Always a band of grand musical and literary ambition, 21st-century prog-rock band Coheed and Cambria enters a new phase of sonic exploration and storytelling with The Afterman: Ascension. Released Oct. 9, the album ascended to No. 5 last week on the Billboard 100 albums chart.
The Afterman: Ascension is the fourth Coheed and Cambria album to debut in the Billboard Top 10.
“It’s really thrilling,” drummer Josh Eppard said of Ascension’s lofty debut. “We’re really honored to even be on the Billboard 100, let alone in the Top 5.”
Ascension also is part one of a double concept album. Part two, The Afterman: Descension, will appear in February.
The storyline for both albums — written by singer-guitarist Claudio Sanchez — follows triumph and tragedy in the life of a cosmonaut and astronomer named Sirius Amory. Sanchez spent two years writing the albums. The band spent nine months recording them.
“Claudio had these songs kicking around,” Eppard said. “Having the time to re-evaluate and figure out exactly the kind of record that he wanted to make is probably a good thing.”
Once the songs were written, much focus and energy went into recording them.
“It was a different process than any Coheed record I had made before,” Eppard said. “The whole band was in the studio together, the whole time. It was a really amazing time. I think that shows on both records.”
Following the recording sessions, the band had more music than it knew what to do with. And Sanchez, Eppard, guitarist Travis Stever and bassist Zach Cooper loved all of it.
“We tried to cut it down to one long record,” Eppard said. “We just couldn’t part with certain things that we thought were important. They helped round out not only the story but the musical experience.”
The band considered many options for the music but, ultimately, could not confine it to one album.
“I was pulling for the double record the whole time,” Eppard said. “So now we’re looking at Ascension like it’s a musical cliffhanger. We’re all waiting for February, so people can hear the second half.”
There’s more excitement in the Coheed and Cambrio universe, too. Actor Mark Wahlberg has announced his intention to adapt Sanchez’s The Amory Wars saga into a feature film.
In the meantime, the new Afterman albums mark Eppard’s return to Coheed and Cambrio. He left the band in 2007 after being caught up in drug abuse.
“It was stupid, embarrassing,” he said. “But Claudio and Travis (Stever) never judged me. They always said, ‘We want you to get better.’
“After I left the band the way that I left it, I harbored a lot of guilt. If anybody in the world didn’t deserve to be stepped on like I stepped on them, it was those guys.”
Following his descent into drug abuse, Eppard raised himself up and returned to music.
“I asked myself, ‘What am I gonna do with my life?’ I’d been in bands since I was 11 years old. I had my first major label deal when I was 16. Music was all I knew how to do, but I washed it all down the toilet. So I started over.”
Eppard worked with two bands, Terrible Things and Weird Science, and toured extensively.
“Claudio and Travis were like, ‘All right. This dude’s gotta be better because, even sober, that’s grueling.’ And I made it clear that I wanted to reach out to them, as a friendship thing. I missed those guys. They are my brothers
“So that’s how it started, just as friends. I went to some of their shows and then, much to my surprise, they said, ‘We want to work with you again.’ I couldn’t have been happier.”
“Me being back in Coheed is as much to do with our relationship as is about the playing,” he added. “But we also have an internal groove that you can’t really fake. There is a shared energy between us. That’s one of the things that makes it special when we play together.”