It's been a long road and an even longer wait, but Avenged Sevenfold have finally emerged from the shadows - stronger, wiser and ready to start anew with Hail to the King. This album is anything but ordinary, and certainly not like its predecessor Nightmare or any album previous. One of the many great things about this band is that they never make the same album twice. Incorporating influences from their idols like Iron Maiden and Metallica, the band unabashedly admits that they want to follow in their footsteps to become icons of metal for their generation.'We're ready to carry the torch' they told Metal Hammer in July. If Avenged Sevenfold were Leonardo da Vinci then this would be their Mona Lisa, their Pièce de résistance. With an air of strength, resilience and the attitude to match, they are more like an army than an artist, men armed with musical weapons and ready to take aim; this dear friends is their battle cry.
Shepherds of Fire starts off the ten song, fifty three minute record with the sound of a bell, before the guitars come up and launch into a stylish and classic example of what Avenged Sevenfold does best. It has a sort of swagger to it, which sets the tone for much of the other tracks. The drum beats are catchy and Synyster Gates solo is fiery and masterfully executed. The track is featured on the Call of Duty: Black Ops II 'Origins' multi-player map pack.
Hail to the King is next, which is also the first single off of the album. This song is one of those fist pumping, foot stopping anthems and a great, original song. Fans will really enjoy hearing it live.
Picking up the pace, Doing Time is all about blistering guitars and fast beats, and there's even a scream from M Shadows that will delight old fans and new fans alike. It's a party, and we're all invited.
This Means War brings back the swaggering groove, but features the dueling guitars, and another ferocious solo from Gates. Much like Scream from the self titled album, this song has a very stylized riff that will instantly have you hooked on it. Be prepared to hum this for a while, it's not going anywhere.
With a Carmina Burana vibe, Requiem is perhaps one of the most stand out tracks on the album, if for nothing else because it is a departure from anything Avenged Sevenfold has done yet. The theatrical opening it quite operatic. Conjuring images of eerie cathedrals, it almost has a gothic vibe and the spoken words definitely emphasize the overall dark and mysterious mood of the song. This could make an interesting video.
Of course it wouldn't be a proper album without a ballad of some kind, and Crimson Day is just that. The vocals on this track seem to be reminiscent of those on Warmness on the Soul from the first album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. Another great example of what Avenged Sevenfold does well.
Heretic is bouncy and catchy, fitting right in with the repertoire Avenged Sevenfold has built for themselves. The soaring guitars and melodic flow is easy to listen to and sure to please.
Coming Home is truly enjoyable and has the makings of a classic metal song. The up-tempo pace and harmony of the guitars will leave you feeling energized and you will be singing along with this one from beginning to end.
From there it dives into the hard rocking, double kicking track Planets. Said to have been inspired by space and Star Wars, it easily gives you the feeling of an epic battle among the stars and features brass instruments layered in.
Closing out the album is Acid Rain, a beautifully melodic mix of piano, strings and a wonderful vocal performance from M Shadows. It shows the band's true talent and ability to write a range of diverse material and is a great way to close out the album, especially because none of the other albums have concluded like this does.
Some fans will be surprised at how little it shares in common with the other albums and some may even be disappointed, but truthfully it is not at all out of keeping with what Avenged Sevenfold does. They have wonderfully mastered the process of evolving as a band and translating that to their sound from album to album, a skill that has served them well over the past decade. Overall, this is a creatively constructed and entertaining album and the right direction for them to go in. If you don't like it at first, sit back and play it a few times because it will grow on you with every listen. Zacky Vengeance said it best: 'I'm glad to see people like the album and to the people who don't like it..I'm glad to know someday you will like the album.'
You can stream the entire album right now on iTunes and pre-order it before its official release on August 27th.
The band will be touring with support from Ghost B.C. and Deftones later this fall.