Avenged Sevenfold really divide rock fans. One camp berates them as style-over-substance guyliner-wearing pussies. The other side rates their constant reinvention and epic live shows – even in the face of adversity.
And things have been really crap for Avenged. In 2009 their beloved founding member Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan was found dead from an accidental overdose. A year later they released ‘Nightmare’, which blended their early metalcore sound with their softer hard-rock guise and was the ultimate tribute album to a fallen friend. But they followed it with ‘Hail To The King’ in 2013, which was hugely derivative of Metallica and Iron Maiden and sounded like they’d lost their way.
That’s why ‘The Stage’ is so pivotal for this band – it’s the difference between keeping their festival headline slots or slowly slipping into oblivion. Things started well in October when they dropped the title track and first single which, with its spooky organ and soaring guitars, was compelling to the end of its eight minutes. The rest of the record doesn’t flounder. ‘Paradigm’ is more lyrically sophisticated than they’ve been before as they imagine an AI world run by robots, while ‘God Damn’ is all thrasshy double drum kicks and sleaze-rock choruses. Producer Joe Barresi (Queens Of The Stone Age, The Melvins) seems to be the perfect fit, even if he’s managed to make M. Shadows’ usually explosive vocals sound thin and nasal, most noticeable on ballads ‘Angels’ and ‘Roman Sky’.
Avenged have uncharacteristically thrown everything up in the air with this record – from recruiting former Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman to streaming an ambitious 360 degree/3D/virtual reality gig via mysterious ‘deathbats’ (the bands logo) appearing on key landmarks across the globe. As the album’s swan song ‘Exist’ closes with a monologue from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s evident the band have begun a new chapter where they appreciate rather than become their influences. They’ve truly arrived.
By Anita Bhagwandas