Review Summary: Avenged Sevenfold resemble a poor man's Hardcore Superstar
Aside from maintaining a constant flow of clever witticisms and humouring the odd rock band when they decide to give themed titles to each of the songs on a CD (or group of CDs) and pass it off as a concept, musical journalism is a pretty simple occupation. You listen to the record, identify the artist’s strengths and weaknesses and, based on how well they play to their own strengths, you give them a rating. And then you double it. It’s pretty much the same story on the artist’s end- their ability to play to their strengths at any given time (and to develop more in between) largely determines their success as musicians. Ryan Adams is notoriously bad at this; he has no concept of quality control. Butch Walker is notoriously exempt; he has no weaknesses, and he’s a wonderful, wonderful man. Avenged Sevenfold have played this game quite well to date; one gets the impression had they played the cock rock card a couple of years earlier, they’d have fallen flat on their collective face. City of Evil was well-timed and well-executed. Their latest foray into Axl Rose-itude, on the other hand, is bad, bad form.
Just as the lack of restraint of Rose’s artist ego led to some of rock’s most spectacularly unironic Spinal Tap moments in Use Your Illusion II, and the calamitous ‘My World,’ the eight-minute Mike Patton-raping-Danny Elfman-at-the-bus-stop circus opera ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ is what you get from Synyster Gates when he no longer has a critical audience to justify himself to. Which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it! Avenged Sevenfold suffers two-fold from a dearth of genuinely good musical ideas- the infectious vocal melodies which underpin ‘Bat Country’ and ‘Sidewinder’ or the dynamic interlocking guitar lines of the latter and ‘Beast of the Harlot’- and a total absence of the critical faculties which should have allowed a small orchestral ensemble go hungry rather than become party to the madness of ‘A Little Piece of Heaven.’ There are good ideas buried within the track and the musicianship is superb, albeit with the exception of the band members, but vocalist M. Shadows possesses none of the authority or basic ability to make a track of this magnitude work. It’s great that people are paying monks to sing, but in this case transcribing manuscripts by hand really is the more productive chore.
The one check in ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’’s plus column is the fact that it’s set the bar so high that nothing else on the album can quite live up to it. ‘Dear God’- or ‘Seize The Day (Nashville Remix)’ to you and me- makes its case with lazy slide guitar. Not even Shadows’ triumphant exclamation that he showers “every day” can save ‘Unbound The Wild Ride’ from Muse-inspired mediocrity, while the lengthy passages of agonised moaning and mournful quartet strings hammer home the apparent tedium of the ‘Afterlife’ all too effectively. On the positive side, the group’s pop instincts are still partly intact. ‘Critical Acclaim’ runs longer than it needs to (like many of the album’s ten tracks) but at least the group sound like they know what they’re doing. Gates and Zacky Vengeance are comfortable enough to recycle the chunky, Dimebag-style guitar riff for the entire song and for a few brief moments, alongside the frenetically paced ‘Almost Easy,’ the pair actually approach consistency and- dare I say it?- good taste. Such moments are few and far between beyond the nine-minute mark. Thank goodness for good graces, though, the two tracks are neatly positioned at the front of the record for ease of stopability.
I've listened to this today and lowered my rating somewhat, but I don't think this is even close to a 1. Pretty good review, witty as usual. Disagree about 'Almost Easy' though, definitely one of the weaker songs on the album, just has a bad chorus.
i just got the album... its honestly not as bad as i thought it would be. I've been an a7x fan for a long time (mostly during the Waking The Fallen era) The patton remark is dead on, and i dont like it... hah.
Brompton Cocktail is interesting, i kind of like it actually. I had very little hope for this album (as when i first heard the single i wasn't a fan of it).. I'd say this album is worth a listen though.. wont be your favorite, and wont be in your CD player (or playlist, whatever) for long.. but its not terrible.
btw - the Ryan Adams remark, i actually like him alot dispite his ever changing quality control. I might see him in concert tonight.This Message Edited On 10.25.07
This is the second review on this site to call A Little Piece of Heaven a cross between D. Elfman and Mike Patton. Which baffles me because it would be much simpler, more accurate and less accidentally complimentary to just call it D. Elfman. This record is Hot Topic bait, plain and simple.
I enjoyed the first two albums, but City of Evil just sounded horrible to me. You make it sound like this is City of Evil except much, much worse, therefore I'll steer clear.
Really well written review.