April 27, 2006

CD Review: Avenged Sevenfold - City of Evil

Every so often an album comes out of nowhere and just captures your attention. City of Evil has taken control of my auditory canals and refuses to let go. However, it has been a journey getting to this point.

For the longest time, I avoided Avenged Sevenfold like the plague. It wasn't because of the music, it wasn't really for any worthy reason at all. Despite hearing all the rumblings of how good they were, I had a hard coded preconceived idea of what I expected them to sound like. Considering how popular they seemed to be, I figured they were another post-hardcore/screamo band. Those things just keep multiplying, and so many of them sound similar that I can't tell them apart. There you have it, my main reason for avoiding these guys.

At some point, a few months back, I broke down. I gave into all the whisperings and mentions of Avenged Sevenfold. I went out and picked up City of Evil. What did I have to lose? An hour listening to it? And that's assuming I listened to the whole thing. Well, I made it through that initial time, and I haven't looked back. The disk has continuously found its way into my CD player and onto my playlists.

City of Evil is the first album to grab me like this since I first heard The End of Heartache by Killswitch Engage. Much like that album, I have fast fallen in love with the music contained on the little shiny disk.

Avenged Sevenfold completely smashed my preconceptions. What I thought they would sound like and what they actually do sound like could not be further removed. From the opening strains of "Beast and the Harlot" through the closing notes of "M.I.A." had me trapped by the ears.

Avenged Sevenfold has captured the sound and feel of the LA glam scene from the 1980s. They have managed to take that look and sound and brought it into the new millenium. The sound is definitely reminiscent, but it is so much more than a mere throwback to those old days of my youth. Instead of a shadow of a past that many would like to forget, they have taken that inspiration and forged new ground, delivering a rock album that is as stunningly original as it is familiar. Not an easy feat to accomplish.

Not content with the sound, they have gone the extra step. The band photo looks as if it would have been right at home amongst the liner notes of a LA Guns or Guns 'n Roses album. It's like looking into the past, yet remaining firmly entrenched in the modern age. The hat, the sunglasses, the sleeve tattoos, the black t-shirts, the aloof "I'm cooler than you"attitude, it is like looking into an alternate past. A past where the glam scene developed past the superficiality of which it collapsed under, it retained the edge that made it cool and grew into an epic behemoth. Avenged Sevenfold is the culmination of that era.

The first thing that grabbed me, as that first song kicked into gear, is the guitar duo of Synyster Gates and Jacky Vengeance. Whether it is a blistering solo, soaring harmonies, or bone crunching riffs, these two are a solid unit of stringed destruction. Then there is the frontman, vocalist M. Shadows. He possesses one of the best rock voices I have heard in recent years, taking just the right amount of edgy raspiness and showing off what he's got. He doesn't rely on screams and growls to deliver his words (although that style does have its place!). He fronts the band with a confident swagger, and a voice to back it up. Lastly there is the rhythm section, Johnny Christ on bass and The Rev on drums. They are rock solid, keeping the pace fast and furious. They are more than just backup, they are integral to the band, filling out the sound and putting an individual stamp on the final product.

City of Evil is filled from start to finish with a display of great songwriting, technical expertise, and infectious grooves. One of my favorite songs also happens to be the first single, which I did not even realize until later, the Hunter S. Thompson dedicated "Bat Country." The song has a great chorus that just begs for a sing along. The next single is the album opener, the fast paced "Beast and the Harlot," which is also a great track. There are also some great moments within songs that I love to hear, for example there is this little drum breakdown in "Burn it Down" which just gets me every time, it is brief but adds so much flavor, another is the trading of the heavy riff between drums and guitar in "Trashed and Scattered."

Another thing that really impressed me is the presence of a ballad. Avenged Sevenfold has given us the great acoustic guitar and piano flavored "Seize the Day." It is a sad, personal song which is a big of change of pace from what came before, yet feels so confortable. Then there is "Betrayed," a song dedicated to the memory of the late Dimebag Darrell, and the 9 minute epic "Strength of the World." It is so hard to rank these songs, they all have their own personality and way to drag you in.

Bottomline. This is an absolute must own album. It grabs ahold and does not let go. The raw ability that the possess is staggering. I guarantee that you will love this album. On a last note, they are also a great live act, from their liver ability to their stage show, it is a great extension to what they have created here.

Highly Recommended.
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