November 7, 2007

CD Review: Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold

Man, where to begin. To say I was looking forward to this would be something of an understatement. I was anxiously waiting for the moment that I could get my hands on this album. Before I get to that, allow me a moment to give a bit of history. I got on the A7X bandwagon a little late. City of Evil found itself in my hands on a whim, I had heard a lot about them and found that I was a little curious. That album turned out to be a great trip into the past, with their LA Guns look and a sound that seemed to be an extension of the era that gave rise to my music fandom. Next up was seeing them live (with Coheed & Cambria) and wow, what a show. I also managed to get my hands on Waking the Fallen, another excellent, albeit different sounding album. Now they have released their second major release, the highly anticipated (by some anyway) follow-up to City of Evil. Would it, nay, could it live up to its predecessor? The anticipation is killing me!

I shredded the plastic and slipped the disk into the CD player, with trembling fingers I pressed play and waited to be blown away. Blown away I was, just not in the good way. I found Avenged Sevenfold to be a big letdown from the glorious glammed up and tatted highs of City of Evil. In its place is an album that feels devoid of any real creativity, there was no life flowing through this collection of tunes. Okay, I admit to liking a couple of songs and liking moments throughout the remainder of the disk, but taken as an entire work there was no soul, no feeling behind the writing.

A comparison that seems to be apt, although this case is not quite as extreme, would be to look at Avenged Sevenfold as a new Sugar Ray. Now before you get your gears turning, hear me out. This is nowhere near the level of what Mark McGrath and crew did, but it does have some relevance.

Go back to Sugar Ray's Floored album, you know as well as I do that you have a copy of it somewhere in your closet. That album was not half bad, it displayed a variety of styles that still felt like the same band, but in retrospect it was more like a demo for the populace. Once "Fly" hit it big, that became the formula. Everything after that point sounded like "Fly." The heavy style, the punk style, they just went by the wayside in favor of the quick buck by jumping on their own bandwagon.

Here is the comparison, listen to Avenged Sevenfold and tell me that this doesn't sound like they are attempting to replicate the high points of City of Evil, the "Beast and the Harlot," the "Seize the Day," the "Bat Country." They took those peaks and tried to translate them to an entire album. The result is an album that is more cold and calculated than fresh and energetic.

Perhaps this sounds so blase because my hopes and expectations based upon my love of City of Evil. I guess that could be part of it, I guess I am partially to blame for it, but it does not account for everything. Even with this being a big letdown, I still have to admit to enjoying it on some level. They are taking a chance of playing what is essentially 80's era glam scene rock and roll with some brushes with the metal world. It is not exactly a popular sound in the big picture. Plus these guys do have the chops to turn out some good tunes, they have proven this with each of their earlier releases. Again, this album does have a few moments of interest.

The album starts off with the best song of the album, "Critical Acclaim." It opens with an organ welcoming you in before kicking into a jackhammer riff accompanied by nice double bass before settling into an extremely catchy gallop. There are also some excellent vocals by The Rev, also responsible for the beats. Talk about getting out of the gates strong, this is a good tune, it is just too bad that it doesn't bleed into the rest of the album.

There are a couple other worth checking out. "Almost Easy" has some nice parts and is rather catchy, as is the western injected "Gunslinger." “Brompton Cocktail” isn’t too bad either. So, it is not completely bereft of decent cuts. That is balanced out by the lame sex track "Scream," and the country version of "Seize the Day," now known as "Dear God."

Still, the album is more about moments within songs than it is about the songs themselves. A nice drum fill here, a nice riff there, a decent solo over there. By and large, this is an album that is living off of the goodwill built up by its predecessor. Kind of like "Did you like City of Evil? Then you're going to love City of Evil 2! All the stuff you loved repackaged!" Sequels, it's the American way.

Before I wrap this up, there is the little matter of a tune called "A Little Piece of Heaven." One part of me wants to applaud them for coming out of left field with this seriously strange and out of place ditty. Another part of me wants to ask them what exactly were they thinking? Think of Mr. Bungle or Dog Fashion Disco leftovers being mixed with Danny Elfman score clippings. Well, any one of those names would probably be enough, but this track is goofy enough to warrant all of them together, using just one would probably give it too much credit. Words just cannot adequately describe just how odd, lame, and strangely alluring it is. Listen at your own risk.

For what it's worth, I did get the MVI-DVD version but have not brought myself to explore the features of the DVD yet. The music has been more than enough to digest for the time being.

Bottomline. No matter how you slice it, Avenged Sevenfold is a letdown. It is not a complete disaster, but unless they turn it around the next could be that wreck that puts the final nail in their coffin. Time will tell if these guys were a flash in the pan or if they can pull out of the dive that had its beginnings here. Still, I will listen to it from time to time, picking out the better cuts, like "Critical Acclaim" and perhaps "A Little Piece of Heaven" to help me perfect my bemused expression.

Very Mildly Recommended.


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