Sound — 8
Following on from the 'hard to get into' "Year Of The Black Rainbow", the sound of Coheed And Cambria hasn't evolved as much as reset. The look has altered too. When Joshua Eppard left the band following Apollo I, my disappointment was momentarily lifted when I heard Taylor Hawkins would be stepping in in his place. However, as much as "Apollo II" was the follow up album in name, it never felt like the band had progressed their sound or made a record to match or better its successor. Then came Chris Pennie and "YOTBR". An almost industrial sound came out of this album and while it is a good album with some great moments, a great Coheed album it was not. I don't like when bands purposely make a part 2 of a previous album to piggyback its success and not back their own capabilities, so it would be misleading to say that "The Afterman: Ascension" is the closest Coheed has come to "Apollo I" since releasing it. It would be unfair to compare these albums like I have done with their other albums to this point. That's because this new album finally evolved the sound that made "Apollo I" so mesmerizing. Drawing on what sounds like influences of Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd and a myriad of 70's classic rock bands, there is a prog rock core to this record that is perfect in its delivery. At times, there are sluggish down-tuned metal riffs but always are the melodies and rhythm tight. Zach Cooper is a perfect fit with Josh Eppard who has returned to the band. Zach embodies the style and feel of Mic Todd with for me what seems to be a looser approach while still maintaining that tightness that is demanded from Eppard's pocket style drumming. The rhythm guitar as always is staccato filled beauty and crunchy while the lead compliments the vocals as much as it drives the song and intertwines seamlessly with the rhythm.
Lyrics — 8
Claudio Sanchez has upped his game and explored his boundaries. The first single I heard off this album was "Domino The Destitute". Here, Claudio is telling the tale of a boxer and his delivery is aggressive as it is tongue in cheek. "Ladies, and broken gentlemen, the undisputed champ, of misery" has a very sarcastic tone to it while "We are together!" can only be described as breathtaking in its intensity as the song draws to a close. For me, Claudio has done very well in exploring his range. On the title track "The Afterman", he again has managed to make my ears prick up and listen with the inclusion of simple but effective lyrics, "Your selfishness has robbed you, of the man you could have been. I wouldn't change a thing about you. I love you dearly... My friend". It seems like business as usual for Sanchez but there is subtle brilliance in the range of intensity and also the simplicity of the lyrics used.
Overall Impression — 9
This for me is their second best album if not on par with "Apollo I". There is a magic on this that is hard to miss. It did take me a few listens to fully get into but the way in which the songs are strung together gives it a flow that keeps you hooked. My three top songs would be "The Afterman", "Mothers Of Men" and "Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria The Faithful". What I love about this is simply how they have managed to mix complicated and interesting music with the plain sound and simplicity of pop music. A difficult task for any band but one that reaps the best rewards (not always financially, but in my heart). I bought this album on iTunes and will buy a hard copy too for the artwork. I've only ever done this once before for an album and I'm a student with no job. I think that says a lot.