Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil (2005)
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
(I hope I got this right :P)
Vocals – Matt Shadows
Lead Guitar – Synyster Gates
Guitar – Zacky Vengeance
Bass – Johnny Christ
Drums – The Rev
First I’d like to say, as much as I try to be as objective as possible, there will always be a bit of bias. And sorry to those that are looking for a track by track review. I just thought it’d be easier to get a general feel of the album by doing it in paragraphs. :P
Fans of A7X’s old material were definitely skeptical about “City of Evil”, especially when Matt announced last summer that the new record will have no screaming at all due to his throat surgery. Many had already labeled them as sell outs after they signed onto Warner Brothers. That is for a discussion elsewhere, and I wont touch the subject matter anymore in this review. With no song shorter than 4:58 (“Burn it Down”) and most songs averaging 6-7 minutes, this is certainly not going to receive a lot of radio or MTV support.
Musically, the guys didn’t disappoint. Generally, I’d summarize City of Evil as a mix of Iron Maiden, Guns and Roses, Pantera and Queen. The album showcases the musicianship of the band, with no one being left out. The obvious standout is the guitar work on every song, which are each filled with Iron Maiden-esque harmonized riffs, with Synyster pulling off some pretty good solos in “Burn it Down”, “Seize the Day”, “Bat Country”, and “Strength of the world”. “Sidewinder” even ends with a flamenco guitar solo accompanied by bongo drums (correct me if I’m wrong). Edit [Although the solos are pretty good, some of them dont seem to "fit in" with their respected songs as well as they did on WTF. Although on WTF there were less solos, most of them added to the "feel" of the song, ie. the chaotic solo in "I won't See You tonight part 2". On this album, they are good, I'm not saying they're bad, it's just that they don't feel as if they add to the songs' emotions as well as they did on their last album.] Unlike “WTF”, the bass can be heard on this album with Johnny Christ laying down some pretty good bass riffs with an 8 string bass, as can be heard on “Trashed and Scattered” and “Blinded in Chains”; “Bat Country” also features some really good bass playing and “The Wicked End” begins with a surprisingly good bass riff. To complete the rhythm section on this album, the Rev’s drumming is nothing short of incredible. His double bass can be heard thumping throughout the album and his abilities are showcased on almost every song, while his versatility is best displayed at the ending of “Sidewinder” (nothing incredible here, just a different feel he creates with his drums). Extras that the major label could provide for them were a full-blown orchestra and a boys choir which intensify the power of the epics “The Wicked End” and “Strength of the World”, the latter which is a song about avenging the murder of a sister.
Finally, the vocals…I can’t say I love them. Without the screaming, every song is sung, for some songs it works incredibly well, and on others not so much. Sometimes I feel he sounds like he’s whining like Axl Rose, but that’s my personal opinion. I felt the clean vocals on “WTF” were as good as they can get for him, but for some reason Matt hired Axl Rose’s vocal coach, and on a few parts in some songs his voice just sounds whiny. In addition, I think they over-layered Matt’s vocals on a lot of songs; sure it sounds good to have back vocals at a few parts in a song, but on many songs I felt there were too many vocal layers layered on top of one another (ie. the verses in “The Beast and the Harlot”). That’s a minor flaw on the album, and shouldn’t prevent anyone from giving the album a good listen. On some songs like “Seize the Day” and “M.I.A” his vocals are more reminiscent of those on “WTF”. It’s nothing that really affects the strength of the album, I just thought it took some getting used to.
Without the screaming the songs themselves are a little more straightforward, which could be seen as a weakness in this album. Fans of the older material will likely miss the vocal variations that were present on those albums. Lyrically, the album is decent, except I felt Matt threw too many “***s” all over the album. You have your typical metal themes, ie. Revenge, death, tributes (“Betrayed” is written in memory of Dimebag) etc. including a dark love song in “Seize the Day”.
Overall, I think A7X have matured a tad more with this release, and although it’s completely different from their old material, it is still an enjoyable listen with good replay value. Choosing any “standout tracks” would be hard, because almost every song on this album is worth a listen. I hope Matt will revert to his “WTF” era clean vocals, because I thought they were more powerful that way. Anyhow, aside from my personal dislike of his new vocal approach, the album is definitely worth a listen from anyone that’s open-minded.
Burn it Down
Seize the Day
The Wicked End
Strength of the World
-Good music, highlighted by the twin guitar leads and solos, nice bass lines and some technical drumming from the Rev.
-Some of the songs sound epic, which should appeal to listeners looking for a musical adventure.
-No more screaming, so this would appeal to listeners that can’t stand screaming.
-With the average song averaging 6-7 minutes, the typical listener might not have the patience to get through a whole song.
-Some of Matt’s clean vocals will strike a wrong chord with some old fans.
-No more screaming, so gone is the vocal Schizophrenia that A7X was known for.
-[Edit] Some of the guitar solos dont seem to fit in with the song.
-[Edit] The songs have an immediate effect, but on the long run they dont seem as "replayable" as their old material.