Sound — 9
There are several reasons why bands choose to have thier albums self titled. Either they are following the tradition of classic bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and Slipknot and they are releasing thier debut album. Or they are at a point in thier career where they are stumpred for ideas, a la Blink 182 or Killswitch. Maybe the band is The Bronx, in which every album is eponymous. Or, for Avenged Sevenfold, like thier heroes Metallica before them, they have released an album that will forever define them, catching them at thier creative peak two years before the unfortunate death of sticksman Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan. The LP, which is produced by Avenged Sevenfold (A7X to thier rabid fanbase) features a far more groove based sound then it's predecessors, although there is no lack of the solos and melodies that has made Synyster Gates one of metal's leading axe-wielders. As with predeccessor 'City of Evil', stylistically this album remains within the realm of hard rock/metal, however occasionly strays from this, delivering elements Southern Roots Music on 'Gunslinger' and 'Dear God' and even playing in the style of a Broadway musical on 'A Little Piece of Heaven', with the aid of a choir, orchestra and backing singers that also feature throughout the rest of the album. This is Avenged Sevenfold's fourth album, and with so many classic songs featured it will stand the test of time.
Lyrics — 9
Whilst the lyrics are not too elaborate, they are certainly of a good standard and cover a vast array topics such as war and politics ('Critical Acclaim', 'Gunslinger', 'Lost') forgiveness ('Almost Easy') life and death ('Afterlife', 'Unbound (The Wild Ride), 'Brompton Cocktail') sadistic fantasies ('Scream', 'A Little Piece of Heaven') and missing loved ones ('Dear God', again 'Gunslinger'). Much like 'Fiction' on following album 'Nightmare', the lyrics featured on 'Afterlife' are particularly haunting and make for uncombfortable listening in light of Sullivan's death, as the lyrical depiction of a young man's premature death holds much in common with the eventuality of its lyricist, something which is exacerbated wehn Sullivan himself sings the line 'I need another chance to live' during the song's bridge. Vocally, M. Shadows signature rasp sounds as powerful as it has ever been, as he snarls and screams his way through the album, delivering the goods from agressive opener 'Critical Acclaim' to slow closer 'Dear God'. 'Avenged Sevenfold' also introduces Jimmy Sullivan as second lead vocalist as well as drummer; his passionate slurred yelps are heard prominently on 'Critical Acclaim', 'Afterlife', 'Lost' (which makes experimental and effective use of AutoTune) and 'A Little Piece of Heaven', a song which some regard as Sullivan's masterpiece.
Overall Impression — 9
This album would make a great introduction to Avenged Sevenfold; it is arguably their best and features some of thier strongest songs. It stands as a testimony to the drumming, vocal and songwriting skills of the late great Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan, and captures the whole band at thier creative peak. Album highlights include 'Critical Acclaim', 'Afterlife', 'Lost' and the epic 'A Little Piece of Heaven'. A must for any metal fan.