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A definite change for Avenged Sevenfold
on 30 August 2013
Avenged Sevenfold's influence passed through my music taste a few years ago, but still I find myself intrigued whenever they bring out new material, so, around once a year I still put a new Avenged Sevenfold on the speakers and see whats new.
The first notable thing is that this is the first album where Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan's influence is no where; he was such a huge influence on the music you can hear that loss of input. I think it was remarkable that the band carried on after such a massive loss, both musically and emotionally. They did, and this album once again marks another change in their musical style.
I wasn't that impressed when hearing the single for the first time as it didn't feel like it was painting the right picture for the album; it was painfully simple, not very dynamic and just very formulaic. After giving the whole album a listen it was clear there was much more to it than the single promised.
It opens with 'Shepherd of Fire'. A very dark, moody baritone brass intro mirroring the chords and a thudding drum riff. This song sets the tone for the rest of the album and reveals straight away how much this album is influenced by previous legendary metal bands.
After 'Hail to the King' comes 'Doing Time', probably one of the weakest on the album, it really is quite forgettable, even a stylish Slash/Dimebag hybrid of a solo can't really save it.
'This Means War' is unashamedly a direct descendant of Metallica's 'Sad But True', from every element possible: drum, guitar and lyrical timing. Thats not to say it isn't an enjoyable song, and a couple of underlying guitar harmonies do colour the song nicely and the solo is not a Hammett rip-off at least.
'Requiem' is a slow plodder of a song and leads smoothly from 'War' and presents the first full wah solo Synyster Gates has done I think. The lyrics are are as epic as the semi-ridiculous Latin chanting that opens the song, but again I think it ties together as a good song.
'Crimson Day' takes a cue from James Hetfield's clean guitar tone from 'The Black Album' and is a soft ballad. I actually enjoy Shadows' voice when harsh and loud but it isn't versatile enough here to give anything but a rather flat dimension to a softer song like this, and he has to rely on some vocal layering to thicken it up a bit.
Too many elements close to the end of 'Heretic' are extremely similar to the verse from 'Buried Alive' from previous album 'Nightmare', some of it is almost note-for-note, especially the harmonious guitar leading up to the solo, which is actually a good one: it reminds me of a Paul Gilbert solo actually; slightly more raw but melodic yet technical with a very iron maiden-like harmony to close it out. One of the better solos for me.
'Coming Home', again has a very prominent maiden influence, the verse especially. And its full of solos. Its a good fast song.
'Planets' exhibits simple thudding drums, with a trombone again underlining the chorded intro and later in the song (its actually a bit James Bond-like in places), its quite a dark sounding opening riff and typical of this album the opening chords are translated into muted thuds for the verse.
'Acid Rain' is doubtless the most surprising song on the album. Avenged Sevenfold have attempted ballads before, but none as good as this; with a piano/strings intro which is threaded throughout. Its waltz-like (the timing is in 3/4) and the tone in Shadows' voice is surprisingly impressive in all aspects, notably in in the chorus.
This song sounds like a ballad Guns n' Roses could have written if they were in original dominant form today, which is not a knock in any way as it has a definite originality and is, for me the song I'll most likely play again over the next couple of days.
Being a guitarist myself I should talk about Brian Haner's (Synyster Gates') solos; they are radically different from anything he's done before, visceral in places, from a classic tapping Van Halen influence to very bluesy vibrato reminding you of early Guns n' Roses Slash, and still with a big lean towards the raw leads of Dimebag. And then of course the classic Avenged Sevenfold harmonies. That all being said, his solos still retain the uniqueness that stands him apart from the majority of modern rock/metal guitaristgs working today.
Its a stripped back album, with clear influences of eighties and nineties metal throughout, but not produced in a way that inspires a very raw feeling in my opinion, it may well be a little too over produced, it doesn't really have that grit that Metallica's 'The Black Album' had.
I think that even though a little derivative at times it isn't a bad a thing that their influences are so discernible either, because they mostly pull it off. I enjoyed the album, but there is nothing groundbreaking to be found here. It makes you wonder if the band are ever going to stop changing their sound, or whether they'll settle on this and refine. I'll be ready for the next.