BY ANDREW HILL
Longtime industry giant Avenged Sevenfold has been at the forefront of rock ‘n’ roll music for over a decade now. After losing its drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, in 2009, the band pushed forward and recorded its album “Nightmare” with Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy on drums, although The Rev wrote the parts. On the heels of this incredible record, Arin Ilejay was hired as the Rev’s full-time replacement. The band has released a follow-up to “Nightmare” in late August calling it “Hail to the King.” It represents a phenomenal shift in the band’s songwriting style without compromising that distinct Avenged Sevenfold sound.
Unlike most previous records, the band promised this album would be in the same vein of style as such legendary acts as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. This claim would prove to be true with heavy-hitting power chords, wailing solos and pounding drum parts. From the first notes of “Shepherd of Fire,” it is clear that the band made a distinct turnaround in style. The song continues to be one of the standouts on the album.
The title track sits in the number two slot on the record. The main riff evokes sonic similarities to “Wasted Years” by Iron Maiden. As the first single released from the album, it had the daunting task of setting the tone for the future of Avenged Sevenfold. It does this quite well. The band’s signature harmonies are still well in place, and the heavy foot of Arin Ilejay on his bass drum makes for a pounding backbone. This solo is arguably the signature of the album.
There is one song that stands out over all the rest, though: “Requiem.” As the song, “Requiem” exemplifies a denial of the typical mid-album slump. With Latin chants, off-time verses and some of the darkest lyrics the band has written to date, this song is a true masterpiece. Another standout song, “Shepherd of Fire,” is sure to be a hit at live performances.
Despite many amazing songs, the album as a whole is nothing new musically. Avenged Sevenfold has always been a band to stretch limits and redefine genres, as shown by the epic “Save Me,” “Brompton Cocktail,” and “Bat Country.”
“Hail to the King” does little to push itself in a new direction of music, rather a new direction for the band. If you have listened to Metallica or Iron Maiden, you will be right at home here. This by no means makes it a bad album. It is just slightly disappointing to see genre leaders take a comfortable step forward rather than a leap.
Overall, the album earns a solid 8.5 out of ten. I recommend it to any fans of Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Avenged Sevenfold. If you are on the fence about it, check out the aforementioned standout songs.
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