Monday, 21 October 2013

Review; Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King

Track Listing:

1. Shepherd Of Fire
2. Hail To The King
3. Doing Time
4. This Means War
5. Requiem
6. Crimson Day
7. Heretic
8. Coming Home
9. Planets
10. Acid Rain

Ah, another big one for the year. Most anticipated? Probably quite close. Also, as it turns out, controversial to the max! Avenged Sevenfold are without a doubt the marmite band of modern metal. Starting out as a bog-standard metalcore band, they gathered a hardcore fanbase among the emo kids and the Metalcore in-crowd, while getting a lot of flak from the right-wing metal fans. Fast forward to 2005 and they started to show signs of growth as they got signed to Warner Bros. Records and threw off the formulaic shackles of Metalcore. Instead they opted for a more classic metal influenced sound, reminiscent of the band members' own heroes. M. Shadows' voice changed from average singing and typical screams to a much more melodic and accomplished singing voice. All of these factors led to their breakthrough album 'City of Evil' The band started to get major recognition.

Between then and now, the Orange County band released 'Nightmare', which was dedicated to their deceased drummer Jimmy Sullivan. The album and the following tours (Including opening for System Of A Down on the main stage at Download Festival 2011) increased the band's profile even further. It wasn't long before talk of another record came into play. The band said on several occasions that they wanted to wear their influences such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, Guns 'N' Roses, Pantera and Iron Maiden firmly on their sleeves. The end result is called 'Hail To The King' and as surely as many people will do just that, just as many people would rather pick up torches and pitchforks.

The sound of fire opens the album very ominously alongside a tolling bell, immediately bringing to mind Black Sabbath's first song. Horns blast out right before the album's first riff hits your ears...and it's impossible (Let me repeat; impossible) not to hear it and think "I've heard that that 'Enter Sandman'??". This is not cynicism, I assure you, and it's nothing like how people tried to compare the riff for Slipknot's 'Psychosocial' with Metallica's 'Ride The Lightning'. This is ridiculously similar! Strangely though, when you get past that and the spoken word passage towards the end of the song (another striking similarity to 'Enter Sandman'), and hear M. Shadows' vocals as the verse kicks in, it's rather a good, catchy metal song.

Here starts the theme of the controversial side to this album which is: Is it good for the wrong reasons?

The title song comes next, and a steady riff is given plenty of breathing space under Synyster Gates' melodic guitar widdling. Gruff singing of epic-themed lyrics just bleeds classic metal and is massively catchy and undeniably sing-along. Shadows is giving himself a real vocal workout and it pays off here. Then the old question mark comes up again in the sleaze-metal of 'Doing Time' which smatters of Guns 'N' Roses in the opening cries of the singer's voice, which sounds like he's karaoke singing to Axl Rose's signiature wails. The vocal effects on the verse also remind me unmistakably of 'Concrete Jungle' by Black Label Society. Again, though, it's catchy. You find yourself almost begrudgingly nodding along and singing along too. The guitar solo is a ripper, too.

Then there's 'This Means War'... again; there is a good hook in the chorus, good solos...but everything in the verses; riff, vocals, rhythm and the drum beat all are carbon copies of Metallica's hit 'Sad But True'. How the band could record this song with straight faces is beyond me. Yet again it's not a bad song, but is it good for all the wrong reasons? They're calling this A7X's Black Album, but its unbelievable how literally this tag applies.

There's a great track following the stumble though, in the form of 'Requiem'. A choir brings a sense of grandeur at the right moment. Any band aiming for the throne the way A7X are need the larger-than-life feel to their music. This song brings it with a memorable stomp. 'Crimson Day' is the necessary ballad, but apart from having a clean guitar tone just like (you guessed it) 'Nothing Else Matters', its difficult to fault, and provides good breathing space and variety for the album. 'Heretic' is a decent but slightly forgettable song that recalls 'Countdown To Extinction' era Megadeth.

'Coming Home' is where things sound distinctly Avenged Sevenfold again. A soul-searching belter that stands as a high point on the album and comes to a great climax that will have any self respecting fan of music in general singing along. 'Planets' is a doom-inspired, apocalyptic piece that has the ingredients of a Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath. Good double bass drum kicks underlay a great and simple chorus, all enveloped in great riffs. Again, the horns make an appearance.

'Acid Rain' is a hit. Pure and simple. It's radio friendly without feeling contrived, and again is massively sing-along. The album closes with the sound of rainfall to contrast with the fire at the beginning, and makes the album feel complete. Closure that leaves you ready to talk and debate about what is already the hot-topic album of Heavy Metal in 2013.

Some will love it, some will despise it, but that is no different from any other band. To be honest, I like it, in spite of the controversy. I wouldn't call it perfect and I wouldn't quite call myself an Avenged Sevenfold fan but nor am I a hater. They have made a solid, accessible Metal record for every generation of Metal fans to take in. They have also made their claim to the throne. There can't be any illusions here; Avenged Sevenfold are the heirs to Metallica's crown and ironically it's an album called 'Hail To The King' that has solidified that fact.

Rating: 8.5/10

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