Review Summary: The sound of the band slowly pulling themselves together, in more ways than one.
In a write-up for Avenged Sevenfold’s 2003 Waking the Fallen
, Allmusic's Robert Doerschuk stated that “there’s more to this music than generic cliché
.” Indeed, in retrospect a lot of truth can be found in that statement: Despite your opinion on the quality of Avenged Sevenfold’s material, you can’t deny that Matthew Sanders (M. Shadows) and his crew have never released the same effort twice. The band have always thrived on being different in their sound, possibly not when compared to similar groups, true, but at least in the confines of their discography. This has caused Avenged Sevenfold to remain a very polarizing group throughout the whole of their career, dividing their fans and critics with each release, whilst picking up a whole new batch of followers each time around too. Their 2003 Waking the Fallen
? Dark clothing-adorning metalcore groupies. 2005’s breakthrough, City of Evil
? Heavy metal enthusiasts with an ear for melody. 2007’s self-titled? Well
, at least they got some radio play time on that mess.
Ah, and what of this year’s Nightmare
, an effort dedicated to the late drummer James Sullivan (The Rev)? Actually, this album is a surprise in terms of Avenged Sevenfold’s discography. For the first time the band are moving backwards on the diverse route that they’ve taken with their sound, while at the same time - comparatively at least - moving forward in the quality of their music. Nightmare
's sound can be safely placed somewhere between that of 2005’s City of Evil
and 2007’s self-titled; the band’s focus is once again on strong choruses and commercial production values like last time, but thankfully, for the most part anyway, Avenged Sevenfold keep themselves on a tighter leash. There’s only a few instances when the band step out of line and fall back into their nasty 2007 habits, such as on third cut “Danger Line”, where a marching band-esque drumming beat is abused so much to lose its effect, and then later in the dénouement of Nightmare
, where “Victim” wastes the vocal aid of womanly high-pitched vocals, and in doing so loses much of their emotional appeal.
That’s not too say the rest of Nightmare
’s tracks aren’t without their flaws, though, if only that most of the songs’ individual foundations are actually solid. Avenged Sevenfold really have a problem with their run times, as songs like lead-single “Nightmare”, power ballad “Buried Alive”, and of course eleven-minute epic (pseudo-tense
, mind you) “Save Me” would have really benefited if a good two to three minutes were cut from their track times – or in the case of the latter, six to seven minutes. This will be a nightmare
for radio stations in the coming months, obviously, but as a listening experience, you can’t help but feel that Nightmare
wears out its welcome once harshly screamed seventh track “God Hates Us” rolls around. Avenged Sevenfold don’t do themselves many favors with this problem either as they then stack three tiresome ballads together once the former song closes off, after which the album them plummets into its elongated closer. It’s a real shame, as the band are arguably at their best sounding instrumentally, but they just don’t have the songwriting chemistry to effectively craft songs that know when and where to start or call it quits.
In fact the only place that Avenged Sevenfold slip up in their performance on Nightmare
are when either lead guitarist Synyster Gates lets his high-lead picking become an annoying bug in your ear, like on the aforementioned “Danger Line”, or when The Rev slips up on his singing – i.e. look no further than the end of the melodramatic “Fiction”, the last song written by the late drummer for the album. Fortunately, this only happens in a few spots throughout Nightmare
, though, and when you factor in the drumming of Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy, the band certainly put on a strong show for us, up to par with their City of Evil
material. However, this can't hide the fact that Avenged Sevenfold’s songwriting is pretty weak for the whole of Nightmare
. Problems remain from their spell of let’s-throw-whatever-we-want-together-and-call-it-an-album in 2007, and the band just don’t know when enough is enough. That said, Nightmare
is surely a step up from where they left of last time with their abysmal self-titled, and though they're still not really making good
music, you can at least say that the band are on the path to doing so in the future.