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Album Review: AVENGED SEVENFOLD’s ‘Hail To The King’

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Controversy has surrounded Avenged Sevenfold’s latest effort since the Internet first saw guitarist Synyster Gates with short hair.

Then came the chaos surrounding the album artwork, with many claiming that the cover had ripped off Lich King’s “World Gone Dead”.  Sevenfold later changed the album cover.

The single and title track, “Hail to the King” was released to mixed-to-positive reception, with many insisting that the new drummer Arin Ilejay’s work was too simplistic. But M. Shadows insisted that the straightforward drum parts were intentional, because the new record would sound like classic 80s hard rock and heavy metal.

Regardless, the metal world just had to see—rather, hear—how this new album would turn out. It was Sevenfold’s first album with a permanent drummer since Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan passed away in late 2009. Ex-Dream Theater powerhouse Mike Portnoy hit the skins on A7X’s previous work, “Nightmare,” which was a massive hit. How would they follow up?

“Shepherd of Fire” is a very powerful start to the album, possibly even better than the single and title track.  The album starts off with the sound of rain and Synyster Gates’ and Zacky Vengeance’s dual guitar leads and Johnny Christ’s rumbling bass. “Shepherd” is very old school and the Iron Maiden influences are very apparent. Singer M. Shadows was correct when he said the album would have a classic hard rock/metal feel combined with the band’s signature sound.

“Hail To the King,” the first single from this album, is next. Though it has Gates’ and Vengeance’s trademark guitar runs, it lacks the power of the first track. When the single was first released, many complained that the Arin Ilejay’s drum work was too simplistic compared to The Rev’s and Mike Portnoy’s (who played on “Nightmare”). Shadows contended that the straightforward drum parts were intentional and meant to make the record sound more 80s metal influenced. After hearing the first track, this makes more sense in the context of the entire album. The production is magnificently crisp. The song can be heard below.

 

“Doing Time” sounds like a mixture of Black Sabbath and Guns N’ Roses with a “Paranoid”-esque riff and Shadows’ spoken intro. The octave vocal harmonies, Shadows’ nasal delivery, and shrieks are very reminiscent of “Appetite For Destruction” Axl Rose. It is a decent song but lacks panache compared to the other two songs.

Slow, beautiful guitar harmonies open “This Means War”. It then evolves into a powerful mid-tempo anthem, like a combination of two earlier Sevenfold songs, “Welcome to the Family” and “Girl I Know”.  The Iron Maiden influence is also evident in this song, with soaring vocal melodies, cleaner singing, and dueling guitars.  The lyrics are pretty awesome: “There’s nothing here for free – Lost who I want to be / My serpent blood can strike so cold / On any given day – I’ll take it all away / Another thought I can’t control”.

“Requiem” opens with a choir singing Gregorian chant, possibly borrowing from Ghost B.C., who Sevenfold will be touring with later this year. A fragment of this song could be heard in one of the albums previews the band released a few months back. Epic strings compliment Synyster Gate’s leads, making the song sound like a more updated version of something off of Ozzy’s “Diary of a Madman”.

The ballad “Crimson Day” opens with a clean intro, kind of reminding me of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”.  It is more powerful and poignant than Sevenfold’s best-known ballad, “Seize the Day,” and may even appeal to country audiences. It could be a crossover hit.

“Heretic” takes us back to signature Sevenfold-sounding territory. With rawer production, it would fit right at home on “City of Evil”.  This song showcases how much Shadows has progressed as a singer since then. The acoustic guitar interlude matching underneath the dual guitar riffs remind me of the middle section of Megadeth’s “Reckoning Day”, once again displaying Sevenfold’s 80s metal influences. Synsyter Gates cements his status as a guitar god with this track.

“Coming Home” also wears Iron Maiden influences on its sleeve while still retaining aspects of Sevenfold’s “City Of Evil”-era sound.  We also get to hear some more complex drumming, with Ilejay’s double bass footwork.

“Planets” starts with an interesting drum beat and horns and guitars dancing from the left to right headphones and back, another example of the all the thought that went into the production of this album. The result is an apocalyptic, dissonant, half-thrash-influenced, half-prog thing. It is definitely experimental, even by Sevenfold standards (“A Little Piece of Heaven,” anyone?), and may have to grow on the listener.

“Acid Rain” opens with a piano playing a minor progression of chords. Then dreamy strings kick in, and Synyster plays a very bluesy Slash-sounding solo before Shadows starts singing. It is beautifully melodramatic, almost cabaretish—like if Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” had a bastard child. Who knows if having a piano-based track close the album will be an ongoing trend for Sevenfold (“Fiction” closed their previous album, “Nightmare”).  If so, it is definitely something to look forward to. The album ends with one of its most memorable songs, but the listener is still left wanting more.

Is “Hail to the King” “City Of Evil 2”? No. It’s far more diverse than that and could seem a tad too overproduced at times.

Is it better than “Nightmare”? Yes and no, depending on your individual taste. It is more experimental, which could appeal to some and turn others off.

Is this album one of the best metal albums of 2013 so far? It is a possible contender, but we’ll have to wait and see.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

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
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AVENGED SEVENFOLD Premieres New Single ‘Hail to the King’

Avenged Sevenfold has premiered the first single from their upcoming album, “Hail to the King,” which is released August 27.

This will be their first album with drummer Arin Ilejay, who toured with the band since 2011. It is also the first that does not have any musical contributions from the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan.


AVENGED SEVENFOLD Releases Preview of ‘Hail To The King’

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Avenged Sevenfold has released a 30-second preview of the title track from their upcoming album, “Hail To The King”. The album is due in stores August 27.

Previously released samples of new Avenged Sevenfold songs can be heard below.

There has also been controversy surrounding the album artwork, drawing comparisons to Lich King’s “World Gone Dead”.

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Thoughts?