Review Summary: It probably won't sway the dissenters, but Nightmare only improves on the classic A7X song formula.
Avenged Sevenfold is a band that are sure to spark controversy wherever their name is mentioned. Between their rabid legion of fan boys, and their equally-as-large legion of dissenters, it’s becoming more and more difficult to actually get a somewhat unbiased opinion of them. When you look at the facts, however, there are certain things that are simply undeniable about their five album career: the band cannot be faulted for rehashing old material. That’s not to say they can't be (painfully) generic at times, but each album has its own unique flavour that keeps each new release fresh and exciting. And Nightmare doesn’t deviate from the course. This is a record that draws from their older influences more than anything, creating a pleasant blend of the band's previous three records, while also drawing comparisons to progressive music at times.
One thing can be said for certain: this is the darkest record the band has put out. While Waking The Fallen might have been heavier, Nightmare just has a melancholy feel to many of the songs, something absent from the bands previous slower releases. This is especially evident in the second half of the record, where a hat trick of “ballads” (the term is used loosely) express emotion rarely seen in Avenged’s songs. The album is not all dreary, however: the sky-high sing-a-long choruses are present as always and better than ever. Frontman M.Shadows sounds better than ever, and the lyrics are improving, if still being cringe worthy at parts. Lead guitarist Synyster Gates goes no holds barred on his fretboard wizardry, bringing back memories of the group’s City Of Evil days. Mike Portnoy also did a spectacular job on the kit, staying faithful to The Rev’s drum lines. In fact, if someone didn’t know better, you could swear he was playing on the record. Rhythm players Zacky Vengeance and Johnny Christ seem to be tighter than ever, with Christ’s bass actually audible at parts.
This record is not perfect though; the faults that have plagued Sevenfold throughout their career are still prevalent. While Shadows does sound better, it’s still Shadows, and (with the exception of the almost all screamed track “God Hates Us”) this album won’t sway anybody with a hate for his vocals. The songs can seem bulky as well; with the album clocking in at over an hour, it’s almost too much to handle in one sitting. The verse-chorus format doesn’t help the problem either, the exception being the epic 11-minute closer “Save Me”, which flows from section to section, making 11 minutes seem like 5.
This is, while opinionated, the band's best record of their career. Out of tragedy, they have crafted an opus of mainstream metal with progressive metal. From the haunting “Fiction”, featuring vocals from the late Jimmy Sullivan (which made this reviewer’s eyes water), to the radio-ready arena rocker “Welcome To The Family”, to the vicious “God Hates Us”, this record takes the best pieces of Avenged and put them on a single record. While one could argue that the songs seem too delegated (“So Far Away” is the ballad, “God Hates Us” is the heavy song, “Save Me” is the long song, etc.) it provides variety at the least. If Avenged can refine their songwriting to include these all these elements as one song, instead of allotting each song a rigid place, they could soon acquire a status as one of the remembered bands of the new decade.
Addressing the "best bands of the 2000's" thing: Do you perhaps mean they will be one of the bands well remembered from the decade? I would change it to that, because I figure they might be one of those bands people look back on.
tiesthatbind, thanks for the up! and yeah, I meant the decade, but I have a feeling that these guys are going to be looked on in the future as a Metallica-status band. A bold claim, but whatev hahaha I'll try and word it better.
I mostly agree with the review though. I've liked a few songs here and there from the band, but this feels like the most complete album they've released, and the first one I can actually listen to from start to finish. They should have scrapped Nightmare and started the album with Welcome To The Family, but otherwise this is a pretty strong mainstream metal album.