Sound — 10
This album is a huge step forward for the guys in Avenged Sevenfold. Shadows' work with a vocal coach Ron Anderson prior to recording the album really shines through as he harnesses the raw power heard on the first two albums to give listeners a raw, yet very melodic, new sound. The entire album very much features melodies, lyrical and otherwise, as well as a more balanced twin-axe attack by Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, whose harmonized leads really give the band its own signature sound. With this transition Avenged Sevenfold cross over from the metalcore genre into the more accessible hard rock/ heavy metal vein, a move that defines their musical direction for years to come. This is, in my opinion, their best work so far, with musical styles ranging from a full out metal anthem in "Beast And The Harlot" to a grandiose symphonic sound in "Strength Of The World" to a lonely, sorrowful guitar in "M.I.A."
Lyrics — 8
Talk of the fall of man, eternal damnation, war, death, and love? Not exactly the most shocking choice of subject matter for the genre, but it all fits extremely well. The instrumental tracks all fall into place behind a solid, dynamic vocal performance by M. Shadows. It's hard to believe the same voice belting out the fire-and-brimstone lyrics of "Beast And The Harlot" can convey the fear and agonizing guilt that permeates "M.I.A." A little more originality would do wonders for the album, but still an impressive performance by the front man.
Overall Impression — 9
As Avenged Sevenfold step into the ever-broadening world of hard rock and metal, this effort sets them firmly in their own category of music. The blend of heavy, grinding metal riffs and well thought-out harmonies gives them a versatility beyond that of most bands in the genre as they redefine themselves as a band. Most of you who read this probably already know the huge hits from this album, namely "Beast And The Harlot", "Bat Country", and "Seize The Day", but the songs in which I think the whole band really shines are "M.I.A." and "Strength Of The World". There are lots of bands that do metal very well, but these songs show that little something extra that puts Avenged Sevenfold in a league of their own. If this album were lost or stolen, I would definitely replace it. It's a great show of talent by a young group that will likely only continue to get better.