Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold; Album review

A7XHailtotheKingAlbum: Hail to the King

Artist: Avenged Sevenfold

Year: 2013

Genre: Heavy Metal

Label: Warner Bros.

Songs: 10

OK, so I thought the album was going out in a week. Turns out, Avenged Sevenfold decided to release the entire thing for streaming on iTunes. And thank God they did, else I’d have to have waited another week for this generally well-written album that features Avenged Sevenfold’s trademark blend of classic and modern styles of metal.

The album opens, Black Sabbath-style, with the deep and sonorous chime of a funeral bell and the ambient crackling of flames before our opening riff kicks in. The song is mostly written in a metalcore vein, with the verse featuring powerful chugging riffs throughout, though lead guitarist Synyster Gates gets an impressive melodic solo in before we return to metalcore (framed with a lovely deep brass section for the bridge). It’s a good start to the album, and certainly bodes well for what’s to come. It’s followed up by lead single Hail to the King. As I’ve expressed before, I think the song is generally a pretty good example of Avenged’s attempts to blend modern and classic metal, though I think it’s a tad dull and suffered from bad production in the version released for the single. While my opinion of the song remains unchanged, it’s worth pointing out that the album version seems slightly better mixed, though the rhythm is still lost at key points, leaving the song without any sense of power.

Doing Time is almost certainly drawing from Danzig, featuring as it does M Shadows singing like a modern day Glenn Danzig, especially in the chorus. Again, the song wears its classic metal roots on its sleeve (even featuring solos that sound like they’ve been ripped straight out the 80s wave of heavy metal). It’s essentially a perfect fusion of classic and modern metal, and one of the best tracks on the album. It’s followed up with Sad But True This Means War. I kid of course, but the verse does sound like a slightly altered version of the Metallica Black Album single. It thrashes its way through a verse over which Shadows snarls angry lyrics before rising up and out into a soaring chorus. Again, it’s a highlight of the album, and well worth a listen.

Requiem opens with a Latin chorus before crashing straight into an opening that promises an awesome thrash-style track like the previous song. Unfortunately, it gives in to a standard metalcore song that offers the first real disappointment of the album. Requiem certainly isn’t a bad song; no doubt fans of older Avenged material might appreciate it for sounding at least a little like their older style (musically I mean, Shadows doesn’t return to screaming – and thankfully, I might add since his singing is brilliant) but for me it’s a shame that this follows such pumping tracks like Doing Time and This Means War. Next, Crimson Day is the standard slower, oh-so-emotional song in the same vein as Seize the Day and So Far Away. In fact, it sounds like a mix of Seize the Day and Dear God musically and vocally respectively, as the guitars swing back and forth between crooning arpeggios and crunchy distorted riffs over which Shadows sounds like he couldn’t decide if he was singing a rock song or a country ballad. The one saving grace the song has is the fantastic solo, but it’s over all too quickly and swiftly forgotten both times it shows up.

Heretic is another metalcore track that sounds like it walked straight off City of Evil and while that is a complimentĀ  I can’t help but continue to be a little disappointed (never mind the fact the song is well put together, with an effective, if predictable, mix of light and heavy sections and harmonised, melodic solos). Before the album’s release, the band claimed they were really going to play up their classic metal releases but shy of a couple of tracks, the album seemed to have returned to standard Avenged riffing. That’s not technically a bad thing, of course, but it’s not exactly what was claimed. That said, the next track, Coming Home, is far better, sounding like it was written while the band was listening to Iron Maiden’s The Final Frontier. It’s a fantastic love letter to the NWOBHM, featuring harmonised riffs, fast-paced and crunchy rhythm riffs and possibly Avenged Sevenfold’s best chorus. Everyone in the band is on top form for this song, but I think shout outs must go to Shadows who easily carries the song and new drummer Arin Ilejay who, after a mostly standard album, does manage to show his chops here.

Coming Home fades out into Planets, possibly the oddest track on the album. Whereas the rest of the album is either metalcore or drawing from heavy metal, Planets instead seems to draw from thrash metal for the main riff that runs through the game, with ever-so-slightly discordant chords behind them so that it sounds like a modern thrash band who decided to draw some inspiration from progressive metal. The prog influence only gets stronger after the chorus, particularly while Shadows sings about the destruction wrought when planets crash into one another. The end result is that the song sounds distinct, in a place of its own on the album. Finally, we end with Acid Rain, a haunting and brilliantly-crafted finale. From the morose opening piano chords and wailing cries of the violin to the smooth solos and restrained vocals, Acid Rain just oozes style. One just can’t help but be caught up in the huge sweeping chorus and then brought down as the verse returns, or rise slowly along with the marching drumbeat in the bridge into Gates’ best solo on the album. He shines here, not because of his technical ability, but because he, like Shadows, demonstrates he knows the power of restraint, holding back on his impressive abilities in order to instead write a soulful solo that is more powerful thanks to it. As the white noise of rainfall sedately leads us out of the album, we are aware we have just listened to something fantastic.

I admit, after the Hail to the King single, I was worried about this album. I needn’t have been. It’s not perfect. It has a dud track or two. Some tracks return to the comforting familiarity of metalcore. But, overall, the album is more than happy to experiment with classic and modern styles of metal, offering some of Avenged Sevenfold’s best writing to date. I might not be the one to stand up and enthusiastically hail to the kings, but I’ll certainly offer a salute to an impressive album from a band that seems to go from strength to strength.

Best songs: Acid Rain, Planets, Coming Home, Doing Time

Worst songs: Crimson Day

Recommendation: Buy it.

Cheers,

Jim.

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About jimalexparker

A student and musician, with a love of video games, politics, history and English. Got a taste for writing, ranting and raving, with some reviewing thrown in for good measure.

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