double-necked guitar that was being brutally fondled. It was this performance that had me hooked. That song to me is still the C&C music factory at their peak.
"Welcome Home (edit)"
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (2005)
Since that pinnacle album, they've put out Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow (2007), Year Of The Black Rainbow (2010), and last year's The Afterman: Ascension. All of which had occasional moments of greatness, like the songs "Feathers", "Far" and title track "The Afterman". I warily picked up Descension, thinking it was going to be more of the same, but happily I was wrong. It's hard to define Coheed & Cambria. If I could just throw my darts at the musical genre board, I guess it would be a combination of classic rock influenced, post emo-core/progressive leaning Album-Oriented-Rock. That definition alone should have most people running away from The C&C Heaven's Fence universe also known as The Keywork (made up of 78 planets, divided into 12 sectors; each sector given a representing planet with 5 following planets, powered by 7 Star Transformers). Is anybody still reading this?
As far as this long running sci-fi/fantasy story....I honestly don't know what the fuck is going on, I had to google the shit above, but I still enthusiastically sing along to..."You stormed off to scar the armada, Like Jesus played martyr, I'll drill through your hands, The stone for the curse you have blamed me, With love and devotion, I'll die as you sleep...". Which brings us to the reason of this post, their latest album The Afterman: Descension.
Though not quite as classic as IV: Volume One, it's definitely a worthy stab at greatness and a surprisingly early favorite for my best of 2013. In fact, it seems to be just getting better and better with each re-visitation. I always felt what worked best on IV: Vol. 1 was the 50/50 combination of melody & emotion/quiet & loud that ran throughout the album. Those golden moments have never been touched with the same one-two punch until The Descension, in my opinion. The sap runs sticky-icky-ooh-eee on this one. Near the end of the album, when companion/computer system All Mother asks main character/cosmonaut Sirius Amory, "I am not equipped to comprehend human rationale...Sirius...Is this what love is?" and after a long, breathy pause he replies "...Yes.", my wife's eyes rolled and a very vocal "UUUGGH" came out of her mouth as my finger itched to push advance to relish the next final track. There's so many good-uns on this one. From chug-a-chug rockers like "The Hard Sell", to sing-along, dramatic heavy ballad heart-tuggers like "Dark Side Of Me", to diverse pop-songs like "Number City" almost delving into Michael Jackson territory (complete with horns, Fuck You very much).
Like I've said, this is not going to be for everyone. It's pretty fucking nerdy. I mean, how much more nerdier can you get than a constant barrage of song titles like "Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant"? Especially not only with their prog-rock and sci-fi leanings which have been likened to Rush, but as well as Claudio's vocals, which have been compared to Geddy Lee himself. That voice, which was once thought of as annoying to me is actually quite versatile, and with how it's mixed and layered (along with his amazing guitar work) creates a lush sonic universe.
If you've tried C&C before and didn't like, then you probably still won't care for, but if you were a fan of IV and gave up soon after, this installment is definitely worth turning the ship around for.