Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
Producer: Joe Barresi, Avenged Sevenfold
Release Date: October 28, 2016
Avenged Sevenfold is a band that had a good thing going on in the mid-2000’s. Both City of Evil and their self-titled fourth album were, if not great, at least good metal albums, mixing influences from classic thrash to modern metalcore.
However, at least to me the band has been in a steady downwards slope ever since. Their fifth album Nightmare already showcased some elements of the things that would continue plaguing their work: their crippling reliance on their influences. “Buried Alive” borrowed more than a little Metallica in its acoustic intro, and independent single “Carry On” was a lesser Iron Maiden track in all but a name. By their sixth album the band had turned into a Fully Functional Metallica Mimicry Machine™, with “Shepherds of Fire” sounding like “Enter Sandman” without the hooks.
Now, on their seventh studio album, their transformation is complete. While they do not rip off Metallica with quite the surgical precision as before, they’ve managed to outdo their idols in one important thing: in sounding middle-aged and tired.
After the synth intro that sounds suspiciously like the main theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera the band breaks into showcase of guitar arpeggios and double bass drum fills. There the best and worst parts of the album are candidly laid open like a overtly eager blind dater with a busload of baggage. On the good side, the band plays very well together and isn’t afraid to showcase it every now and then, but unfortunately the whole album has been mixed and produced to sound like it was played through an empty Pringles can. This in many places takes off the little edge the songs had in the first place.
While the band does play their instruments well, they do not play them very creatively. Every song seems like a random sample of the most tired clichés of the heavy and thrash metal playbooks, hastily thrown together. Every now and then the listener can clearly pinpoint down which Megadeth song is currently being borrowed: the intro riff of “God Damn” sounds eerily similar to “Hangar 18”, and several songs use Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar reminiscent of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. To their credit, the band pulls a fast one on “Higher”, the chorus of which sounds more like Muse than any of their regular influences. With its keyboard parts and epic, bombastic choruses the track represents the more ambitious and interesting songs on the album.
The album closer, a fifteen minute epic “Exist” goes back to forth between decent and a blatant rip-off of Metallica’s “Blackened”. It kind of tries to tap into the same fountain as the wonderful “A Little Piece of Heaven”, with its prominent keyboards and horns, but feels much less focused and though-out, accidentally hitting the concrete edge of the fountain instead of the water they were supposed to aim for. Roughly half of the track’s runtime is worth listening, which is more than I can say about the most of the tracks.
A special mention goes to the vocal work of M. Shadows, which has been fine in the past. Here he seems to have lost all sense of his range, and constantly stretches out his voice in a way that makes those goat scream remixes from a few years back sound like a choir of angels.
Rarely I’ve seen such a tragic arc when it comes to band’s output. Once Avenged Sevenfold used to be interesting because of their way of using their influences to form a creative collage of metal sounds. Now they’ve just become so tired and derivative that I cannot find anything to latch onto. I’m sure this album will do nothing to hurt the band’s popularity. However, to me The Stage is where it’s time to have the curtain call.