Chapter I: A Raw and Inconsistent Introduction
It's pretty easy to be tempted to immediately hold a bias toward Sounding the Seventh Trumpet because of the band that created it. However, the most important thing to remember is that this was before Avenged Sevenfold's huge breakthrough and all of the polarized opinions floating about their work today. Time has been the ultimate judge of this group, revealing their numerous ups, downs, experiments, perceived "sellout" moments, the works. It has arguably not been very kind to them in hindsight, the group creating complete failures such as the self-titled white album and Hail to the King; what I'm saying is that their early work is usually considered collectively to be their creative highlight. Basically, the albums that many would consider the "pre-sellout" days.
While Sounding the Seventh Trumpet is by no means a bad album (and certainly doesn't fall into many of the pits of the band's latest work), it definitely has its own share of problems. By this point, the band hadn't found their signature sound yet; while the successor Waking the Fallen was half-metalcore and half-traditional metal, this record is full-on metalcore. Hell, they even added some punk elements with songs like "Streets" and "Thick and Thin." More importantly, however, this is also the band's rawest and heaviest recording; while the piano ballad "Warmness on the Soul" breaks up the distortion a bit, the rest of the record is pretty much full-throttle in its intensity. This could be good or bad, depending on your tolerance for motif repetition and frequently hearing very similar key changes. Unfortunately, it's a little too half-baked for me; lead guitarist Synyster Gates wasn't in the band yet, so a decent chunk of the album consists of Drop-D riffs that don't really go anywhere... and that's generally because they're practically begging for some melodic leads to adorn them. Zacky Vengeance gives a solid performance here, but his riffs don't really stand out very much compared to what other metalcore bands were doing at the time. On a positive note, however, the album definitely leans more on the "metal" side of metalcore, and the riffs occasionally reflect influences like the classic eras of Iron Maiden and Pantera.
However, a few things especially stand out about this album compared to the band's other works. Along with how raw and distorted it is, Sounding The Seventh Trumpet is all about energy and investment. While M. Shadows' performance isn't exactly great here, he still seems to have a lot of conviction in his vocal work, particularly in how commanding his screams are. The Rev is similarly energetic and committed as he performs quick fills and delivers plenty of fast hard-hitting beats to accompany the meaty riffs. The album is just so damn fun to listen to at times despite its inconsistencies, and of course there are plenty of things that hint at the band's future as well. The introductory tune "To End the Rapture" is the only song with Synyster Gates' guitar work present, and he takes advantage of this opportunity to lay down a great neo-classical solo resembling his work on City of Evil and Waking the Fallen. Closer "Shattered by Broken Dreams" marks the group's first epic, and its acoustic balladry would be further fleshed out in Nightmare years down the line; meanwhile, "Lips of Deceit" uses a distorted series of guitar harmonies to kick things off, hinting at the harmonies of future albums while keeping its own unique sound intact. However, early experiments such as "Warmness on the Soul" and "Streets" prove that the band were already working to be different than their contemporaries.
It's hard to fault Avenged Sevenfold on trying to make a unique and even fun debut, but its inconsistencies and lack of really memorable riffs makes it a pretty frustrating listen at times. I recommend this to anyone who's curious about the band's beginnings as well as anyone who just wants something fast and heavy to headbang to, but the depth is a bit lacking. Nonetheless, it's fun and heavy, and to some people that'll be enough. It's a good record by a band who had plenty of growing to do.