Review Summary: Mainstream monotony 101
Being one of the biggest mainstream metal bands, Avenged Sevenfold deserve credit for refusing to write the same album twice. Ever since their 2001 debut Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
, the band managed to create something fresh and different with each succeeding album, for better or for worse. Waking the Fallen
polished the raw, hardcore tendencies of the band’s debut without straying too far from their signature melodic sound. City of Evil
saw them drop nearly all -core influences for a streamlined accessible sound with satisfying results, and their 2007 self-titled release broadened the scope of influences, including everything from country to a full-blown “rock opera.” It wasn’t exactly the best direction for Avenged Sevenfold - the pure ridiculousness of it all brought the cohesiveness and authenticity of the record down - but to their credit it was a ballsy move, and it certainly wasn’t as disastrous as one would expect.
On 2013’s Hail to the King
, A7X try something more conventional, relying less on experimentation and more on riffs and vocal hooks to drive the songs, and this is its biggest problem. At least Nightmare
took some risks – M. Shadows tried screaming again on ‘God Hates Us’, their heaviest song since the Waking the Fallen
days, and piano ballad ‘Fiction’ was a pleasant change of pace and was the last song written by the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. However, just about everything on Hail to the King
is uninspired and safe. We’ve heard it all before, whether by A7X on a previous release or by other, better bands. ‘This Means War’ sounds ripped straight from The Black Album
-era Metallica and ‘Coming Home’ could pass as a weak Iron Maiden song, not to mention tracks like ‘Doing Time’ and ‘Hail to the King’ are so painfully bland one would wonder if there’s a single creative bone left in the band without The Rev. The worst part is knowing that A7X are underplaying their abilities – we know Synyster Gates can shred, and we know Shadows can be a semi-decent singer when he wants to be, but here all we’re left with is rehashed melodies, boring guitar solos, and sheer streamlined monotony. It doesn’t help that each song plods around the same breakdown-paced tempo – if you’re looking for thrash-y riffs like ‘Trashed and Scattered’ and ‘Beast and the Harlot’, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Thankfully Hail to the King
isn’t without its redeeming qualities. ‘Requiem’ and ‘Planets’ are far from innovative, but standalone they can serve as fun headbangers despite the cheesy choir effects and brass harmonies, and the piano-string driven ‘Acid Rain’ closes the album on a subtle note, proving the band can still write a fairly effective ballad. To put it simply, Hail to the King
is nothing new. It only differentiates itself by being the first Avenged Sevenfold album to not branch out in some form. We all knew that The Rev was a vital part of the band but part of us wanted to believe they could still pull through without him. Unfortunately in that regard, Hail to the King
doesn’t inspire much hope.