Coheed and Cambria has always been a largely conceptual band. Apparently, there is a storyline lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez wrote known as “The Amory Wars” that connects its whole discography. This has been the arc of the band’s repertoire, even back when it was churning out MTV-ready, metal-infused, questionably punk tunes like “A Favor House Atlantic” and “The Suffering” in the early 2000s. Even though these songs were entrenched in the conceptual like most of the band’s songs, they presented palatable choruses that sort of forced listeners to like the band, even just a little.
Fast forward to 2013, and we have “The Afterman: Descension” the second half of the “Afterman” series of albums, following (you guessed it) “The Afterman: Ascension.” This is also the seventh studio album from Coheed to date.
Coheed is just as orchestral on “Descension” as it has always been, but the album in its entirety lacks direction. This is unfortunately in conflict with some of Coheed’s previous albums.
“Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” had a compelling structure, balanced with face-melting riffs, courtesy of Sanchez’s aptitude for a blaring, epic texture in his guitar playing. The same could be said for that album’s predecessor, “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3,” which not only had the aforementioned “A Favor House Atlantic” but also the charm of “Blood Red Summer.” Coheed used to have a knack for combining the concepts of their records with addictive songs that could make mix tapes.
“Descension” lacks a fluid grounding that used to describe Coheed perfectly. The songs of this album do not seem to exist in a particular space – they are indistinct and wandering. The band is no Pink Floyd or King Crimson. Sanchez’s voice is generally heard loud and clear, and his lyrics are rarely convoluted. However, “Descension” has a mundane composition.
That said, the musicianship of Coheed has not declined as much as its songwriting. “Descension” seems rushed in its composition – it does not have any building excitement, or provide anything enticing that makes listeners want more.
Although Coheed’s guitarists, Sanchez and Travis Stever, still prove to be some of the best today. The guitarists speak for the band, and they continue to interlock organically as they always have, swapping rhythm and lead duties flawlessly.
“Away We Go” might be the only song that could possibly save the album. It uses the same ploys of many rock singles with descending melody lines, chunky rhythms and a few meters of “ohs” for ultimate satisfaction. Nevertheless, I expect this song, much like the rest of “Descension,” to be noticed by only the most dedicated Coheed fans. To casual listeners, it will be representative of Coheed’s fall from rock’s radar.