Review Summary: Avenged Sevenfold's new album is choppy, inconsistent and misguided. When compared to their past catalogue, it's atrocious, but viewed independently from their previous career, it only has serious problems.
Some bands are suited for major labeldom. Bands like Mastodon or Rise Against made the transition remarkably well and used the bigger space to expand their creativity. Other bands, like System of a Down, jumped straight onto a major label with little other recording experience. Most bands, if they get signed to a minor label at all, have only a small chance of getting signed with a big label like Warner Bros. or Reprise. One band that made this evolution with speed was Avenged Sevenfold. Their second album, Waking the Fallen, is inarguably one of the high points of metal-core in general. The riffs grew fiendishly dark and technical from the primitive attack they displayed on their debut, the screaming and singing far better, and the solos and general passion in the song made the shift from rocking-out-in-the-garage to genuine power and maturity.
City of Evil, their major label debut, was very much unlike what we’d gotten from these guys before. We were suddenly plunged into a world that combined the grandiose designs and the guitar frenzy of power/extreme metal with the rock star swagger of Guns and Roses, all while reducing slightly the pretentious excesses of both and creating a hard-edged yet operatic new sound. Avenged Sevenfold’s metalcore days were seemingly over. Many asked where the band would go from here. As new and exciting as City of Evil was, it didn’t seem like it could be sustained for the rest of a career. When clips of vocalist M. Shadows displaying his guttural screaming ability (thought to be lost after he blew out his vocal chords) surfaced prior to the release of this album, fans were excited. Did this indicate a return to the old metalcore style, or something new entirely?
Well, it turned out to be something new entirely. And it was pretty damn bad. Avenged Sevenfold’s self-titled album somehow manages to phone it in while unsuccessfully experimenting with new sounds. I will never say that a band should not try new things, as long as the band’s motive is to mature as an artist or incorporate good ideas into their work. “Brompton Cocktail” on this album is a good example of such experiment. Despite M. Shadow’s predictable and overdone caterwauling, it features an eerie, tribal film that might remind one of a bizarre fusion between Tool, Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold’s own “Waking the Fallen” (song, not album). It is virtually the only moment of true artistic growth in a sea of endless failed experiments.
I was surprised, when reading the other reviews of this album, to find that not many reviewers had assessed this on a track-by-track basis. Usually I would commend such a mature approach, but it truly is difficult to judge this album as a whole because each song is so different. The band goes beyond a System of a Down-esque approach of having polka/techno/R&B/folk/speed metal influences show up randomly throughout songs. Instead, almost every song seems to have been recorded by different artists. The only consistent element is M. Shadow’s would-be powerful vocals (although they grate less on the nerves than certain moments on City of Evil, when you compare his performance on this album to “I Won’t See You Tonight pt. 1,” it makes you want to cry). The aforementioned “Brompton Cocktail” extends its swampy, primeval theme for a not entirely unwelcome 4 minutes and 12 seconds, but the other “attempts” at branching out are usually horrific. “Gunslinger” attempts to package the acoustic solemnity and drama of “MIA” with the Western themes of “Strength Of The World,” and together with “Afterlife” form a pair of boring and disappointing quasi-ballads. “Dear God,” for all its country twanging, does nothing but summon up memories of the infinitely superior “Seize the Day.” The band deserves some credit for stepping away from its influences, but the mishmash of genres and styles is not only forced, none of it is done proficiently.
“Critical Acclaim” and particularly “Scream” take a dangerously nu-metal approach, but they are the closest we ever come to seeing Waking the Fallen through Avenged Sevenfold’s less juvenile filter. City of Evil is revived by “Unbound (The Wild Ride)” and “Lost,” but both are sadly inferior remakes of any given song from the first half of their previous album, substituting guitar hysteria and rapid-fire drums for meaning and substances. Of the other two songs, “Almost Easy” is basically just “Bat Country” if it had been written with the specific intention of being played on MTV, and “A Little Piece Of Heaven” is an absolutely horrific attempt at recapturing their old epic qualities. The frequent comparisons to Danny Elfman are no coincidence; here we see A7x at their cash-grabbing worst, trying to buy their way into the hearts of the Tim Burton-adoring Hot Topic fangirls along with a maudlin strings chorus that recalls new Linkin Park. With only 10 songs on this CD, the band obviously felt compelled to branch out in as many directions as quickly as they could. The album suffers for it.
