"Hail to the King" is the 6th studio album by American heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold. It was released in 2013 on the Warner Bros. label and, produced by Mike Elizondo. The line-up for the album was M. Shadows (vocals), Synyster Gates (guitar), Zacky Vengeance (guitar), Johnny Christ (bass) and Arin Ilejay (drums).
This was the first Avenged Sevenfold album to feature Arin Ilejay, after session drummer Mike Portnoy decided not to carry on behind the skins for the band when he played on the predecessing album, "Nightmare". Illejay is the band's first permanent drummer since the untimely death of Jimmy Sullivan in 2009. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No.1 and sold 159,000 copies during the first week of its release. M. Shadows has proclaimed that the album is some of the heaviest material they have recorded, but still follows the same trait as traditional heavy metal acts such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Synyster Gates stated that the album they wanted a bare bones, riff-orientated approach to their music, while Zacky Vengeance said it is the next progression of the band. Machine Head's Robb Flynn slammed the album as a 'covers album', and included is some of his criticism in my review for good measure. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Shepherd of Fire
The album begins with a song about personal demons. The narrator is going through a torrid time and feels like he's on a hiding to nothing and, according to M. Shadows, a rollercoaster from hell. Robb Flynn stated that it was "Avenged Sevenfold: Now with even more Metallica", and it is pretty easy to understand what he means when you listen to the song as it definitely has tones of "Master of Puppets" about it, but not as heavy.
Hail to the King
Robb Flynn said that "Eyeliner sales skyrocket as thousands of heartbroken goth girls realize "Hail to the King" is actually that ugly AC/DC bands song "Thunderstruck"". And he may have a valid point, should the listener play both tracks one after another – or at least play the intros from both songs. They are not note-for-note, but they are strikingly similar in structure. It is a song about a tyrant who rules his land with corruption and intimidation, while his people live in poverty and fear.
Here is another song in which Robb Flynn has something negative to say, and this time it is Guns N' Roses which is the band in question. "After hearing Avenged's Guns N' Roses cover "Doing Time", Axl actually calls Slash, says, "Dude, what the ****!" This is quite amusing in that it is highly unlikely the pair will ever speak again. Flynn is definitely on the money here, as M. Shadows' intro vocals scream of Axl's trademark howl on many G N' R records, backed by basic guitar that are surprisingly good. It is a song about how we all feel trapped at times in our own prison cell and the struggle to regain freedom from the shackles of life that bog us down.
This Means War
This song is a more down-to-earth track which sounds like something Godsmack would do. Of course, some people reading reviews like this will not know who some of these bands are, but let's just say there is a difference between being inspired by a band and completely doing their own take on what's been done before. Of course, some people are also going to love what's been done here, but thinking outside the box it most certainly is not.
This is a song about the coming of Satan but don't worry – it is not a Satanic track by any means. It is said through the eyes of a minion and he is waiting, watching for his master to make his presence known on Earth so that the end of the world can finally arrive. The track is a little too stop-start but it is one of those that fans will either love or hate. The vocal style is done in the way of a church hymn but it doesn't quite grab the imagination it needed to be a standout song.
Here comes the obligatory song that starts out slow but eventually grows into something which is grandiose. It is a song about the birth of M. Shadows' son and in it he's saying that he is far from perfect but he will do all he can to be a great father to his child. Hardcore A7X fans are going to love singing along to this one but the casual fan will more than likely think it is not enjoyable. The acoustic beginning and subsequent heavy-but-slow part is nothing new, and the similarities of "Dear God" from the band's self titled album are quite evident.
Rob Flynn is back at it with this song and said "After hearing "Heretic", Dave Mustaine flips out, blames Obama, Metallica and UFO's for the A7X stealing “Symphony of Destruction". It definitely has a similar structure, no doubt about it, and it also has a strikingly similar harmony in places. It is a song about how religious beliefs are thrown at humanity, whether an individual is a believer of faith or not. It states that though there is obviously a purpose for us being here, religion does not make a convincing reason for any of it.
If ever there was a song on the album that is unique, it must be this one, though it must be said that the lyrical content, though different in words and structure, can be likened to the Iron Maiden song of the same name, which is about a pilot who sees the lights of the runway of his homeland. This track deals with a mortal from ancient times who has been through many battles and is returning home to his family.
This is a song which is, unsurprisingly, about the planets of our solar system. It deals with the possibility of planets colliding one day, saying that there is nothing that can be done to stop it happening, if it ever does. It must be said that the chorus is a little weak and very little thought has gone into the writing of the lyrics, but it is often the case that a song like this will win over the critics. It is hard to see how, though, when you probably have the weakest track on the album in "Planets".
The accompanying song to "Planets", "Acid Rain" deals with the aftermath of what we have done to our world and how we could have prevented its very destruction, caused by our own hands. It is another slow number done with an orchestra in parts but it fails to strike home the stark reality of what could happen to the Earth. Avenged Sevenfold has a made a habit of putting a teary track at the end of an album, and this is no different.
This is a hard one to call, and it should have been so much better than it was. The diehard fan of Avenged Sevenfold will love it but it must be said that the music lover who has heard their albums but not got into them will probably walk away forever. Of course, Robb Flynn was not serious when he wrote those damning words… or was he?
- Shepherd of Fire
- Hail to the King
- Doing Time
- This Means War
- Crimson Day
- Coming Home
- Acid Rain