To talk about Avenged Sevenfold and their songs without first touching on the subject of their former drummer, the Rev (Jimmy Sullivan), who died in 2009, feels somehow wrong. In the past, the drummer was the main driving force behind most of the songs, with both lyrics and instruments. But having brought in a new drummer, the band needed to find their own voice. The album right after the Rev’s death, ‘Nightmare’, was top-notch stuff, and also heavily influenced by the Rev himself (some songs quite literally taken out of his drawer). With this album come and gone, they needed new material. And so ‘Hail to the King’ came to be.
‘Hail to the King’ is Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album. The album consists of 10 songs with a bonus track. Without the Rev’s influence they seem to move in a different direction. The once-metalcore band is more set on trying to sound classical metal. And they have had classical influences in their past songs, with even covering a Pantera song. But sometimes the songs seem to go on and on and on without an end. Some songs just have the same drumbeat almost the entire song. Similarly, some of the older metal bands used to have these really long, drawn-out songs (e.g Metallica, Pantera). But nowadays, is it really necessary to try and replicate the past? More fitting would be to draw inspiration and go forth with completely your own tunes.
On the flip-side, if you take this album as it is, an oldschool-ish metal album, then it really isn’t that bad. They reign in the old from their own albums, while In ‘Shepherd of Fire’ the typical solos and twin-solos of Gates and Vengeance really shine through. When watching live performances, they even seem effortless. But then again, the have been playing for years. The whole song puts a stomping beat through you as if begging you to bang your head and almost start looking for a nearby moshpit. Not all the songs are that hard. ‘Requiem’ and ‘Crimson Day’ bring forth softer, darker songs, choir-like tunes, coming down as almost emotional, instead of the usual hardness.
The vocals of Matt Shadows seem to really shine through the whole album. In the past, he had problems performing and there were rumours of him having ruined his voice. But now, all of that seems to have been left behind and forgotten, looking (and hearing) how he rocks it out hard. There don’t even seem to be any strenuous efforts to hold the high notes, showing his high capabilities of control.
As for the last song on the track (‘St. James’), it is a nice homage to the late Jimmy Sullivan, with its lyrics referring him. The song itself is nice but to me what made the song perfect, were the drums. This really bring down the heat with the fast tempo of the double bass drum pedal (a characterstic trait of Sullivan).
I have to add that I am positively biased towards this band as it was my favourite as a teenager. Overall, the album does seem to come together as a whole. The lyrics and the instruments are finely tuned. The ending of ‘St. James’ does seem to emphasize the fact that Jimmy is gone and the band is moving forward with new people and new material. And this album proves that point.