Technically this album is nothing special either. The variety of instruments and textures helps mask the blandness, but after a while you begin to notice how the solos are shorter if present at all, the band seems to be playing less and less while M. Shadows seems to be singing more and more, and the riffs show less thought and time put into them. If you thought that the boys’ choir on “The Wicked End” or the strings on “Strength Of The World” were overdone, just wait until you hear “A Little Piece Of Heaven.” Every song recalls a different artist that did it better. The only song that approaches effectiveness is “Scream” and perhaps parts of “Critical Acclaim.” They revive Avenged Sevenfold’s old swagger with a Pantera-like crunch, although even here the technicality is mediocre. M. Shadows’ vocals cannot be ignored either. There is just something about his vocals now that fills me, and many other people, with rage just to hear them. They sound as if they’re trying to be something they’re not, no matter what they’re trying to do. Epic choruses, growled verses, roared hooks, tranquil bridges- all fall flat as M. Shadows musters his most epic singing talents and in the process falls flat on his face. Poor songs performed poorly.
Why then does this album merit any rating or review at all, let alone a 2? As said before, individual songs manage to work, sort of. There is a catchiness present in the music that lends a thrilling edge to their more inspired moments (the intro to “Almost Easy” and most of “Critical Acclaim”). The experimentation, although rarely pulled off well, shows an attempt to become better artists, if only so they can be more successful. This theme of selling out recurs frequently throughout Avenged Sevenfold’s career and finally makes itself blatantly obvious here. Although this may seem like faint praise, in fact it does leverage the album from burn-it-in-a-furnace to mere it-pretty-much-sucks. With so few songs, the presence of a shiner like “Critical Acclaim” can really improve things.
In the end, I have quite frankly ceased to care about Avenged Sevenfold. They have little chance of disappointing me any more than they already have. Despite some strong moments and good intentions, in the end their legacy will be not the mosh pit or the metalheads, but the MCR fans. I rest my case. Hopefully this review was worth having another one for this album. Please leave feedback.
I may have to review this now lol I'll make it a tbt. This album isn't as bad as you all say it is.
Scream is the worst song here though, it has cool chunky riffs, but other than than it's pretty horrible. Dear God isn't too great either, nor Almost Easy i suppose, but the other songs are pretty good methinks, especially a Little Piece of Heaven, Lost, and Afterlife. Brompton Cocktail has been growing on me too lately.
Well you already know my opinion but I think Afterlife/Almost Easy are both half-assed, Lost is decent except for the T-Pain chorus, A Little Piece of Heaven is the Holocaust, Brompton Cocktail is listenable, and Dear God is pretentious and a remake of Seize the Day. Scream and Critical Acclaim are the only songs that sound alive AND not just done for the money. And I hated Critical Acclaim when it came out if that gives you any indication of what I really think of them.
I know i've said this beofre, but ALPOH really is a love it or hate it song. Most of these reviewers who flamed the album hate the song, but those who like the album seem to think it's one of, if not the best song here. Personally, it's my favorite on the album, closely followed by lost.
Yeah, i'm definately gonna write a tbt review for this, this needs a positive review.
Three Days Grace succeeds at what they do. They know that they are pop-rock and radio-oriented and they stick to that, and they succeed with it sometimes. A7x not only used to be a kickass band that didn't care about that, but they fail at what they try to do. Plus I see no vast difference between "Pain, without love, pain, can't get enough" and the lyrics of Brompton Cocktail.
This is a pretty good review. I have the same feelings, but I think there's a lot more redeemable moments. I personally like A Little Piece of Heaven, Lost, Unbound, and Afterlife.
The thing Im most disappointed with is, however, the lack of effort. It's catchy, but I could listen to other bands for that anytime. I've always turned to A7X for creative, inspired and technical music, and this album fails at that. With that said, though, its not bad overall.
"Despite some strong moments and good intentions, in the end their legacy will be not the mosh pit or the metalheads, but the MCR fans"
Nice review, I suppose I'd agree if I actually had listened to the entire album.This Message Edited On 08.23.08