Review Summary: Enough is enough.
Just recently, on a hot summer day, too hot to go outside and with too many hours to kill before the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, I found myself playing, of all things, Guitar Hero. I believe it was the third game in the series, I could be wrong. If I can recall correctly, I was paying "Re-Education Through Labour" by Rise Against, and about midway through the song, a sheen of embarrassment hit me. "I'm 20", I say to myself, "and I'm playing a video game that requires you to operate a plastic guitar shaped controller to hit the notes. There's no possible way I could stoop lower than this."
But there is- I could be the bands age, which must be at least mid thirties, playing that pop-punk garbage live, the kind of stuff that only attracts teens who think they're hardcore by listening to Rise Against. (On a side one, I'm sure if you ask these little pukes who their favourite Grindcore band is, they'd respond with Waking the Cadaver
My point is, one can't help but get that feeling from listening to Avenged's latest album, the fittingly titled "Nightmare". Oh, it's a Nightmare alright. Their drummer dies and right after they get into the studio to record an uninspired album, am I right?
Without a doubt, I do believe the band set the bar way too high with City of Evil. I loved that album and all it stood for, and I still do. It's a refreshingly old school blend of eighties style heavy metal and punk. The strained vocals are fun, the guitar riffs and solos were catchy, and the drumming was inspired as ever, it was like a loving tribute to all the metal from the eighties we loved. When was the last time you heard a song as fittingly retro as "Beast and the Harlot" or "M.I.A."? Or A soulful ballad like "Seize the Day"? Or an epic tune like "The Wicked End" which felt adventurous at 11 minutes?
Their follow up album was a disappointment and the only songs I could remember from it were "Afterlife" and "Dear God". Oh, there was that "Unbound" son with the godawful female voice too.
So it seems like it's only fitting the follow up to THAT would be disappointing too, right?
"Nightmare" is an ugly pop song that didn't work when it was a cringe worthy republican wet dream anthem named "Critical Acclaim", and it sure doesn't work here. It starts off well enough with the glockenspiel intro, and when the guitars and everything kick in is tolerable too, but then Mtt gives you a taste of how cringe worthy the album will be with an inflection-riddled, "NIGHTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE!!!!"
Oh, about inflections, they're everywhere, especially on the first verse of the song. "BELOW! SHOW! FOREVAH! MIND! SIDE!" he goes overboard on his vowel modifications on this tune, and they're ***ing annoying. Matt, stop "Sahnging" and start "singing". The piano on the bridge is recycled from an earlier b-side named Tension, which I must add is superior,
That's only the first song- plenty of the songs here are just boring. "Tonight the World Dies" starts off with an acoustic intro that sounds similar to the intro to "Omega" by Bruce Dickinson
, and I can't really remember anything about listening to the tune except for wishing that I was hearing "Omega" instead. "Victim" begins with church bells... and a chorus. Seriously, a chorus and CHURCH BELLS? Am I listening to ***ing Bon Iver or something? And the song doesn't evolve from there either. Sure the lyrics do tackle an important message about domestic violence, bit listen to "Betterman" by Pearl Jam
for a much better song with the same topic. "Buried Alive" is 90% of the reason people call A7X emo, with whingy lyrics that could very well be that of Linkin Park, and for the record, I ***ing hate Linkin Park. And "So Far Away", ANOTHER boring ballad? Really?
You may think I hate ballads. I really don't. If they're done well, I love them. Wasting Love by Iron Maiden
is one of my favourite ballads ever. But A7X haven't really made very memorable ballads and it shows here.
This CD. does have some good tunes though. "Natural Born Killers" is a fast, catchy, thrashy tune reminiscent of their old days, "God Hates Us" starts with a slow intro that's nice... Then the song kicks you in the face, with its sudden kicking into heavy mode and stomping on your face subsequently until it's a bloody pulp in the ground... Why not more songs like this?
Then comes the highlight of the album, "Fiction". It is beautiful. Really. The gothic, intoxicating piano. The vocals by Jimmy. The sad and melancholy lyrics that sounded like Jimmy knew his end was well near. It's a tear jerker, but it's the perfect swan song for an insanely talented drummer. Matt joining in for a duet as well is beautiful and it's like the death never happened, and like they're just sharing a nice duet. "Save Me", the albums closer, is a fun tune as well, with enough twists and turns to keep you interested, and while not quite "The Wicked End", still feels epic.
In addition, Mike Portnoy does a good job filling in for Jimmy. He's always been one of my favourite drummers and he didn't disappoint here.
But the problem with the album is... There's too much of too little. There's a few good tracks but they're far and between. NBC and GHU are appropriately placed, so why can't the tracks surrounding them be any good? Especially when almost the entire second half is ballads. Three ballads in a row on an album should never happen, even if they're good.
But that's not the worst problem. My biggest fear is that Avenged have chosen a path that may just lead to their musical demise. I can't see them going on for much longer if they keep walking this path. I get that a lot of bands before them have tried to progress forward with their sound by sort of... lightening up, if that's how you put it, but two boring albums in a row is just inexcusable. But I guess every band is allowed to have a boring period... problem is, they might never fully recover.
I get that bands evolve. I get that they want to change and eventually, mature. But look at Maiden. They've matured over time with 15 albums and they still sound like them old selves. Maybe if Avenged released this later in their career it would fare better. However, as I state above, they've unfortunately evolved into the kind of band that attracts the guitar hero kids who only cheer because they recognize the song. And it'd be pretty embarrassing if they played this kind of stuff in their old age.