Band: Avenged Sevenfold
Title: Hail to the King
Release date: August 27, 2013
D. Mac rating: 3 / 5
Just a thought.
Avenged Sevenfold is the Mötley Crüe of the current metal scene.
Similar appearances aside, think about it. Avenged Sevenfold have managed to spearhead the commercial front of the metalcore subgenre just as Crüe held the reins on the glam metal scene throughout the 1980s. The association with their individual subgenres generates immediate backlash from much of the rest of the metal community, if not for the music itself, then for their appearance, the predominant features of their audience and/or their popularity. Both band’s most successful albums came at a point where they strayed from their original design, for better or for worse, and though their names alone evoke equal parts acclaim and contempt, their presence in the metal community is undeniable.
Although Avenged Sevenfold have never been particularly unique, their musical development in the last decade has been concurrent with their increasing success. City of Evil, the band’s commercial breakthrough, improved on the formula founded in their debut Sounding the Seventh Trumpet and follow-up Waking the Fallen with its cleaner, more refined sound and production and more easily accessible vocals. Though one may see their scaling back of the “extreme” as a shortcoming, I feel that it has afforded them greater power in the studio and in their live performances; a bravado of sorts that they carried into their eponymous 2007 album and Nightmare, the latter of which being the least memorable of their major label trio of albums. With Hail to the King, the band sought to adopt more of a Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin style1 and while the album does not actually bear much resemblance to either of those bands, there are strikingly apparent similarities to AC/DC (Hail to the King), Guns ‘n’ Roses (Doing Time), Metallica (This Means War), Megadeth (Heretic) and even latter-day Iron Maiden (Coming Home).
As with their previous records, the first song sets the tone and here, it is incidentally the album’s best song. Shepherd of Fire is ostensibly Avenged Sevenfold’s take on Enter Sandman: a rhythm-driven intro building up to a slow but heavy riff that opts for emphasis over speed. The rest of the album follows suit which, on some tracks, presents a problem: whatever the band gains by going in their new direction is equal to what they lose. One of the best elements of Hail to the King is vocalist M. Shadows’ performance. The nasally whine that plagued previous outings (especially City of Evil) has diminished with each successive album to where it is almost non-existent here, allowing for the full realization of Shadows’ intentions with the change in vocal style six years earlier. Coupling this on the one hand with the fact that the album delivers the goods in a sonic sense, Hail to the King is certainly a satisfying addition to the band’s catalog.
However, most of the songs blur the line between homage and blatant mimicking as the band relies far too heavily on their influences for output rather than inspiration. The band has also never recorded a great ballad and Crimson Day and Acid Rain do not change that streak. Furthermore, there are several moments where the lack of speed and intensity makes the band sound reserved and often times bored. While there are a number of lackluster vocal passages, the most apparent shortcoming is the album’s drum work. Out of the gate, new drummer Arin Ilejay fails to impress, though I speculate that his bare-bones performance was likely out of necessity due to all the aforementioned changes in the music and rigidly regulated as a result. Regardless, after Mike Portnoy’s performance on Nightmare compensated some, the absence of James “The Rev” Sullivan’s manic technique is definitely felt on the material found here.
At its core, Hail to the King is still very much Avenged Sevenfold (or whoever they’re trying to imitate at a given time) but slowed and stripped down. As a fan, it is an easy pill to swallow but of a lower dosage, making the high of new material a little too short-lived, despite the widespread success it has had thus far.
\m/ Dan Mac \m/
A Lighter Shade of Black 006
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