Review Summary: Second Heartbeat; More than 10-years on, Avenged Sevenfold's metalcore sleeper hit proves that success was inevitable if not deserved.
The release of Hail to the King
around this time last year was hardly the most original way for a band to break through. While I examined a subtext underneath its skin that could be seen as cleverly spoofing and parodying the ideals the rockist community had come to develop and appreciate, it was very much a consistent (and predictable) spin on Guns N' Roses/Metallica attempts at mainstream approval. Needless to say their climb up the ranks of Download and Soundwaves' bills and acceptance in large-capacity venues was warranted, with the collection of new found fans and crotchety critics almost exactly like the ones that dogged Iron Maiden, Scorpions and just about any rock and metal band with success pre-Nirvana.
With it though, they managed to almost completely wipe the slate of their initial identity. This wasn't uncommon in their career; M. Shadows has made clear he intended to debut with an album like Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
as so one day they could gather fans and move them into celebrating a more classic sense of hard rock and heavy metal virtues. Hail to the King
was different, however, as now they had developed a well-known canon of work with which they just had
to play to their newly acquired adorning fanbase. Known nowadays largely for ignoring the material of their first 2 albums (the band have refused to play any songs from Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
for some time now), it seems only through nostalgia for the now deceased James 'the Rev' Sullivan that they've bothered to look into their bridging piece, and to some their best, Waking the Fallen
Regarded as a transitioning point between the largely rudimentary work of ...Seventh Trumpet
's sound lies somewhere between metalcore, AFI, pop punk, Guns N' Roses, thrash metal and Iron Maiden. How these qualities are mixed varies, however it constantly remains clear that they're heavily influenced when sections jar in transition so easily; the best example of this is "I Won't See You Tonight", where a grandiose power ballad not too dissimilar to "November Rain" descends maddeningly into a chugfest of As I Lay Dying proportions. It's probably the albums more remarkably enjoyable aspect, having fun in the creative process with Avenged developing music they obviously want to hear. In M. Shadows, this is best seen by his tendency of transitioning from a Jacob Bannon-screech to Axl Rose stadium warble on songs such as "Radiant Eclipse" and "Unholy Confessions", where remarkable versatility is shown that the man has lost in recent times for a generic Hetfield-ien growl.
What can't be understated however is just how difficult and cumbersome Fallen
can be at times, diluting metalcore's most dreary aspects with processed '80s metal fatigue. Tracks such as "Second Heartbeat" and "I Won't See You Tonight, part 1" become ponderous exercises in breakdown-paced screamathons with little in the way of a discernible tune to hold onto. It would all be forgivable if it were in any way a 'guilty pleasure' et al; uncomfortably, often this is not the case. While technically skilled vocalists, The Rev and M. Shadows become bogged in a quagmire of overdone screeching and yelling, while newly acquired Synyster Gates ramps up his Iron Maiden-motif, shredding blindly over unnecessary segments in order to create... something. Clearly their maturity as songwriters was not expounded upon heavily here, apparent in the cheap and tiresome words and at times woeful chugging. It all comes to a loggerhead on "Chapter 4", where M. Shadows belts out (with nary a hint of self-awareness) "I've come here to kill you/won't leave until you've died". Indeed, Ginsberg this is not.
Perhaps sole survivor "Unholy Confessions" is the best product to come of ...Fallen
, replete with trad as fu
ck breakdowns, stodgy screaming and whiney melodic symptoms bubbling from under the skin. It's hardly the band at their most inventive and it's arguable whether or not it's managed to make it through the last 10 years; it wouldn't be complete without the iconically tinny drum sound, muddy riffing and vocals lacking any discernible confidence. However, breaking through are the hallmarks of what is to come, a keener melodic sensibility akin to Guns N' Roses and a focused attention towards guitar interplay and considering what may occur of dissonance. A continuous staple of their live shows, "Unholy Confessions" may be a relic of faux-emo inflected metalcore that plagued post-Jane Doe
'00s, but it remains a recognizable bridge in Avenged Sevenfold's journey to headliner status.
Clearly, fans remain divided on the issue; the passionate hate/love they manage to incite speaks for itself even if their music sometimes cannot. Eventually, it has to be said that Waking the Fallen
really is just another metalcore release made significant by the name on the jewel case, but that's hardly reason enough to undersell it. It's barely complete and dramatically imbued with flaws, but what charming album isn't? It's part of the appeal the band have sustained since the turn of the century. If Hail to the King
is a band utterly confident in their trajectory, Waking the Fallen
is the genesis of this, a promising if highly flawed beginning.