Review Summary: This is not the greatest album of all time, no, this is just a tribute.
Following 2010's well received but somewhat mediocre outing Nightmare, it has been three years since the music community last heard from Avenged Sevenfold in the form of a full length, and in that time the band has been very busy indeed. As well as providing two soundtrack songs for one of the biggest juggernauts in the gaming industry, the five-piece hard rock/metal act has spent their time concocting their attempt at a tribute to the more commercial metal acts of the 1990's. The result is entitled Hail To The King, and stands as a nice reminder of the various talents the band possess whilst marking a nice step forward for them.
The sixth studio album from this band is a very solid outing, which aims to remind listeners of acts such as Metallica's works in the early 1990's. As such, infectious choruses and simplified song structures are found in abundance on this release, but they are very well managed. Following a neat and very catchy guitar introduction accompanied by a spoken word segment by vocalist M Shadows, Doing Time launches into a quick paced number driven by manic screams and confident singing from their front man. The verse riff to this song in particular is a nice testament to the skill of rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengeance, who carries this release on his shoulders whilst lead guitarist Synyster Gates scatters numerous lead fills throughout the songs, often also playing a very nice guitar solo. Another sweet example of the dual guitar mayhem that this album contains would be the title track, which makes some good use of Vengeance playing power chords over the top of Gates' interesting barrel of lead work.
Of the many numerous gripes that many individuals have leveled at the band's latest work, very few are actually representative of the actual body of this album. The vocal work from M Shadows is actually rather enjoyable, from the nasally and over-the-top wails that drive sections of Coming Home to the aforementioned tortured shrieks that are found in Doing Time. The song This Is War has also been subject to much controversy, due to the instantly noticeable similarities to Metallica's hit song Sad But True, and whilst it is quite clear to anybody with one spare ear that these songs are very similar, it is not quite the tragedy that is has been noted as being. The verse riff is actually far more interesting than on the source song, and the lead work from Gates is as above par as should be expected from him. There are also other occasional so-called rip-offs of other popular metal songs, including an obvious homage to Megadeth's Hangar 18 on one particular track, but these actually work very well in the sense that this is supposed to be Sevenfold's attempt at a 90's commercial metal album. The final factor of this release that brings a lot of criticism is the drumming performance from Arin Ilejay. Well, as it stands, he by no means puts in a bad performance on this release, although occasionally he isn't as creative as their previous drummer no doubt would have been. Whilst definitely being the weak link here, Arin still gives a nice enough show.
When all is said and done, Hail To The King is an excellent attempt at recreating the magic of such releases as Metallica's seminal eponymous release, and is a fantastic album in its own right. Many of the songs that make up this release are highly interesting, such as the catchy number Requiem, noteworthy for opening with a rather odd choir, but the band definitely saves the best until last. The final two tracks on this release are the centerpieces not only of Hail To The King but also possibly of the band's entire discography. Planets is a track that clocks in at four seconds shy of six minutes and never wastes a second, with some nice drumming in the introduction, stellar riffing throughout and a marvelous vocal performance. However, it is Acid Rain that will no doubt be singled out for the most praise from this release, and deservedly so. The haunting piano lines that open this up are just the tip of a seemingly never-ending iceberg of great details where this song is concerned, including some neat orchestrated work and the performance of a lifetime from lead guitarist Synyster Gates.
Hail To The King is a cracking release that I honestly recommend highly to absolutely any metal fan whatsoever. This album dips and dives between original, fresh material and ideas -that show the band honestly attempting to progress as musicians- and the homages to classic metal tracks from some of the most renowned artists in the genre. The result is an album that, aside from the occasional slack drum pattern from the band's new drummer, seldom hits a wrong note.