Review Summary: Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare” exceeds all of their past efforts in terms of musical creativity and diversity, genuine emotion within the music, atmosphere, and technicality. It's not flawless, but its far superior to their last album.
Avenged Sevenfold. This name is quite often synonymous with generic, underwhelming, and other unlikable characteristics. Past albums from this band have always lacked something, and one of these shortcomings is the ability to successfully deliver emotion through their music. This is something Avenged Sevenfold has nearly always failed at, with one exception (I Won’t See You Tonight, Part 1). Something just clicks with this album, and various emotions seep throughout most songs, whether it is anger and angst (God Hates Us), melancholy (Victim and Tonight the World Dies), or reflection (So Far Away).
On the other hand, the overall songwriting has matured greatly on “Nightmare” since the underwhelming self-titled album. Not every song is in generic verse-chorus structure, and while choruses are present, the songs do not always follow a formulaic structure. Lyrics are far superior to their previous effort, as they tend to focus on the loss of band-mate and best friend “The Rev.” As a result, the lyrics are very inspired and sound genuine, except for a few moments (title track “Nightmare”). Most importantly, M. Shadows cuts down on the nasal-whine he has become infamous for, resulting in his best performance since Waking the Fallen.
Another thing Avenged Sevenfold has improved on dramatically is song diversity. Every song sounds completely unique, and it’s near impossible to confuse one track for another. In fact, nearly every musical influence you can think of finds its way onto “Nightmare”, including jazz, progressive rock, death metal, pop rock, and even neoclassical music! Unlike the self-titled album, however, the abundance of influences enhances the album rather than detracting from it. The album never feels bloated, as all of the influences help to feed the band’s emotion to the listener, rather than for the sake of just being there. Surprisingly, through the variety of influences, Avenged Sevenfold managed to create a unified atmosphere that pulls the listener in and never lets go. It’s truly an experience that must be experienced for yourself. Anyone knows it’s hard to explain the atmospheric feelings that bands like Opeth produce.
Flaws are not exempt, however. The first half of the album is more formulaic than the latter half, and falls a bit short. Sometimes Avenged Sevenfold seems to have overlooked verses in exchange for bombtastic choruses, which inevitably results in some annoyingly generic moments. However, these flaws are miniscule in the face of numerous positives that make this album quite excellent.
Now for a track-by-track analysis:
1) Nightmare: 2.5/5. The self-titled track and single for the album. Surprisingly, I find this track the weakest out of the eleven. It sounds too similar to the self titled album, which I disliked. The verses and guitar solo are bland and uninspired, however, the chorus is definitely enjoyable. The lyrics are probably the worst on the album. In essence, this is pure mainstream rock.
2) Welcome to the Family: 3.5/5. This track is where the pop-rock influences come in. Don’t let that steer you away though; this song is filled with enjoyable guitar riffs, drum fills, and an incredibly catchy chorus. The whispering part at the end is quite interesting to listen to. Sure, it may be a tad formulaic and mainstream, but it is more enjoyable than Nightmare.
3) Danger Line: 4/5. Overall just a great track. The lyrics focus on a soldier’s life experiences. Guitar riffs open the song, sounding very similar to the “City of Evil” style. Then, an emotional chorus flies in at full speed, truly giving the feeling that you are experiencing this soldier’s life. An unexpected piano section dominates the final two minutes, which is very inspiring due to its flowing guitar melodies and closing whistling section.
4) Buried Alive: 4/5. Another enjoyable track that sounds like a mix of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” and “Ride the Lightning”. The verses in the first four minutes are soothing due to use of clean guitar melodies, and a kick-your-ass chorus. The guitar solo at the four minute mark is spectacular and shows the maturity of Synyster Gates’ song writing. Then, a brutal section kicks in at the end, dominated by staccato riffs that remind me of old fashioned Metallica riffs. A song that should not be skipped.
5) Natural Born Killer: 3/5. A bit too similar to “Almost Easy,” but this is much more listenable and catchy. It seems to have been influenced by pop-rock, like Welcome to the Family. However, this isn’t quite as good. However, its contains some nice little drum fills from Mike Portnoy, and is a good “headbanging” song.
6) So Far Away: 4.5/5. Synyster Gates can write lyrics? Huh? His lyrics on here are the best on the album, delivering a very somber yet uplifting mood, along with his simple acoustic guitar picking. Anyone can relate to the lyrics. The song really goes into overdrive at the four minute mark, with Synyster pulling off one of his best solos and M. Shadows singing the most powerful vocals he’s done ever since Waking the Fallen! Did I mention the various guitar solos almost put me in tears?
7) God Hates Us: 5/5. M. Shadows returns to his roots by screaming a majority of vocals on this track. In fact, they are more death growls than his usual high-pitched screams, and sound much more brutal. This is clearly the most brutal song Avenged Sevenfold has ever written, lyrically and musically. There’s even a breakdown in there! Overall just an amazing heavy track, showcasing all of the band members’ proficiencies at playing their instruments. It’s probably the most memorable of all of the songs as well.
8) Victim: 4.5/5. This is the most atmospheric song Avenged Sevenfold has ever written, along with Fiction. It opens with an eerie guitar riff and church bells. Dare I say the verses even remind me of progressive rock? The chorus is more upbeat than the verses, but it’s just as moody and distinguishable. Along with God Hates Us, this song is also very memorable and unique, sounding like nothing A7X has ever produced before. A definite highlight!
9) Tonight the World Dies: 4/5. A slower song, along the lines of So Far Away. However, this track is much darker and creepy, most likely caused by the jazzy guitar in the verses. The chorus is extremely emotional, containing another excellent performance by M. Shadows. All in all, a great balled worth listening to many times over.
10) Fiction: 4.5/5. Now THIS is a creepy track. The piano that plays throughout the entire track just sounds unsettling and delivers an atmosphere I’ve never heard in any music before. It just doesn’t sound “right,” but that’s what makes this song so incredible! The Rev sings on this, surprisingly, and his vocals are extremely disturbing (but annoying, at some parts). Definitely don’t listen to this one if you’re about to go to bed.
11) Save Me: 5/5. While this is the longest song Avenged Sevenfold has ever written, it still doesn’t sound overly long. Dream Theater influences are quite prevalent and showcase some of the best performances by Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance I’ve ever heard. Johnny Christ’s bass actually shows at some parts, which sounds really neat. Clearly an instrument-dominated track. Similar to Dream Theater’s songs, this song takes the listener through a musical journey with no choruses or defined song structures, and A7X pulls it off.
In conclusion, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare” exceeds all of their past efforts in terms of musical creativity and diversity, genuine emotion within the music, atmosphere, and technicality. It deserves a solid 3.5.
Closing Notes: The reason this is in track-by-track format at the end is because every song is completely unique, so it is hard to obtain a general consensus about them. Also, SputnikMusic seriously needs to stop either trolling or worshiping A7X, as most of the ratings are either 1 or 5. This is not an awful album, nor is it a classic. Please be open-minded, and you may find this album quite enjoyable. This is also my first review, so don't be too harsh! :-)
EDIT 7/23/10: Changed the rating of "Nightmare" from 3 to 2.5.
EDIT 7/28/10: I'm bumping my rating down to a 3.5. The album just doesn't have enough staying power to merit a 4.