Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second part of our ongoing interpretation of the latest Coheed and Cambria album, last year’s The Afterman: Ascension. Like with our analysis of Between the Buried and Me‘s Parallax story we decided to split the analysis of this album up between Jimmy and myself. If reception to the BTBAM posts is any indication then Jimmy and I apparently work really well as tag-team duo. Jimmy already tackled the first half of Ascension, and now it’s my turn to discuss the latter half and all its weird emotional twists and turns.
Of course this isn’t just our own interpretation, we are having some help from Coheed and Cambria founder and frontman Claudio Sanchez, as his own simplified interpretation of the story has been made available through a series of Youtube videos found on the band’s official Youtube channel. Now this may not be as in depth as some people would like, but as the story is covered heavily through other media — such as the wonderful coffee table book that comes with the deluxe edition of the two Afterman albums — we’ve decided to go about this in a simpler fashion. So if you’re new to Coheed and Cambria’s ongoing concept universe, this will probably be a good springboard for you, and then from here you can delve further into the story and the concept. Anyways, without further adieu…
Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood The Cracked
Like the previous Key Entity Extraction song, ‘Holly Wood The Cracked‘ details the life of a spirit that has possessed Sirius Amory’s body as he travels through The Keywork. In this song Sirius is plagued by visions of the life and death of Holly Wood, an overzealous fan of the celebrity life. This obsession causes Holly Wood to emulate what she perceives as the celebrity lifestyle, abusing drugs and alcohol, which in turn causes her mental health to suffer. Eventually Holly Wood becomes so enamored with a particularly celebrity, that she decides to become that celebrity, going under drastic cosmetic surgery to look the part. Though, the surgery is botched, which leaves her facial figures deformed. Holly Wood decides that the only way she can become the celebrity at this point is by actually killing the celebrity and stealing their identity. Eventually Holly Wood seemingly goes on a killing spree that climaxes with her taking her own life, ‘Fucking a loaded gun!’. The song plays this story out in a very grimy, over the top and maniacal manner.
Pick a number, wait in line
There’s no medicine to fix that mind
Holly Wood, Holly Wood
Watch out here she comes
Holly Wood, Holly Wood
Fucking a loaded gun
Message panicked, naked waste
There’s no help to give this one to keep her sane
Shes a few cards short of a full deck, a joker in the game
Oh, shes got a bullet with your name on it
No doubt shes a mental case
Better keep that girl away!
Oh, Poor Holly Wood
She is cracked goods
Poor Holly Wood
This may be the last time, I say
Oh, she’s cracked,
And where she’s gone, there’s no coming back
Ah, watch her finger, she’s gonna pull the trigger
Then the party’s over
Being possessed by the deranged Holly Wood, and experiencing all the turmoil and pain she caused and went through takes a large toll on Sirius’ physical health, but before he can recover he is soon possessed by the spirit of a powerful war general by the name of Vic The Butcher.
Key Entity Extraction III: Vic The Butcher
Sirius now has to live through the life of Vic The Butcher. While Vic was not literally a butcher, he is still a rather disgusting human being. In his former life Vic played the role of a general throughout several wars. Throughout his military career Vic maliciously conquers and lays waste to whole planets, with no regard for innocent life, and becomes well known for hanging any of his soldiers who dare speak out about his crimes (we will meet one such solder on Descension). After a long and catastrophic war career, Vic eventually retires and takes on a wife, but the past is not easily forgotten. As more and more people begin to speak out against him, Vic’s war crimes eventually come to light. As Vic is awaiting trial for his actions, he realizes that he will never be able to escape judgment for his crimes, and instead of repenting he decides to kill himself. He does this by burning down his apartment, room 184, as referenced in the song. Unfortunately, the building that houses his apartment contains a nursery full of children on the first floor. It is with this last selfish act that Vic becomes branded ‘The Butcher”.
Throughout the course of living through these events Sirius is fighting Vic along the way, trying to prevent these actions from occurring, because even though he is not actually committing them it feels as if he is. At the point where Vic is about to burn the building down, and kill himself as well as everyone else in the building, Sirius is finally able to take control. He extinguishes the flame, but Vic’s consciousness fights back, and eventually takes full control over Sirius’ body and mind. Like with Holly Wood before, this causes a great deal of pain to overtake Sirius.
