ax7-2016

AVENGED SEVENFOLD – The Stage

the-stage“Marketing by not asking any questions first”! That comment was made by Percy Nilegård, a fictional boss of a fictional radio station in a Swedish comedy show some years ago. His strategy was to first send commercials on his radio show and then go out and charge the unknowing ‘customers’ a great sum of money for being on their show. I thought that was hilarious. Of course, that has nothing what so ever to do with Avenged Sevenfold and their new album, but why I was bringing it up was to show that that there are different ways to market your stuff and Avenged Sevenfold did also go their own way when they released their new record. They didn’t do squat! They just released the album without letting any one know that there was a new record on the way at all – no pre-released songs, no videos, no interviews, no showing off the album cover – nothing. One day the album was out – just like that. “Marketing without letting anyone know you have a product out”, old Percy would probably have called it. But it worked. Because as soon as the album was out, the word started to spread about the band’s new surprise album and of course it made people notice it, no matter if you were a fan or not.

I’m not gonna claim that Avenged Sevenfold are a huge favorite band of mine. I won’t claim that I think they aren’t either because the thing is, I quite like them. I must admit, though, that I’m quite oblivious to their past. Sure, I have heard the odd song here and there, but their four first albums are records I’m totally clueless of, probably much to the fact that I really haven’t liked anything that I have heard with the band from that era. That said, I became really interested in the band when I heard the title track from their album Nightmare (2010) and when I checked it out, I really dug the album. Same with the follow-up Hail To The King (2013), an album that was even better than its predecessor. But something has prevailed me from digging up anything from their old past, I just can’t be bothered with those records for some reason. But since I really like their two last albums, I will gladly sink my teeth into any new music this band make so to give their brand new album a spin or two was a no-brainer for me – actually I was really looking forward to hear what they had come up with this time, especially when I was told that the band was visiting more progressive and raw grounds and that this record was some kind of a concept album, where artificial intelligence and the future of mankind is the topic, but even religion has a place in the story.

The album opens with the title track, an eight minute long quite progressive heavy metal opus where the Metallica influenced rhythm stands out. The songs also sports bits and pieces of melodic hard rock and the acoustic ending feels really dynamic. It’s a song that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Paradigm” shows off the band’s thrash metal influences and the track is really hard, aggressive and kicking but also with some very melodic arrangements. It doesn’t really stick after the first few listens but I have feeling this one is a grower. “Sunny Disposition” is a metal groover with a swinging classic rock twang complete with a horn section and a very rhythmic sound scape. It’s a new way to go for this band, but it works all the way – a brilliant track. “God Damn” attacks like a mad dog with its mix of thrash and heavy metal and a dark and evil sound, but when you least expect it a spanish acoustic guitar falls over the thrashing rhythm like a silk blanket and the melody is extremely melodic and catchy, to the point of almost being pop. I love such contrasts and I love the song. “Creating God” goes in a more mid-tempo style and the slower pace fits the tune really well. It’s metal all the way and it’s very powerful, but there is a very strong melody on top and the chorus is all catchiness. Again, I really love the big contrast and it makes the song stand out. Good tune.

They go more mellow on the ballad “Angels” and the song comes with some obvious rhythm & blues and classic rock vibes and the mellotron-like keyboards brings old prog-rock to mind. The melody and arrangement are all Avenged Sevenfold, though. “Simulation” continues the stroll down ballad road, but it’s more jazzy in its arrangements, something that returns throughout the song in between the more thrash metal and aggressive Megadeth-like parts. Not very easy-listening at all, but very rewarding when the song do stick. “Higher” begins with something that sounds like funeral music, but it soon turns into a merciless thrasher. There are pieces of the melody that has a kind of Muse feel to it and the chorus has this big pop vibe and there are some really cool vocal harmonies all over it. A great progressive metal track. “Roman Sky” is a big, bombastic, orchestrated ballad that holds some very soulful guitar playing from guitarist Synyster Gates. It’s an intense song and the lead vocals from M Shadows are really damn impressing. On “Fermi Paradox” they go all pop-metal on us, although in a progressive way and there is also some prominent classic rock vibes present. But the album’s magnum opus must be the closer “Exist”. With it’s almost 16 minutes, the tune is something that will try your patience. The first seven minutes is completely instrumental and it begins with some Malmsteen-like widdely-diddely guitar masturbation, but it soon morphs into a rad heavy metal groove. When Shadows finally starts to sing, the song goes into ballad territory, but the song speeds up to headbanging mood soon enough. After 12 minutes, a spoken word section – by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson – over some really fat metal riffing and something that sounds like symphonic hard rock. This song isn’t one that will stick by the first listen or two, but it will grow on you, no doubt about that.

This is by far the most musically and lyrically challenging album Avenged Sevenfold has ever released and also, the band leaves its comfort zone and breaks out into a lot of different styles where their metal core roots are the ones showing the least. Heavy metal, thrash, melodic rock, classic rock, pop and even small parts of black metal and symphonic rock shows up, but no matter the style, everything is highly progressive – to call this an unpredictable album might just be understatement of the year. You might have guessed by now that this is not a very direct album full singles written for rock radio – it’s the exact opposite of that. It’s overblown and bombastic and it will probably challenge the listener as much as it has challenged the band and it’s not a wild guess that this record will need your patience and quite a few spins to stick. But no matter if you like it or not, to record an album like this is a brave and bold move by the guys and it’s quite impressing to hear how much the band has evolved and that they had the guts to put out an album like this. At this point, I do prefer their last album to it, but on the other hand, I have the feeling that I’m not done with this record yet – in a year or so, when I have grown into the album more, my views will probably have changed. This in not the Avenged Sevenfold we have gotten to know, I can tell you that much   and some of you will probably love it because of that. Kudos!

7/10

Other Avenged Sevenfold reviews:

Hail To The King
Nightmare

Tracklist:

1. The Stage
2. Paradigm
3. Sunny Disposition
4. God Damn
5. Creating God
6. Angels
7. Simulation
8. Higher
9. Roman Sky
10. Fermi Paradox
11. Exist