It would be easy to say I am disappointed with Avenged Sevenfold’s new album Hail to the King. However after much thought, disappointment does not seem fair. The band knew exactly what they were doing, and based on their intentions, the album has become a complete success. It has been ranked #1 in multiple countries including the US, UK and Canada. Yes, it is true that change is not always welcomed when it comes to a band’s development and aging, however my hesitation to completely accept this album does not come from an unwillingness to move forward and let go of the past, but rather a continual longing for something creative or unique from the band that was unlike any other.
Their transition into the metal scene is acceptable. After interviewing other aging metalcore bands, I have come to realize that the genre of metalcore has an expiration date. The fan base typically remains young, and as musicians age, and decide they want to make music a life-long career, their only option is to shift over to a new scene. For the majority of these bands, metal is the obvious solution. Now with that being said, metal, with its strong classic foundations, still entails modern assimilation. What Avenged Sevenfold has produced for the most part is an exceptional replication of classic metal, but if I really wanted to listen to classic metal, I would put on old Metallica.
In fact, I could put on Metallica and mistaken it for new A7X. Hail to the King’s “This Means War” undeniably resembles the Metallica song “Sad but True”. The riffs, the verses, the overall song structure verges on identical. YouTube subscribers are even posting videos devoted to pointing out their similarity. Now it is understandable that bands draw influence from other artists. Most great pieces of work are copies made into their own. However when an audience so easily traces work back to its original inspiration, the line between influence and imitation becomes fine. The beginning of the A7X song “Doing Time” has also been compared to Rev Theory’s “Hell Yeah”. The opening structure is completely recognizable, down to the frontman’s menacing laugh, growl, and pause before the verse begins.
To me, the unspoken yet clear motivation for moving in this more stripped down, less experimental direction is due to the loss of their drummer and creative force, James “The Rev” Sullivan. Their fifth studio album Nightmare, which came out a year after his death, still contained all of “The Rev’s” writings for the final recording. It was received as a success, bringing in 5 Golden God awards. “The Rev” had been an integral part in the development of the irreplaceable A7X style and sound (which I believe Nightmare perfected); to write an album without him would be an artistic struggle. Therefore, as the band was shifting toward the genre of metal anyhow, they examined their childhood classics and created an extremely well-thought-out album that was doable based on their current talent.
The band’s four original members – vocalist M. Shadows, lead guitarist Synyster Gates, rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengeance and bassist Johnny Christ – have pulled through with an exceptionally skilled performance. M. Shadows’ vocal performance and range is easily superior to the majority of metal frontmen, and Gates partakes in some flawless soloing. As for new drummer Arin Ilejay, who has received criticism for simple technique, he has done exactly what the band has asked of him. It is clear now that Hail to the King was not meant to have intricate and complex drumming parts. With songs such as “Requiem”, which resembles classic metal yet stands on its own, and “Hail to the King” with a signature catchy and melodic chorus, the future of A7X appears to be strong, with new fans being picked up along the way.
After evaluating why the band has produced an album such as this, I have come to appreciate its technique, motive and value. I am not disappointed with Hail to the King, but I do hope the band continues to write songs that are completely their own. They began in punk, came to rule the world of metalcore, and will hopefully dominate the metal scene. The only thing I fear is a band with this much prestige becoming generic.