Review Summary: Let’s talk about social stigma, prejudgment and lack of objectivity, since all these words are vital when considering the acceptance of new Avenged Sevenfold album.
Firstly, social stigma is “the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society. Stigma may then be affixed to such a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms”.
Now, granted, this can be applied in various ways, it’s still tightly coupled with the existing attitude towards “Hail To The King” in the following manner.
Avenged Sevenfold have tried many times in the past to steer away from the so called ‘mallcore’ or even more ridiculously tagged ‘post-mallcore’ persona with the most notorious attempt, giving Mike Portnoy a sit on the drummer’s chair. Why were they labeled ‘mallcore’ is beyond me, but their previous (or rather, early) work was indeed somewhat metalcore. The latter is not as bad as numetal per se, but the fact that Avenged Sevenfold enjoyed the warm reception of mainstream media (especially young teenage girls) that somehow distorted the quality of their music to the kvlt-in-the-making metal community. A band that can actually make good riffs, delivers a solid production and is liked by… mainstream? Surely, that mustn’t be the metal we’d listen! And so the social stigma was conducted. Avenged Sevenfold soon became a poster band for what is heavy YET not heavy enough to satisfy the kvlt community.
Secondly, prejudgment by definition means “making a decision before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case” is a logical progress from social stigma and is as such relevant to further discussion. Let me make a soft reference: Justin Bieber will be forever Justin Bieber, no matter what Justin Bieber does. He is much more than just a human, he became a meta-persona, an adjective, a symbol. He can never be anything else than Justin Bieber with all the negative touch that the word itself represents. We, as humans and part of the civilization, are unable to detach Justin Bieber from the Justin Bieber meta-persona. Sadly, same can be said for Avenged Sevenfold. Which brings us to the final and the most important characteristic when discussing the aforementioned band: lack of objectivity from the recipients, which is evident from all the reviews on this page (or any other page for that matter).
Now, I tried to be as objective as possible when discussion, analyzing and somewhat enjoying the “Hail To The King” (hereinafter referred to as HttK) and I’ve come to the following conclusion.
Being a fan solely of the “Waking the Fallen” and “City Of Evil”, I’ve felt left down by the band many, many times before. When their self-titled album was released in 2007 I felt short of laughing. It was bad, it was unlistenable and most of all, it was meaningless. It didn’t touch me, it didn’t offer me anything new (or anything new that I’d actually enjoy). Given the ever growing set of bands, I forgot about Avenged Sevenfold (unfortunately, I couldn’t forget their self-titled effort it was that bad). Now, years later, I saw much hype behind their new offering, HttK. A lot of negative reviews, bad reception and an unconvincing single grabbed my attention (as a train-wreck would). I gave this album a try.
After listening to it for many times on repeat (which was a sign of me perceiving this music as bearable), what struck me the most is the lack of –core in their sound. Musically they seem to be growing up. Riffs are solid heavy metal and nobody can deny that. The intro to the HttK is the very epitome of heavy metal, as is the rest of the song. Another thing that grabbed my attention were the vocals of Mr. Matthew Charles Sanders. Given all the medical troubles he had with his throat, vocals still sound bearable. Nasal singing, a concept he solidified, seems to be toned down, which is a step in the right direction.
This Means War is another great example of a maturing band that accepted heavy metal as their basis. And that they do well. The way the intro riff resembles Iron Maiden’s best efforts is remarkable. Crimson Day is another great example of how far the band is capable to push their limits. A semi-ballad with clean singing would have been (and was) a nasal nightmare in the past, however, this time around they not only make it listenable, they make it sound enjoyable. And this is coming from a person who has an allergic reaction to rock ballads.
But that only shows how skilled the Avenged Sevenfold became. The diversity in their songs is remarkable. From the Latin chants that open the Requiem, to the piano driven intro on one of the most memorable and emotionally erecting songs I’ve heard in a while, namely Acid Rain. No one with a common reason and the ability to judge music without the influence of the peers can deny the growth and the progression of Avenged Sevenfold.
As much as lyrics seem trivial or uninspiring, I find them enjoyable and a perfect fit to accompany the musical background. Sure, one could (and has) sifted through the lyrical ability of the aforementioned Mr. Sanders and copy the verses out of context to make them sound meaningless and silly, but there are two sides to this story. Now, granted, lyrics were never their strongest points, they completely deliver on HttK as an album. With verses, such as “Children still play in the garden / Dance as the sun slips away / Not even stars last forever / Cleanse us acid rain” (Acid Rain) one can’t help but to feel. Of course, the angst is present (e.g. This means war: No home to call my own. / No finding someone new. / No one to break the fall. / No one to see me through.) but it’s not overplayed as it would be in the deliverable of bands, such as Korn.
After all is said and done, I’m still enjoying this album and keep interrupting the likes of Kayo Dot, Ulcerate or Gorguts on my playlist when I feel the craving for some good old fashioned metal, with a touch of novelty and 21st century influences.
And remember: music is a subjective matter. As much as I like Avenged Sevenfold’s latest deliverable, I can completely understand that many of you hate it, despise it or even loathe it. May it be peer pressure, social stigma, prejudgment, lack of objectivity or you simply don’t dig it – you have the right to hate it as much as the rest of us have the right to love it.
And love it we do.