Review Summary: While A7X is not for everyone i recommend people who liked the last album and modern hard rock in general to at least give the album a listen through.
Several years ago i found myself visiting cousins in the San Fransisco area, one day we all perused a local cd store. One album caught my attention, an album called Sounding the Seventh Trumpet by then unknown band Avenged Sevenfold, the year was 2001. Needless to say the raw and raunchy power of that album kept me eagerly waiting for the next release, if there was ever even going to be one i didn't know at that point. Fast forward to the releases of Waking the Fallen, City of Evil, and A7X self titled, needless to say over the last decade i had become quite a big fan of this band...and the past 7 months, the loss of Jimmy Sullivan, and the arrival of Mike Portnoy i wasn't sure what to think and what would come out of this tragedy.
Without being to fan boyish i will admit i do love the album "Nightmare"...however, all of the people who felt empty and angry about the bands last effort "Self Titled" will feel the same disdain. Aside from tracks like "god Hates us" and "Danger Line" memories of albums such as "Waking the Fallen" are completely buried. This is not a problem for me and it may attract a different audience that the band had not seen in its past metalcore roots. To me the main difference from this album to the past album is the bands dedication to a more structured and buoyant vocal melody scheme. M. Shadows is the Album imo...the lyrics while heartfelt feel very overdone at points, there "brothers" passing however tragic it may be brings on to dark a concept for an entire album to based off of. The band stated this album would be a "concept", however the conceptual aspects of the album come on far to strong to taken for more then just grievance and mourning. However to back up from the negative, in my opinion this is M. Shadows strongest album vocally and really shows a much softer side to his vocal range compared to say the Axel Rose esque vocals layered all over "City of Evil"...the duo of Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance continue to do what it is ive heard many albums over, many of the guitar solos are more emotional and less contrived then past records but there are still many solos or harmonies i felt are just thrown in for the sake of it...the guitar work on Save Me, Victim, and Danger Line are fantastic whereas the guitar solos on songs such as Welcome to the Family and Nightmare just have a feel of overindulgence and an "ok we need a solo here" kind of feel. Johnny Christ the bands bassist has progressively been pushed in the mix deeper and there is definitely nothing wrong i can say about him *cough* he plays bass...Lastly Mike Portnoy gives a stellar performance and really lives up to his reputation. He proves that no matter what kind of music he is playing he can quickly adapt and do what needs to be done for the given song. Sadly though most of his signature "licks" are saved for the last minute of the song "Save Me" and at points i feel he may have downplayed his own role in some moments.
While A7X is not for everyone i recommend people who liked the last album and modern hard rock in general to at least give the album a listen through. However if you hated the last effort and want to hear Waking the fallen, just grab your ipod and listen to some second heartbeat or clairvoyant disease, that overall flavor and style of music appears to be long gone from this bands songwriting at this point. Very Good Album but not great.