What The Hell Happened To... Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold
Posted by Dan Marsicano
This week, Dan Marsicano returns to look at Avenged Sevenfold's latest album, and puts death metal band Blood Red Throne in the spotlight.
Hello everybody and welcome back to an all-new edition of What The Hell Happened To…I'm your host, the man who spent his time away from the column doing nothing but schoolwork, Dan Marsicano.
Before I begin, I have a very special announcement to make. Due to other commitments, and a full-time summer job, What The Hell Happened To… will be ending in a few weeks. I intend to do six more editions before closing the door on the column forever, which would make my last edition June 15th. This was not an easy decision to make, but after almost 75 editions, the time has come to say goodbye. I have already decided all the albums that will make up the final six, so I will not be taking any suggestions.
I want to wait until the end to really go off and thank everybody, including a lot of you fantastic readers who entertained me with your comments, whether good or bad, and shaped this column to what it is today. I want to say that I'm not leaving 411 completely, but will definitely be taking a back-seat in my involvement with this great site, as I focus on my other web sites, which are mentioned below.
I am currently writing for the Heavy Metal section of About.com, Metal Underground (under the alias heavytothebone2) and SMN News. You can also find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.
Avenged Sevenfold starts my journey into the afterlife (get it?) with a bang. I actually reviewed this album back when it was released, which you can find here. I will be referencing it throughout the column to show the change in my opinion of the album after two years of repeated listens.
M. Shadows- Vocals, Keyboards
Synyster Gates- Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Zacky Vengeance- Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Johnny Christ- Bass, Backing Vocals
The Rev- Drums, Backing Vocals
The Track Listing
1. Critical Acclaim-5:14
2. Almost Easy-3:53
6. Unbound (The Wild Ride)-5:11
7. Brompton Cocktail-4:12
9. A Little Piece Of Heaven-8:00
10. Dear God-6:33
Avenged Sevenfold, or A7X for short, came into fruition in 1999 in Huntington Beach, California. At the time, neither Johnny Christ nor Gates was in the band. Those two would join shortly around the release of Avenged Sevenfold's first album, 2001's Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (Gates only played on the opening instrumental "To End The Rapture," which was on the 2002 re-issue).
The band toured with little to no help, slowly building a reputation amongst rock and metal fans. 2003's Waking The Fallen would be the first sign that the band had something interesting to give to the general public, with an album that elevated the band's game quite a bit. While they were still engulfed in the metalcore genre, hints of progression were sprouting to the surface, including slower melodies, clean vocals, and a heavier lead guitar presence throughout the album. "Unholy Confessions" was the band's first big single and Waking The Fallen got the band a hardcore following.
2005's City Of Evil was a controversial album, dividing the band's fan base right down the middle. Some appreciated the band's attempt to push themselves as songwriters and musicians, while others saw it as a failed grasp at mainstream recognition. "Bat Country" and "Seize The Day" would be the two big singles that catapulted the band to success, whether their fans wanted it to be true or not. Entering into the studio for their fourth album, Avenged Sevenfold would self-produce it with no help from an outside producer for the first time in their career. This would lead to a greater emphasis on unusual experimentation and a push towards something quirky and unique amongst the generic rock bands of the time period…
Back in November of 2007, I was given the task of reviewing what was at the time Avenged Sevenfold's fourth album. In my original review, I gave the self-titled album a 7 out of a 10. I called it the band's "weakest release so far," and at the time, I really meant it. That response was gauged by about five listens of the album front-to-back. Some of the songs caught me off-guard for reasons both good and bad, and others stuck with me long after I was finished the review.
I've always found music critics, and fans to a certain extent, to be pretentious and savage in their approach to other people's work. Their worst offense is to take great albums and chew them out for no reason whatsoever. I'm as guilty of this as any critic that has put words to paper, and while I try to avoid this, there is no doubt that a person's own viewpoints can fog up any type of unbiased opinion. Sometimes, it can take years before an album finally connects with a large audience. Look at Weezer's Pinkerton or Megadeth's So Far…So Good…So What? for prime examples of this.
Almost two years later, and a few dozen more listens later, I'm taking this week's column to do a re-review of sorts for Avenged Sevenfold. I will reference the original review, which you can find at the beginning of the column, from time to time, but I hope to take a more in-depth look at a few tracks that caught my attention on repeated listens.
