Review Summary: Hear ye, hear ye, our king here is having a breathtaking identity crisis.
If there's one thing that's noticeable about Avenged Sevenfold's discography in recent years, it's that they've gone from bad to worse, like a lot of modern rock bands. But what makes Avenged's example special is that they've done so in the most spectacular way possible; their first two albums were excellent if you take into account that they're just fun, guilt-free hardcore punk/metalcore, then City of Evil
was great, as it was classic throwback metal mixed in with some metalcore elements. Then suddenly, they took a nosedive and landed at just plain "meh" with Avenged Sevenfold
(note the bland and uninspired album titles).
And now they've landed at just plain TERRIBLE territory with Hail to the King
, which completely defies description in terms of badness. The first thing that strikes you upon hearing the first few bars of the album is how blatant of a lie M. Shadows' claims that the album would be more laid back hard rock is, as in the first few seconds alone, you already hear orchestration and cheesy synths. But it's not just on that track, it's the whole album. The whole album showcases the band going in several different directions and none of them being particularly impressive. Whereas on City of Evil
the band stretched their creative wings and showed us their influences, taking us on a roller coaster ride through the eighties with their modern metalcore touch, here, it seems like the band has no idea what they want to sound like. And several tracks are just clear-cut ripoffs.
Ever wondered what Metallica's "Sad But True" sounded like if they released it too far into their prime? Get a load of "This Means War", a cheesy Metallica ripoff minus the awesomeness of "Sad But True" and with ten times the vapid nonsense of tracks like "Nightmare" or "Brompton Cocktail". I even goes so far as to have a wah-pedal drenched solo which wouldn't have impressed many in the nineties. Then there's "Crimson Day", a laughable mash-up of "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica, "Coming Home" by Iron Maiden and "November Rain" by Guns N Roses, with less of the class of the two former tracks and the vapid crap of the latter. The song wouldn't sound out of place in a Call of Duty
game, and while it's already bad enough that M. Shadows' voice is hardly what it once was, his attempts at sounding soulful here will have you trying hard not to giggle. "Coming Home" actually has some decent instrumentation including a good couple solos, but it either should have been an insturmental track or been written by someone else, because then we wouldn't be "treated" to laughable lines such as, "Home is where the heart is/Or so I'm told"
. That is indeed what Matt sings, in one of the heaviest tracks. But while many of you may speculate that Mike Portnoy was booted from the band, two tracks make me consider the possibility he left on his own accord. I somehow imagine that M. Shadows showed him demos of "Requiem" and "Planets", and Mike decided, "Ummm... yeah, I'm just gonna get out of here while the chance remains open". Both are hilariously awful attempts at sounding epic, with "Requiem" opening with a choir that themselves sound like they're trying their hardest not to laugh, leading to a plodding metal tune that completely out-cheeses any of the other tracks with tacky and overdone orchestration, and even a deep throated monologue (I'll send a gift basket to whoever can tell me what the HELL he was saying). And then there's "Planets", which makes completely cringe-worthy use of sampling from the Gustav Holst's suite of the same name.
But it isn't all gloom and doom, there's two tracks on here that do slightly give an air of hope; "Shepherd of Fire" is a nice opener that has a catchy chorus, some cool riffs and a nice solo; it's also very atmospheric and manages to get the album going on a good note, and "Doing Time" has a bit of a Metallica feel, and a nice chorus with some cool effects on the guitar solo. And as for Arin Ilejay's appearance, well, I've no doubt that he's a great drummer, but everything here sounds pre-programmed and didn't let him do his own work. Look, guys, I know you miss Jimmy, but let it go already. Your new drummer has to explore his creative territory and furthermore, has to bring his own touch to the band instead of just going on and on under your command.
I'll say this though, one way this album could have been improved is if Bruce Campbell showed up for a spoken-word section. Then using a phrase most popularized by the film Army of Darkness
would have been completely justified, as long as it could help the album. But even at this point, I'm not sure if anything can save the band now, and it will be a miracle if the band's career isn't ruined by this album. But at the same time, who am I to call the fans "wrong". I'm sure the population of Mountain Dew-chugging, Monster Energy Drink hat-wearing, COD-playing teen boys will find a new soundtrack to perfectly time their headshots to in this album, so the band can take solace knowing that, for a start.