Review Summary: This shit is all over the place.
When I heard City of Evil
for the first time, I felt like I was fourteen again and hearing Iron Maiden, Pantera, 80s Metallica, all those metal greats for the first time. I think the problem with City of Evil
is that they too easily allowed it to become the gold standard for their material, and as great as the two albums that came before it, most of the songs sounded the same, though Waking the Fallen
was a bit more experimental. At the risk of sounding like Patrick Bateman describing Phil Collins, it was with City of Evil
where their musical ability became more apparent, where they displayed a range of different sounds- a bit of a NWOBHM side, some thrash, even some groove, etc. It worked because they showed some subtlety and restraint, experimenting with different kinds of metal while keeping a consistent style.
And sadly, the fact that they allowed City of Evil
to become the good standard too easily is loud and clear on their self-titled fourth album. Admittedly, it's an interesting album, because it showcases the band going in a whole bunch of different directions and seemingly not knowing what to do with any of them, and not knowing what seems right for the album in general. And not all the songs are bad, in fact, a few songs on here are really cool. Problem is, too often the album seems to go off on a tangent and most of the time, and it just comes off as confused and messy. Whereas City of Evil
was fun and at times even showcased a sense of humour from the band, this album takes itself too seriously and it's almost hard to believe that it was recorded by the same band.
There are some moments even where the album tries to recreate some of City
's formula. In example, the last song, "Dear God" sounds like a country remix of "Seize the Day", but minus the emotion. And then there's even the obligatory "Bat Country" clone ("Unbound", which can be described as "Bat Country" but with more slow bits and even a totally unrelated female vocal part which feels totally random and out of place). And then the rest of the album is just... messy. Admittedly the album starts off on a strong note with "Critical Acclaim", which is an excellent opener that is suitably heavy and in-your-face, and continues that strong streak with "Almost Easy", but aside from "Afterlife", well, it's all downhill from there. "Scream" is so bad it sounds like a parody; from the female vocals and the weak sexual puns and chorus ("You know I'll make you wanna SCREEEEEEEEEAM"). "Brompton Cocktail" is 4 minutes of some of the most boring pseudo-tribal metal you've ever heard; the tribal beat does nothing to advance the song, nor does it even fit. And then there's "A Little Piece of Heaven", which is so bad, it must be heard to be believed. The Tim Burton style makes if feel like a parody and the lyrics are just lame.
Admittedly, the band perform pretty good on the album, though it's clear from all the screaming and yelling in the past, Matt's voice sounds weaker than it did on the previous album. Jimmy gives a particularly inspired drum performance here, and sadly, this was his last album, before he died of a drug overdose over two years later. Aside from that, Avenged Sevenfold
marks the beginning of a downhill decline that would take its toll on the next album for the worse. It won't win new fans of the band and the already existing fan base is already easily split. But to be fair, sir newest album, judging by "Hail to the King" and the 90 second sample clip played at Download Festival this year sound much worse, so for all I care, this could easily be the best of their bad albums. But that's not saying much.