Top positive review
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Despite the obvious "influences", this is a great album
on 21 December 2013
Hail To The King is US metal band Avenged Sevenfold's sixth album and, probably, their most commercial release so far. Straddling the thin divide between the rock and metal genres with ease with the aid of new drummer Arin Ilejay (who actually only recorded this one album with them), replacing sadly deceased sticksman Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, it is probably their most controversial album amongst their fans. Although the majority of AX7 admirers seemed to like it, there were many people who referred to it as their covers album or dismissed it as being too mainstream and not heavy enough. I'm actually a little shocked that, being someone who values originality so highly, I like this album so much. There are so many obvious "influences" on this album that they absolutely smash the line between homage and plagiarism, however, they do it with such style and have made such a listenable, enjoyable, well crafted album that I have forgiven them for it.
My appreciation of Avenged Sevenfold comes courtesy of my Stepson, Jamie, who has often referred to them as his favourite band, so it's fair to say that I've heard a lot of their material and have really grown to love them myself (my particular favourites are Nightmare and City Of Evil). This album, however, harks back to one of my favourite periods in metal history, the eighties and early nineties, with ideas, arrangements, riffs and lyrics lifted, lock, stock and barrel from acts such as Iron Maiden (Hail To The King), Metallica (This Means War), Guns 'n' Roses (Doing Time) and, if you know these bands well, you will be left open-mouthed in amazement at the cheek Avenged have shown with some of the tracks. Having got that out of the way, I cannot help but give respect to Sevenfold for obviously loving the kind of metal I've loved over the years and replicating the appeal that era of music had so convincingly, even adapting their playing style and vocal delivery to suit the particular band they are, ahem, paying tribute to.
Although I enjoy this album in its entirety, there are a few stand-out tracks for me; yes, it's basically a re-written Sad But True, but This Means War still manages to be one of my favourite cuts from this release. The classically influenced (I'm thinking Orff's Carmina Burana), dramatic Requiem is also a highlight and the guitar solo on Crimson Day is nothing short of spine-tingling gorgeousness, making what could be a slightly ordinary song something special. In fact, Synyster Gates' impressive guitar work throughout the album is almost a masterclass in a wide range of metal guitar styles and he has surely earned the title of one of the true greats of heavy rock. My last pick from the album would be the final track, Acid Rain which has a bit of an III Sides-era Extreme feel to it and is an ambitious, string-filled ballad. Indeed, M. Shadows gives a performance Gary Cherone would be proud to call his own.
If you get your reservations out of the way, this is an entirely enjoyable album with impressive musicianship from the band being demonstrated throughout. Of course, some people may not be able to get past hearing Avenged being the ultimate tribute act for their musical heroes, but I think they have made what could easily be described as a classic heavy rock album and also probably the most accessible record in their catalogue to date for those who know nothing about the band. For Avenged fans who particularly love their early material, that may not be a good thing, but for someone like me who has been a fan from Nightmare onwards and hasn't particularly enjoyed all of the earlier output, it's a huge positive. You can tell that there has been intricate attention to detail on this album and it is a dark, Gothic, classy piece of work from start to finish, brilliantly produced and mixed too. My love of metal has definitely faded over the years, but Hail To The King is the kind of quality rock/metal release that is more than capable of reigniting my love for the genre.