Sound — 7
When the passing of Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan was announced back in December of 2009, I was one of the many Avenged Sevenfold fans who spent hours on end searching for news of the situation; i.e., how Sulivan passed, the status of their unfinished record, and even whether or not they would continue on as a band and finish said record. After many weeks of tense waiting, the band announced that they would, in fact, complete the album (with the help of Sullivan's favorite drummer, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater), but that the band's future remained in question. While the future of the band is still somewhat uncertain, their new album, Nightmare, is not. It clearly embraces the shock and sorrow felt after Sullivan's death, with a darker sound and much more personal lyrics. While the effort put forth by the band to complete this album in Sullivan's memory is commendable, the end result was, for me, a little dissapointing. Now, my dissapointment mainly comes from the album's production. The guitar sounds a bit too generic, especially in songs like "Buried Alive" and the beginning of "Danger Line". Johnny Christ's bass sounds very muddy in the title track "Nightmare", and in "Natural Born Killer". Drums are spot on; Mike Portnoy does an excellent job replicating Sullivan's drumming style, preserving one of the cornerstones of Avenged Sevenfold's signature sound. Vocals are also very good; the biggest complaints I have are the sections of "Fiction" (Sullivan's last song; his vocals are also in the song) where M. Shadows' voice is made to sound more like that of Sullivan, and the Death metal-like vocals in "God Hates Us", which also sound very doctored; however, this is still probably the best vocal performance by M. Shadows to date.
Lyrics — 10
Because the band decided to rewrite the lyrics of some songs after Sullivan's death, but retain the ones they felt he liked most, the lyrical themes may be confusing to some; however, this is hardly noticable. What IS noticable, however, is the trauma felt by the band in rewriting these lyrics; these are some of the most heartfelt lyrics the band has ever put out. Things get very personal in these lyrics; everything from the loss of a best friend, to waking up feeling forever alone, even anger and hostility towards God himself. Very raw, very personal, very impressive.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this album is very well done and will make a very good addition to any Avenged Sevenfold fan's collection. Some of the band's best work is present here. Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance have clearly worked for hours on these guitar licks, Johnny Christ holds down a solid bass line, Mike Portnoy does incredibly on the drums, and M. Shadows wows once again vocally and lyrically. I only wish it had been produced better; perhaps next time (if indeed there is a "next time"), the band should bring back Andrew Mudrock, producer from their 2005 breakout "City of Evil" (my personal favorite album of theirs), or even self-produce, as they did on their 2007 self-titled ablum.