Review Summary: Avenged Sevenfold are still going strong.
Hail to the King, yet another #1 album for Avenged Sevenfold; it's their sixth studio album, and marks their second album to achieve the top spot - the first being 2010's Nightmare. Hail to the King is the first album to fully feature drummer Arin Ilejay, who in the past had only worked on single songs, "Not Ready to Die" and "Carry On". This album features 10 songs plus an extra song, "St. James", which is dedicated to former drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan.
On this album, the band went for a basic hard rock/classic metal sound; the idea was to strip down the songs to allow space for each instrument to stand out - and that's exactly what they did. The majority of the guitar work is very straightforward, yet both Synyster Gates and Zacky V. managed to write some very notable riffs/leads (ex. the continuous riff from Shepherd of Fire or the continuous guitar lead from Hail to the King.); like those two songs, most of the others follow the same concept - the guitar riffs reappear without sounding uninspired or exhausted (other ex. "Doing Time" and "This Means War".) Bassist, Johnny Christ puts on a regular bass performance, but this time the bass is audible throughout the album, where in previous albums it wasn't as clear - again this has to do with the new writing approach, more space for each instrument to sound powerful. The drum work provided by Arin Ilejay is clearly less complex in comparison to The Rev's style; but at the same time, his style has more groove in which he makes the drums sound massive and more focused.
As for the vocals, M. Shadows' delivers an outstanding performance from start to finish; it's easily some of his best work to date, and it shows on the softer songs, "Crimson Day" and "Acid Rain" - one thing to note is that there's little to no vocal layering throughout the songs, where in "City of Evil" or the "Self-Titled" there was a lot of. One of my favorite things about Avenged Sevenfold is the lyrical content; for the most part it's always been a strong part of their music, and on this album they managed to write some of their best lyrics yet; they range from dark and evil themes to story-like lyrics. I like how most of the lyrical content finds its way to paint a picture of what's being said (ex. "Hail to the King" (cruel ruler, madness, death), "Requiem" (apocalypse, dark, evil), and "Heretic" (sacrifice, eerie, demon-like).
Overall, this album is a clear representation of the bands' constant evolution; it sounds like Avenged Sevenfold, but with a touch of classic metal/rock - there's some clear inspiration of their favorite metal bands (Iron Maiden, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath) throughout the ten songs, both lyrically and musically. The way I see it, Avenged Sevenfold are still going strong, "Hail to the King" definitely tops their 2010 album "Nightmare".
All songs are worth a listen, but of course some are better than others. I highly recommend: Shepherd of Fire, Coming Home, Planets, and Acid Rain.
SHEPHERD OF FIRE – A great introduction for the new album – the haunting bells, the sound of flames, the loud horns, and an evil guitar riff, all come together and create a dark-creepy vibe. The song has a lot of power and groove; it's based around one riff and rhythm (like most of the songs), it constantly reappears yet it doesn't sound empty or uninspired. I'm a big fan of the bass and drums on this song, both sound simple yet powerful enough to get you moving. The lyrics are very well written, yet a bit tricky at first, from my understanding, they're based on the devil's intent to turn a person's life around for the better and to prove he's better than the divine. Overall, it's a great introduction and defines the sound that the band wanted to achieve ... it has the potential to become the next single.
"See, I have pity in watching you suffer. I know the feeling of being damned alone."
"Well I can promise you paradise, no need to serve on your knees."
"Immerse yourself into the kingdom of redemption. Pardon your mind from the chains of the divine."
COMING HOME – This song takes a more adventurous and hopeful sound. One of my favorite things about this song is the lyrical content; the words seem to come from experience and talk about a journey/touring in a story-like manner. It has one of the longest and most tasteful guitar solos (2:47 - 4:24) by Synyster Gates; it's easily the best solo on the album; in addition to that, Synyster Gates' father, Brian Haner, does the outro guitar solo at 5:33. All in all, it's a very powerful song with great lyrics.
"I've sailed the seas, fought my many demons, I've looked to gods in the skies."
"The desert rain has washed away direction, had angels looking after me."
"Tend your light 'cause on this night I'll be coming home."
PLANETS – It's a dark, heavy, angry, and energetic song ... easily one of my favorites on the album. The drums really stand out on this song; they have a lot of attack and sound massive - the intro clearly shows that, I'd say it's Arin Ilejay's best performance yet. What really makes this song come alive is the full orchestra that adds a very sci-fi cinematic atmosphere - the section at 2:55 is one of the best moments on the album; I love the lead guitar during this section, it goes hand in hand with the huge orchestra. The lyrics are different from anything the band has written about - very visual and self-evident. Overall, it's a very interesting and unique song that stands out in the Avenged Sevenfold discography.
"You awoke the giants who were dormant in the sky."
"Comets reigning death from a fiery eye!"
"Mother of all your time is coming, one with eternity."
ACID RAIN – The final song on the album is a piano ballad; it's very orchestrated and the lyrics are some of the best - very deep and poetic. Lyrically, it's a follow up to Planets; the sci-fi theme is still there but in a different perspective, the words are presented in a "say goodbye/romantic" way. The piano work is pleasant all the way through, the lead guitar work is outstanding and very memorable; the opening guitar solo is catchy and full of emotion, the same can be said for the main solo; I like how it fits perfectly under M. Shadows' voice during the final chorus. This is definitely one of their best ballads and my overall favorite on the album … "send us home" … it's a perfect way to end the album.
"Our day has come; it's drawn in the sky, so don't shed a tear now, be thankful for the time."
"Life wouldn't be so precious dear if there never was an end."
"Over the blackened moon I'll carry you away, through the planets we fly."