Saturday, 14 September 2013

Avenged Sevenfold "Hail to the King"

I don’t think I know a rock band that is disliked more than Avenged Sevenfold. The most amazing thing is that none of these “haters” have any credible reason to dislike the band. It appears that ever since the turn of the millennium, any hard rock/metal band that gains popularity of any kind gets a lashing; it’s impossible to win. But at the end of the day I’ve never met any of these seemingly professional music analysts in person, they prefer to remain hidden, while in reality (you know, that world beyond the computer screen) I meet more and more fans of the band as they become among this generations biggest hard rock acts.

Admittedly I became aware of the band because of their song Beast and the Harlot being included on Guitar Hero 2; I wish I could say I knew them before hand but that isn’t the case. The band has transitioned well with each album they’ve released. Their 2001 debut album Sounding The Seventh Trumpet was among the earlier “metalcore” albums, featuring songs with lead vocalist Matt “M. Shadows” Sanders screaming more than he is singing. At the time, the album was well received, seeing as how metalcore as a genre was still fairly new, but nowadays the album is rather dated.

The band followed the debut up with two of their most quintessential albums of the bands career so far; 2003’s Waking the Fallen and 2005’s City of Evil. The former features the perfect mixture of screaming and clean vocals, while the latter drops the screaming completely and stuck with all clean vocals. The addition of lead guitarist Synyster Gates (the perfect partner for rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengeance who played lead guitar on the debut) proved to be a very important addition for the band. Musically, every number from these two albums is original and innovative, and true monuments in hard rock, but most importantly the band tried not to be dated and typecast in to a field of one trick bands in a one trick genre such as metalcore.

The band then tried to further simplify their sound on their self titled Avenged Sevenfold album, proclaiming themselves that they were not a “metal” band but a “hard rock” band. The problem with the album is that though the album is really good, it at times just features far too much experimenting with sounds and effects, which work on songs such as A Little Piece of Heaven but are lost on songs like Brompton Cocktail. The album could have been better, but it was then answered with probably the most important album the band has ever recorded, 2010’s Nightmare. This album brought back the complex song writing on City of Evil but featured a more matured texture between band members and gained the band a unanimous amount more fans than they had previously. Unfortunately the band infamously lost their drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan to the hands of death after writing the album was complete. Luckily Mike Portnoy, then of Dream Theater filled in and played all of The Rev’s parts beat for beat. He would eventually leave the band after the subsequent tour and be replaced by the bands newly acquainted drummer Arin Ilejay (Shadows recently said that Arin won’t get a stage name like the rest of the band because the band were 16 when they came up with their names and they feel they’re too old to do anything of the sort anymore).

When the band announced their plans for their 6th album, which would eventually become Hail to the King, most of the members mentioned that they wanted a “classic” metal sound on the album, and that they studied albums by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin before writing for the album. I feel the band succeeded in doing so, but with that familiar A7X sound that their fans love.

This transition in sound is clear to any Black Sabbath fan while listening to the first few seconds of the opening track Shepherd of Fire, when the listener hears the pouring of rain and the chiming of a bell, similar to Sabbath’s intro to their eponymous song off of their eponymous 1970 debut album. The song itself is far from a Sabbath song though; a mid tempo melodic masterpiece that introduces the album perfectly. This song leads in to the first single from the album, and title track Hail to the King. This tracks fist pounding guitar riff intro may have done an even better job at starting off the album as it leads in to the perfect “doom” metal song. It is heavily simplified compared to previous Avenged Sevenfold songs, but it features one of Synyster Gates’ greatest guitar solos, not fast and showy like his usual stuff, but slower and perfectly precise. It should be noted that Synyster took this approach a lot on this album. I know of many people who get goose bumps from the songs bridge as well.

The two songs from the album that take the most criticism are Doing Time and This Means War. Doing Time is criticized for being a Guns N’ Roses “rip off”, which I don’t completely hear to the extent that most people are saying. What most to all of these “critics” don’t know is that before the release of City of Evil, M. Shadows took vocal lessons from Ron Anderson, the same vocal coach who taught Axl Rose (the singer of Guns N’ Roses), as well as Chris Cornell. There have been similarities in their singing styles from the beginning (or from City of Evil rather). As for This Means War, regrettably the song does sound like Sad But True by Metallica, which Shadows said was done purposely. However, it is merely just the verses of the two songs that have any similarities. The pre-chorus and chorus of This Means War are far superior to anything Metallica has done since Master of Puppets.