A sole organ begins opener "Critical Acclaim," with Vengeance and Gates appearing out of thin air to lend their soaring guitar work to what becomes an epic introduction. The first notable thing once the song kicks into high gear is Shadows' vocals. On City Of Evil, he sounded hoarse and out-of-tune, pushing his vocal range to a level that he wasn't fully prepared for. Thankfully, with some help from a vocal coach, Shadows seemed to find his perfect range on Avenged Sevenfold. From the very beginning, Shadows seems more confident and composed throughout the album. Even when the album drags near the middle, Shadows never lets up and gives a strong performance that more than makes up for City Of Evil.
"Almost Easy" is the fastest song on here, the equivalent of slamming into a brick wall with a case of dynamite strapped to the front of the car. The Rev's double bass work is steady and unrelenting, showcasing his flashy side. To this day, "Almost Easy" is one of my favorite tracks from Avenged Sevenfold.
In my original review, I commented that "Scream" sounded similar to "a lot of bands in the mainstream and its repetitiveness doesn't help matters." My negative opinion on the track has eased up over the past few years, and while it's still not a great song, I don't have the urge to skip past it. "Afterlife" is an underrated track, one that has an infectious chorus, and subtle violin work that soothes the listener into a false sense of comfort before all hell breaks lose. Gates pulls out a great performance as well, with a shredding solo that, when played loud enough, can literally tear the wallpaper right off the walls.
The band's attempt to add in country/blues elements was highlighted as one of the downfalls of the album a few years back, and my opinion hasn't changed. "Gunslinger" and closer "Dear God" are poorly written and really lacked any lasting value. The female vocals in the former still seem way too random and out-of-place and the latter takes way too long to pick up, saving the best moments for the extended instrumental outro.
The middle of the album drags a bit, with "Brompton Cocktail" and "Lost" weighing the album down with sub-par riffs and plodding melodies. I will say that "Unbound (The Wild Ride)" is entertaining, mainly due to the energetic piano work in the verses. While the last track is a disappointment, the one that precedes it has fast become one of my favorite Avenged Sevenfold songs. "A Little Piece Of Heaven" is unlike anything that the band has ever done, or may possible ever do. I described it best in my original review when I compared it to "‘Nightmare Before Christmas' mixed with Mike Patton's side project Mr. Bungie." The Rev sings on a good portion of it, and considering that his other band, Pinkly Smooth, plays avant-garde metal music, it is a perfect fit.
While some of the songwriting may be less than stellar, the musicianship of the band is still top-notch. Gates and Vengeance have a chemistry that can only come from years of playing together, arguably one of the best guitar duos in recent memory. Enough has already been said about The Rev, but one of the under appreciated members of Avenged Sevenfold has always been bassist Johnny Christ. Sure, he doesn't do anything spectacular, but he keeps a strong presence on the album and when he breaks through the mix, he commands your attention.
After a few years of retrospective, my opinion of Avenged Sevenfold remains about the same. I would probably keep the rating the same, but I don't think it is the weakest album by the band anymore. That honor would go to debut Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, which may not win me any favors from their fan base. It is an album that had a lot of potential, some of it realized and some completely wasted. A few years down the line, people may have different viewpoints on the album, depending on what direction Avenged Sevenfold heads in the future. To me, Avenged Sevenfold represented a fork in the road; where this quintet decides to turn is anybody's guess.
Who The Hell Is…Blood Red Throne?
Norwegian death metal band Blood Red Throne is ready to take over the genre with their intensity and brutality. With one of the best bassist in death metal in Erlend Caspersen, and song writing that aims for a head-on approach with no sign of sacrificing their sound for mainstream appeal, this quintet is one big album away from being mentioned with the best of the best in death metal.
Forming in 1998, the band has been through a fair share of vocalist and drummers, but the current line-up (vocalist Vald, guitarists Tchort and Død, bassist Caspersen, and drummer Anders Haave) have remained stable for a few albums. On June 30th, they will be releasing their fifth album, Souls Of Damnation, and I have been lucky enough to get an advance copy. It is one of the best modern death metal albums I've heard in a while, and actually is up to par with any of the recent Cannibal Corpse albums. Caspersen actually outdoes Alex Webster on several tracks on the album.
So, check out these live videos, and visit Blood Red Throne's MySpace link at the top to get some high-quality death metal…
Well, that is it for this week. I hope you all enjoyed the return of What The Hell Happened To… I know it was cool to be able to re-review one of my earlier reviews which, in hindsight, is a piece of shit.
Next week, the countdown to the end begins, as I head towards the last five editions of What The Hell Happened To… with a look at progressive rock band Yes. Until then, have a great week and keep on rocking the free world!
What The Hell Happened To... Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold