For those who may not be in the know, rock band Coheed and Cambria have weaved an interesting science fiction universe throughout their discography, telling the story of The Amory Wars — initially focusing on protagonists Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon. The Amory Wars has spawned various companions to the band’s music, from comic books and novels to a potential upcoming motion picture being produced by Mark Wahlberg’s Leverage, who has produced Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. With much of the story solidified and told so far through each passing album, the band has taken a different turn on their conceptual universe with the prequel origin story The Afterman.
In anticipation for the second half of the story — The Afterman: Descension –— coming in February, what follows is not only our own interpretations, but with accompaniment from frontman Claudio Sanchez’s own explanations that have been made available through their official YouTube channel. We’ve been asked to do a *prognotes on Coheed and Cambria before, but since the stories have been made available through official media in great depth already, we decided to just highlight this fascinating new story in such a way as to easily paint the picture for casual fans or perhaps even people who are not fans of Coheed and Cambria, but interested in a good concept album. Therefore, it should be important to note that many aspects of this telling have been simplified for an entry-level understanding of the story. For a more in-depth look at The Afterman, a limited edition double vinyl copy of the double album is now on sale, which includes a 64-page book that details the story.
The Afterman: Ascension tells the story of astronaut Sirius Amory, who is sent on a mission to investigate a cosmic energy source that holds their universe — Heaven’s Fence, which is made up of 78 planets and 7 stars — together, known as The Keywork. The Keywork supplies the universe with essential nutrients and elements and holds the 78 planets and seven stars that make up the universe in a triangular shape via beams of light, as depicted in the band’s iconic logo above. Not much is known about how all of this actually works and what goes on in The Keywork, and it’s up to Sirius to make an expedition into space to find out. His wife Meri is adamant about him not going, as it would surely put him in grave danger. Sirius is apparently too obsessed and invested in his work to give up, and despite his love for her, he makes the journey anyway. He begins his expedition on his ship — named The Meriwell in his wife’s honor — and approaches the mysterious energy source
With Sirius on this expedition is an artificial intelligence that “lives” inside of his suit and ship called the All-Mother, which monitors his vital signs and recording data, among other things. Before exiting his ship, he converses with the All-Mother:
Sirius: “All-Mother, are you awake?”
All-Mother: “I am always awake. What do you require of me?”
Sirius: “You’ll stay with me won’t you?”
All-Mother: “I’ll be there every step of the way.”
As he opens the door, spirits start to make their way inside of The Meriwell. As it turns out, The Keywork, for all intents and purposes, can be seen as a form of purgatory afterlife where souls reside. The souls are capable of interacting with Sirius by “possessing” him. The first spirit to possess Sirius is a boxer known as Domino The Destitute. While taken by Domino, Sirius sees the boxer’s life played out.
Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute
Domino was a champion boxer who rose to fame with the help of his brother Chess, who helped him train. Domino was a success and grew to be a champion, but fell to a life of drug abuse and crime, which strained the brothers’ relationship. This eventually took a toll on Domino’s ability to fight and he soon lost his championship belt. In order to redeem himself, a crime boss gave Domino the job of robbing an armored car. Domino convinces Chess to come along to the robbery, which resulted in Chess being killed. Being filled with remorse after seeing his brother die, Domino then commits suicide.
The official music video depicts the story of Domino, which can be seen below:
After freeing Sirius from his hold, the spirit sets off a destruction sequence throughout the All-Mother, which causes The Meriwell to explode, severely injuring Sirius in the process.
The album’s title track takes place back on Sirius’ home planet of Valencine. The Meriwell’s explosion was picked up by scientists, who assumed he had died from the catastrophic event. Word of Sirius’ death made the news, and Meri is heartbroken and stricken with grief. She told him all along that the mission was dangerous, and yet his selfishness has taken away her husband. The song focuses on Meri’s reaction to this news of Sirius’ death, with lyrics describing her emotional turmoil:
She gave her heart to a falling star
When news filtered through of his tragedy
All the walls went up
Around a world she declines
As the tears from her eyes fall
No one understands and no one will
All she has lost
If he’s not here, then where?
When she found it there in the cold, blue glare
The words distressed and unfamiliar
Where the feelings seared
An emptiness had hung and in her chest she clenched
Reality settled in and the memories raced
While on the screen he lived
She teared “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”
If he’s not here, then where?
My love… been searching for my Afterman.
A music video accompanying the track depicts Meri going out to sea to try to find Sirius after witnessing his ship explode. Of course, he’s never really there to begin with and it’s just a dream.
Mothers of Men
‘Mothers of Men’ seems to take the perspective of the entities living in the purgatory that is The Keywork as they try to understand their purpose. All our lives, we’re told that what we do has a bearing on where we go when we die, but that isn’t the case. People from all walks of life, from criminals and killers (Domino, Holly Wood, Vic) to the faithful and those that stood for right (Evagria, Sentry) all go to the same place after their passing. The entities don’t like this reality so much, and it’s confusing. In the end, it’s not about good or bad; it’s about the big picture:
In this space where nothing will seem too right
Our voice unheard in this quiet fight
This march we lead will breed our song
To them we’re nothing, to them we’re pawns
Oh, a desperate play to feel like we belong
Now as we take up into these streets
Remember, I depend on you as much as you on me
Don’t try to fake it, let’s not pretend
We made you mothers, we made you men
Oh, it’s no surprise nobody listens anymore
To what we’re saying, to what was said
And in your absence we promised you
“Oh, we’ll behave”
So just keep running, everything will look better once you look away
Oh, I agree, cause’ what’s the difference?
Oh, is there a difference we make?
Your day will come
The rain starts dancing across our backs
These ardent words seize this heart attack
Belief still strong, we can make this change
The stage is set to occupy the brain
We made this
Between the dapper villain in a Sunday serial at the podium or another cog in the wheel
They’re both capable of making life hard,
But no bandage can mend all these parts
So why do I give?
Goodnight, Fair Lady
Back on Valencine, Meri is trying to get over the grief of losing her husband Sirius, so she goes out to a bar to drink and be social. While at the bar, a potential rapist slips a benzodiazepine tablet (commonly referred to as a Roofie) into her drink. The song, ‘Goodnight, Fair Lady’ takes the perspective of the rapist as he narrates his thoughts and intent in an over-the-top musical style:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen
I have a story to tell you of one’s slow decline
When a girl yanked on the strings to break this man’s heart
Oh lord I think I deserve a little better than this. I think I’ve earned it
So I’ll just keep humming this song and hope you follow
Turn me over, roll me ’round
To find the truth that I don’t want found
Oh, don’t believe everything you hear
I’m the snake waiting for you, dear
And eventually you’ll come to me
I know you will
Oh, I know you will
You’re lipstick crazy, I’ll make my pass
The drink turns over, the glass smashed
And with a kindness and my smarts I replaced your pleasure
With a friend at the bottom
Oh, it’s my fate to be your biggest mistake
Oh, I tell you all you want to hear until you sleep
I know you will
Oh, goodnight, fair lady
Oh, we can agree to disagree
Well maybe that was you, then, and now this is me
Eventually you’ll come to me. Baby, I know you will.
Fortunately, a police officer tasked with watching the suspect named Colten sees this and arrests the man before any harm can be done to Meri. Colten and Meri soon become love interests, as we’ll see in The Afterman: Descension.
That’s it for the first half of the dissection of The Afterman: Ascension. The second half will be completed shortly! Be sure to visit Coheed and Cambria on Facebook in the mean time!