As regular readers of Type In Stereo will recall, on the heels of two Coheed albums that I didn’t much care for, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Coheed & Cambria’s 2012 release, The Afterman: Ascension. Being the first in a two-part, back-to-back release schedule, Ascension‘s success had me eagerly anticipating 2013’s The Afterman: Descension. Well, Descension is here and, frankly, I’m a little disappointed. Descension isn’t an unenjoyable album. It fails to reach the highs of Ascension and ultimately ends up wading around in averageness. It’s a shame; they were finally getting their groove back.
The album opens with ‘Pretelethal,’ which is probably my least favorite track on the whole record. Built around whispery verses, an exceptionally bland chorus, and a needlessly cliched lyrical motif (the chorus asks, “Who will repair this broken heart?”), ‘Pretelethal’ just doesn’t offer many reasons for listening. It’s certainly not a great way to start a record. It’s followed by ‘Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant,’ the only Key Entity Extraction track on Descension, and a song that is reminiscent of Ascension in a lot of ways. It’s not a spectacular track by any means, but it’s got some decent riffs, some satisfactorily rocking drum beats, and a solid vocal performance from Claudio Sanchez. Unlike the song preceding it, this one at least feels like a Coheed track. Not a particularly good one, but a Coheed track all the same. In fact, ‘Sentry the Defiant’ suffers from what is probably the primary shortcoming of the whole record: even when all the proper elements are in place (during the outro, for instance, when the guitars are chugging, the drums are pounding, and Claudio is crooning wildly), the song never manages to move beyond average. The principals are in place, but the quality just isn’t quite there.
The rest of the album unfolds in a similar fashion. There are some songs that try to rock (‘The Hard Sell’ and ‘Gravity’s Union’), some songs that are about as poppy as a prog-rock band can be (‘Number City’ and ‘Away We Go’), lots of hilarious lyrical choices (I’m partial to Claudio shouting about “perpetual motion” in ‘Gravity’s Union,’ and to the absurdly gratuitous use of “goddamn” in ‘Iron Fist’), but no melodies that really worm into your brain or riffs that clutch at your heart.
There is a little bit of experimentation present here (horns play an integral part in ‘Number City,’ a song that with its snaps and major key passages manages to sound almost big band-ish) but, for the most part the album sounds like a watered down mix of Ascension and No World for Tomorrow. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but it’s also not – for me, at least – a particularly interesting one. I’ll probably listen to Descension more often Year of the Black Rainbow, or even No World for Tomorrow, but not nearly as often as Coheed’s more luminary early works – or even Ascension. And on the heels of Ascension, an album that I noted had hardly any “filler” tracks, it’s hard for me to suggest that Descension is made of anything but.
This post originally appeared at Type In Stereo.