You made this harder than it had to be
The absolute martyr, etching into me
You flashed your colors at me way prematurely
And now I know what you’re up to, and it feels so good
We’ve got your number written
Reset the system screaming
These sitting ducks in season
The march of little children
Hang your secrets, hang ’em up, hang ’em up now
The truth will cut you down to pieces
One-eighty-four, let’s burn it down
And if I can’t keep from living with this regret
I’ll need to change the way I think about us
I listened to them chuckle as they eat
Their judgment hiding behind eyes and dirty teeth
You think I care for all these phony pleasantries
When I want nothing to do with your life
Bye, bye, bye
Baby I’m bad company,
And you don’t have a mark
You’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen
Come with me, I want to make you dirty
Hang your secrets, hang ’em up, hang ’em up now…
Just before Sirius is fully eclipsed by Vic’s consciousness The All-Mother speaks, alerting Sirius not only to his faltering health, but also to the appearance of another Entity.
Heart rate: 119 bpm
Blood pressure: 85 systolic 50 diastolic
Respirations: 10 per minute
Pulse Oximetry of 83% indicates severe hypoxia and neurovascular compromise
Sirius, you are not well…
Caution, unidentified entity approaching…
Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria The Faithful
Right at the cusp of succumbing to Vic, another Entity enters Sirius’ body and forces Vic to retreat. This Entity, Evagria, creates a protective shield around Sirius, and prevents any other Entity from entering his body. Evagria is different from the other entities, and appears almost angelic compared to the others. In her own life Evagria was a kindhearted and wonderful girl who unfortunately contracted a fatal bone disease, and all the way up to the end she remained faithful and hopeful that everything would turn out alright for her and her loved ones. Unfortunately she did pass away, but because of her kind heart, and her unwavering faith during her lifewhen she died she didn’t become like the other Entities, but instead transcended past what they had become, and became a part of the utopian, or heaven-like section of The Keywork known as the Samaritaine. Using her powers, Evagria shields Sirius from the warring spirits of Domino, Holly Wood, and Vic.
This sinking warmth through obscurity,
Beyond the sweet in between where and what you’re doing,
There is a view of an uncharted place,
Where you’re the brunt of a joke and everyone’s laughing,
I am not who I seem, who you thought I could be,
The support you could lean up against when you need,
I’m the dark when you want, the lights out at all costs,
This is mine, that is yours, I’m the bricks in your wall.
Goodbye forever, my darling,
whether I was everything you thought I’d be or not,
I was a bad man to stop you girl from loving me.
A yearning loss to silence me,
The struggle breaks the black and white, calling, transmitting,
The echo breaks, electric air,
Her pulse it stretches from never to everywhere.
And from the other side she’ll save me,
Her courage, strength and heart beyond,
I wish she’d stay mine
But her place is in some other time.
Body separating, ascend and release,
This tragedy is all my fault,
Reaching, desperately to salvage any piece,
This tragedy is all my fault.
This hurt won’t go away
Goodbye forever, you won’t be forgotten
As Evagria shields Sirius from the other Entities, The All-Mother informs Sirius of his condition. His health is failing and it seems like he is about to die. In his final moments his mind is brought back to the memory of his wife, and the pain he might have caused her.
In the end Sirius feels guilty for not heeding his wife’s warnings throughout their marriage. She continually tried to get Sirius to seek a normal life for them together, but he always put his research ahead of her. Yet at the same time, he forced her to stay with him even though it was a life she didn’t want, and a life they couldn’t maintain, as they both knew Sirius would eventually leave on his mission to The Keywork. Guilt and remorse overtake him, and now that he is about to die, he knows that he will be the one responsible for a great pain that will befall her once she learns that he has died. He believes that she will mourn him, and this sense of mourning will plague her for the rest of her life. He contemplates whether or not his love for her was true, and he believes that if he truly loved her he would have let her leave to let her leave. In short, the song is about how he should have allowed her to subtract him from her heart, so that she could find happiness and a life with someone more worthy than him.
The hurt across your face, your word against mine,
The rhythm you repeat, the beat a hair behind,
Were you on my side?
You gave your all, but you gave it once,
A lesson that you thought you could teach it when you want
Ssubtract me from your heart.
Little take away girl.
One step at a time,
You made us angry,
All your love could hide,
But we knew you were afraid.
We accept, we unaccept, we made up, we’re breaking up,
You’ve thought you had enough, but maybe you didn’t know,
That this stage holds a show.
Misery, I digress,
No recourse, no remorse,
Let it be, I confess
To every song that brought you back.
That about wraps it up for our take on Coheed and Cambria’s The Afterman: Ascension. We will continue discussing the story of The Afterman once the second album, The Afterman: Descension, sees release on February 5th. For more information on all things Coheed and Cambria be sure to check out their official Facebook page, and be sure to go pre-order the deluxe addition of the two Afterman albums while supplies last. These are two albums you do not want to miss out on. Cheers!