Review Summary: If the glaring weaknesses of this album had have been fixed beforehand, A7X could've made the record that hardcore fans and MTV newbies alike could've been happy with. But I guess it just wasn't in the cards.
Man, this album has gotten a lot of flack. I realize that some of it is well-deserved, but I do not believe that this album is as much of a mess as people make it out to be. There are some definite gems to be found within Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled release. I'll warn anyone who reads this ahead of time, I'm a huge fan...to the point of obsession. But I'm going to try and make this as objective as possible.
Now then, on to the album.
To start off, it is almost literally impossible to review this album as a whole. Avenged Sevenfold tried to experiment in pretty much every conceivable way, and as a result, each track sounds substantially different. Nevertheless, this is a review of the album, not of each track so I will try.
When I listened to the first five songs on the album ("Critical Acclaim," "Almost Easy," "Scream," "Afterlife," and "Gunslinger") I was laughing to myself wondering why in the heck every single review I had read seemed to make this out to be one of the worst albums of the year. All of those tracks are definite high points in the album. The first two songs that were released before the album, "Critical Acclaim" and "Almost Easy" are probably the two best tracks on the CD. "Critical Acclaim" combines every element of Avenged Sevenfold together to make one fast, raw, pissed-off song. It has a metalcore breakdown, some Rage Against The Machine-ish chanted vocals, a Pantera-esque lead riff, and even some contributing vocals from The Rev., to give the whole song a vibe similar to that of his and Synyster Gates's side project, Pinkly Smooth.
"Almost Easy" is quite obviously the main single off of the album--you can tell that from the start. However, it takes the sound that A7X used on City Of Evil
and refines it, taking it a step further. It is also probably one of the best songs lyrically on the album. The Rev.'s drumming is as fast as ever too.
"Scream" is a track that many people have dismissed due to the blatant sexual overtones present in the lyrics and the seemingly purposeful cheesiness. However, it's incredibly energetic and catchy, and it's just one of those feel-good songs that make you want to move. It also sounds very similar to something off of City Of Evil
, and should please the fans that were made with that record.
"Afterlife" and "Gunslinger" are two more stand-out tracks. I've heard a lot of people harp on "Gunslinger," but I really enjoyed it. It had more of a western feel to it instead of the country I was thinking of when people were saying it sounded "country." The part where it switches from acoustic to electric and kicks in is very epic--it surprises the hell out of you when you're listening to it. "Afterlife" seems somewhat thrown together...to me the melodies don't really seem to match, they seem out of place. But I love the instrumentation on the song, and it seems like a throwback to A7X's older days...although the vocals are mostly clean, I can detect a distinctive undertone very similar to something that would've been heard on Sounding The Seventh Trumpet
or Waking The Fallen
Now is where the album starts to get sort of wacky.
"Unbound (The Wild Ride)" is by far the worst song on the record. The melodies are bland and forgettable, the piano out of place, and the intro entirely too similar to "Almost Easy." Not to mention the children's vocals at the end...positively horrendous. Sounded like a rendition of Kidz Bop or something. I'm not really sure why I dislike this song the way I do. This was one of the few songs on the record where A7X stayed pretty true to the formula. They just seem to have failed miserably at it.
"Brompton Cocktail" isn't worth mentioning a whole lot. It's somewhat forgettable, but the use of tribal drums at the beginning gives it a unique feel. It's not a stand-out track, but not a weakness either. "A Little Piece Of Heaven"...well, it's just...I don't even know. It's hard to describe that track exactly. It sounds like a cross between a normal A7X ballad, Danny Elfman, Catch 22 and Pinkly Smooth. The whole thing has a Tim Burton/Danny Elfman feel to it...from the rare deepness in Shadows's voice to the storytelling vibe. The instrumentation is similar to some ska records, with several horns making a very catchy, upbeat melody reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Rev. contributes vocally here again, and the resemblance to Pinkly Smooth is still very evident. And then the chorus abandons the horns and sounds mostly like what any A7X record would. Now, the all-important question: does it work? At times...yes. But it seems like there are way too many things going on in the song. It seems more like Avenged Sevenfold were interested solely in experimentation on this track, and didn't take into account whether certain things would sound good together. You can't always throw different musical ideas into a blender and expect something good to come out of it.
"Lost" is boring and forgettable, and Avenged Sevenfold
wraps up with "Seize The Day" *cough* I mean, "Dear God," a song that is supposed to "twang" at the heartstrings (pun intended) and does so minimally. It's a good song, and very heartfelt...Shadows's voice is probably more powerful on this song than on any other one. It just seems...well, entirely too much like "Seize The Day." From the lyrics to the melody to the length to the catchiness...the only thing that really separates the two tracks is the random "twangs" inserted by steel guitar.
The result is definitely not bad, but completely failed to live up to the immense hype surrounding Avenged Sevenfold's fourth release. Avenged Sevenfold
is a record that tries too hard to do many different things, and as a result is going to alienate a lot
of people, more than just fans this time. The first half of the record is outstanding, and succeeds in capturing the intensity that I feel Avenged has always been superb at while also evolving the band's sound into something that incorporates all of their influences, but sounds completely different than their other three albums. However, the pace falters during the second half, and while "Brompton Cocktail," "A Little Piece Of Heaven," and "Dear God" are enjoyable in parts, they are a bit too haphazard to portray any real musical evolution.
So why am I still giving this album a 3.5? Because I had a very similar opinion on City Of Evil
when it was first released, and I absolutely adore it now. I'm leaving myself open to the possibility of new things dawning on me about this record. Avenged Sevenfold is my favorite band in the world, and they've never let me down in the past. They've always succeded in making music that was catchy, fun, different, and inspiring. The new album to me is sort of like a Christmas where you end up getting this really cool t-shirt and this awesome pair of jeans. You like it...in fact, you love it. But...you got clothes for Christmas. In retrospect, it's not that great. Similarly, when compared with A7X's catalog, Avenged Sevenfold
falls a little short.