Requiem takes the album to apocalyptic proportions, with lyrics concerning the end of the world and music that sounds like the world is cracking around them. If Iron Maiden ever released a “doom” metal song, I’d imagine the song would sound something like this track.

The albums ballad is Crimson Day. I always find Avenged Sevenfold ballads to be hit or miss. Each album has had one. The best ballad released by the band would have to be I Won’t See You Tonight Part 1 from Waking the Fallen. Dear God off of their self titled album is terrific, but very experimental. So Far Away from the Nightmare album is probably their second best ballad and definitely most heartfelt. Warmness of the Soul from their debut album is very raw and hard to judge, while Seize the Day I’ve just managed to grow somewhat tired of compared to other songs off of the City of Evil album. Crimson Day brings a new freshness to the Avenged Sevenfold ballad, mixing the heavy elements of I Won’t See You Tonight with the heart and feeling of Dear God.

I find the most “classic” Avenged Sevenfold sounding tracks from the album to be Heretic and Coming Home, both for different reasons. Heretic sounds like the kind of song that would have been released on an album like City of Evil, just slowed down to the more classic metal pace that this album takes. Coming Home, completely contradicting Heretic, takes the classic metal sound of this album, its melodies and music, and speeds up the pace to a more familiar speed similar to that of Beast and the Harlot, for long time Avenged Sevenfold fans. It even features probably the fastest guitar solo on the album.

The album ends with Planets and Acid Rain, which sort of tie in to each other. Planets is the albums heaviest track. As Shadows himself put it, the song may not be the easiest to “digest” at first, but after a few listens, it may be your go to track. I certainly like the song the more I hear it. It maintains the faster drum beats that Coming Home left its listeners with, but adds anger and intensity. It ties in to Acid Rain in respect to the story its lyrics tell. Lyrically, Planets is about planets at war with each other and destroying one another. Acid Rain is a love story about the people on these planets who are dealing with their world’s destruction. The song is an epic 6:41 in length; it features piano and string sections, more so than on any other point on the album. The song is a dark ballad, different from anything else the band has ever released, further showing the maturing song writing capabilities of the band.

I couldn’t say what Avenged Sevenfold’s best album is. I know which my favourite is but every album the band has released has sounded completely different from one another, which is a rare thing. After the huge success of Nightmare, the band could have easily done what so many have done in the past and kept on releasing albums that sounded like Nightmare (that, for the “haters”, is what selling out is), instead the band decided to change their sound once again. While many moments on the album do sound like “classic” hard rock, including the unfortunate This Means War hiccup, a lot of the album has the “classic” Avenged Sevenfold sound, showing that they are still the same band. The albums bonus track St. James actually sounds like it could have been released on an album like Nightmare, so I recommend checking that track out as well.

Reception for the album has been pretty positive as well. Going #1 in several countries sure did piss off Machine Head’s Robb Flynn. Of course how credible is the opinion of a guy whose band is still playing side stages at Rockstar Mayhem Festival? M. Shadows wrote his words off as a playful joke, which I would hope is the case because jealousy doesn’t look good on any band, especially one that I do rather enjoy such as Machine Head.

To conclude this article, all I have to say is thank GOD the band decided against the albums original front cover and went with what it ended up being instead.


Heretic” –­ For reasons mentioned earlier, it was either this song or Coming Home that I would pick as the highlight. Both songs would be in regards to if both a new listener were to listen to the song and if a faithful listener were to listen. The faithful listener would hear the Avenged Sevenfold they love, but at the same time hear their transition, while a new listener would just in general get an idea of the band’s sound. However, the reason I chose Heretic over Coming Home is because it is the shorter of the two songs, strictly for the sake of the new listener.


9 (Out of 10)

Track List:

Shepherd of Fire  
Hail to the King  
Doing Time 
This Means War  
Crimson Day  
Coming Home  
Acid Rain  

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