When one sits down to listen to all of Avenged Sevenfold’s albums in a row, from “Sounding The Seventh Trumpet”, right up to “Hail To The King”, it hits you – this is one band that has steadily evolved over the years. Their genre, their style, their level of technicality, and most important of all, their execution, has graduated to a new, impressive level.
Hail To The King shows a total turnaround from what we’ve come to know. When one puts the record on the turntable (or rather, picks the song on their iTunes list), they expect to hear the “usual”. A couple of hard-hitting numbers, with Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance’s insanely technical, shredding guitar solos, M. Shadows’s commanding voice, Johnny Christ’s heavy bass lines and The Rev’s complex drum tracks. Then come the ballads- slow, moving, and sometimes dark, with just a touch of homage to their metallic roots. And as is the norm, the experience ends with some amount of screamo, because why not? That’s what they started with, isn’t it?
But this album sure is a departure from this. The band hasn’t been shy in claiming that it is something “totally different from what they’ve done before”. Taking this into account, along with the fact that they have Arin Ilejay stepping into The Rev’s shoes, one has high expectations. And boy, does the album match it.
The album is reminiscent of the early stuff- think Metallica’s “Black” album, or the “Use Your Illusion”-era Guns N’ Roses. This influence is evident right from the beginning, where the first song, “Shepherd of Fire” starts off with tolling bells, and then goes into heavy bass lines and hard-hitting drums. One almost expects James Hetfield’s strong, raspy, commanding voice to come blaring over it, but M. Shadows definitely does not let us down.
The album then takes us through more songs such as “This Means War”, “Acid Rain” and “Crimson Day”, which further show us Shadows’ ever-evolving vocal quality, along with clever use of choirs and brass sections. The multiple Satanic references throughout the album, especially in “Requiem”, help set and bring forth a dark atmosphere.
The trademark intertwined solos of Gates and Vengeance are in perfect sync, and the guitar work on this particular album is exceptional. Ilejay shows an exceeding amount of restraint in his rhythms that drives the songs forward without allowing it to become over-powering.
At some point during the album, one would think that an A7X-esque shredding guitar solo or complex drum track would pop out of somewhere, but the level of control and finesse that the band demonstrates throughout the album is remarkable, paying true respect to the genre of heavy metal.
All in all, this band paid homage to the bands they themselves grew up listening to- Pantera, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, etc. And if you’re like me, who started her journey from this – listening to heavy metal bands and their slower tempos, groove-laden rhythms and clean, simple melodies- you can clearly visualize how reminiscent this album is of that era. Before screamo, before nu-metal, maybe even before Auto-Tune.