Saturday, October 20, 2012

Avenged Sevenfold

Last year I wrote about Avenged Sevenfold, mildly touching on some of their older work, but mainly focusing on their latest album, Nightmare. But over the past few months, I actually went back and gave their prior albums a proper listen, and it has changed my perception of this band entirely. I mentioned in my previous post how I wasn't a fan of this band's older stuff due to them mainly just screaming a whole lot, and that opinion was based off of just a handful of songs I had managed to hear. But after sitting down and actually listening to the albums all the way through, I've found that that's not quite the case. And in fact, now I'd go so far as to say that Avenged Sevenfold is up there amongst the more brilliant bands I've heard, and it's mainly thanks to two of their albums that had gone ignored by me until just recently.

Before we get into those, however, let's start from the beginning with their debut album, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. It's admittedly probably their weakest album, as from what I've heard, there isn't any single song that really stands out and stays with you after it's over. But that's not to say that it's bad. It opens up on a really powerful note with the introductory track, "To End the Rapture", then unfolds with a variety of styles as this band really tries to find their footing. You can tell that it's this band's first album, and it's really one where they set out to establish an identity for themselves. At times it's more of a hardcore metal album, but then their sound changes up a bit into a more upbeat punk sound. So yeah, overall, it's a bit of a mixed bag, though nothing bad by any means, and if an album of this caliber is their weakest, then this band was already doing something right from the get-go.

Their second album, Waking the Fallen, is one of two albums from this band that I would describe as absolutely brilliant. I've even seen this album described by some as being Avenged Sevenfold's "magnum opus", and honestly, I can see where that sentiment comes from. In some ways, this album almost feels like a metal opera. Unlike any other album, this one isn't about the individual songs, but rather, the one experience as a whole that this album presents. Every song just has such a natural flow into the next, like one long, continuous stream, and they all compliment one another so well. That's not to say that there aren't standout songs, there certainly are. For instance, I just love the very blunt chorus in the song "Chapter Four", and the raspy singing portions in contrast to the screaming makes for a satisfying sound in songs such as "Desecrate Through Reverence" and "Second Heartbeat".

The band also at times appears to borrow sounds that are reminiscent to other bands such as Metallica, Misfits, Slipknot, and even Panic! at the Disco of all bands. Yet, they manage to do this while very much maintaining their own unique identity throughout. But where the first album saw the band trying to find themselves, with this album, Avenged Sevenfold has been found. It's actually fascinating listening to this album and witnessing the evolution in process as this band discovers the sound that would go on to define them, and by the end, as the album concludes in a very warped and distorted fashion, we can clearly see that this band is ready to move on to bigger things.

City of Evil, their third album, was my introduction to this band, which I spoke briefly of in my original post, and it was a fine introduction at that. It's probably more similar to their latest album than any other, with songs that range from powerful to somewhat forgettable, but there isn't a single bad song to be found on the album, so that's good. My favorite song is probably "Sidewinder", a longer, super-charged track that sticks out to me mainly because it happens to remind me of Sonic the Hedgehog, with its Robotnik-like military sounding drums and its mechanical guitars, a sound which has been present in a few other songs throughout this band's history, but really stands out in particular with this one. But yeah, I don't have much else to say about this album that hasn't already been touched on, so let's move right along to what I believe is the band's greatest achievement to date.

Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled album, Avenged Sevenfold, is truly just a work of sheer genius. The second album I alluded to that I would describe as brilliant, this album absolutely floored me. It's the album that changed my perspective on this band as a whole, and the album that opened my eyes to the musical genius that this band possesses. Essentially an experimental album, the first few songs are very much your usual Avenged Sevenfold songs, but it's not too long before you realize that this band is up to something different.

"Gunslinger" is the first track that really changes things up, introducing a bit of a country twang to their sound, and acting as a bit of a precursor to their big finale. They follow this up with "Unbound (The Wild Ride)", which immediately captured my attention with an infectious solo that you'd usually find on a guitar but is instead performed for us in beautiful fashion on a piano. In fact, this band uses several orchestral instruments throughout several of their songs, adding a new dimension that really heightens their sound as a whole.

I just love how they decided to change things up, have some fun, and play with so many different sounds with this album. Hell, they even use auto-tune in the song "Lost", and where I'm usually adamantly against the use of auto-tune since it almost always sounds terrible, in this instance, it actually works! And it works very, very well! All these different sounds just compliment each other so much, and it never feels like just a mish-mash of random styles. The album ends off on a high note with their second country rock ballad, "Dear God", but just before that, we're treated to something truly special.

"A Little Piece of Heaven" is unlike anything else this band has done before or since. The guitars go almost non-existent in this orchestrated song that sounds like something straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And following in that style, they even went so far as to actually make an animated video to go along with it, which they play during live performances. Telling a very morbid love story with lyrics that possess a very dark sense of humor, this song is up there with "Save Me" as something I would describe as epic. But this is a different kind of epic entirely. As the story plays out, the song ranges from really dark and haunting, to almost heavenly and uplifting, with violins that really heighten the mood despite such horrible things being sang about. And their drummer even gets in on the singing action with vocals that sound frighteningly demonic. This song is just phenomenal, as is this entire album. It's really something that I never would have expected this band to be capable of, and one of few that I would describe as being a perfect album.

They followed this up with Nightmare, which I have already spoken quite a bit of, though my opinion of it has changed ever so slightly since listening to their other work. While I still maintain that "Save Me" is probably the best song that this band has produced to date, the album as a whole doesn't quite live up. It's still very good overall, with a strong opening and an awesome ending, but it's that middle portion that drags the album down a bit. It's not that it's anything bad, but it's just sort of forgettable is all. Still though, definitely a good album regardless.

So yeah, in case you couldn't tell by now, I've become quite a huge fan of this band. They've yet to release a single bad album, and throughout all the years, despite playing with different sounds, at no point have they abandoned their signature style that makes them who they are. And now I want to end this post by presenting my picks for the top 15 Avenged Sevenfold songs, listed in my preferred listening order as opposed to from best to worst. So check 'em out, and find out for yourself just how brilliant this band really is:

"To End the Rapture" - Sounding the Seventh Trumpet
"Nightmare" - Nightmare
"Beast and the Harlot" - City of Evil
"Unholy Confession" - Waking the Fallen
"Danger Line" - Nightmare
"Chapter Four" - Waking the Fallen
"Bat Country" - City of Evil
"Desecrate Through Reverence" - Waking the Fallen
"Unbound (The Wild Ride)" - Avenged Sevenfold
"Almost Easy" - Avenged Sevenfold
"Lost" - Avenged Sevenfold
"Second Heartbeat" - Waking the Fallen
"Sidewinder" - City of Evil
"Save Me" - Nightmare
"A Little Piece of Heaven" - Avenged Sevenfold

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