Sound — 9
This album is Avenged Sevenfold's sixth studio album and the first to feature no musical input from The Rev who passed away in 2009 and the first album with their new drummer Arin Ilejay. I enjoyed the new sound that the band have taken and the sound of Synyster Gates Hellwin signature amp gives the band a slightly different metal sound. The album opens with "Shepherd of Fire" which has a simple guitar riff but is catchy all the same. Once the riff makes contact with the drums it becomes a very groove orientated piece. The verse is good with a good link to the chorus where the intro riff makes a return. The chorus is easy going and good. The solo has the obvious Synyster Gates feel to it with some harmonized guitars and a sustained note into a quieter section like the intro. The second track "Hail to the King" has a catchy fast riff played by Synyster which recurs throughout the song, this is then followed up with a more riffy feeling riff. The overall tempo of the song is slower and the verses are good. The chorus and link feature some chanting from the rest of the band which will be used nicely live as well. The solo is awesome and memorable as well. "Doing Time" is track three which feels more like a standard album track which is always good but I have seen they play it live which surprised me. It is a nice original piece which has a nice bridge section and another good solo. Track four is "This Means War" which has a very Metallica like feel and I know has been compared to "Sad But True." However I do like "This Means War" and the riff is awesome. The song is very groovy and the solo is one of the better ones on the album. There are some headbanging moments throughout the song and a good harmonized guitar part which makes a return after the guitar solo. Track five is "Requiem" which has some interesting Latin vocals at the start which come back later on in the song accompanied by instruments. The chorus is good but the constant repetition of the words "In flames" seems slightly unnecessary. It is a very groove song and features the use of a wah pedal during the solo which has a nice feel. The solo is also very fast and intricate which I like. Track six is "Crimson Day" which uses clean tone a lot of the way through. I think it feels like a cross between "So Far Away," "Tonight the World Dies" and "M.I.A." in a sense. The chorus is nice with a distorted guitar which isn't too loud in the mix. The solo again is good and the track features some use of orchestra, mainly the strings which is a nice addition to the track. Track seven is "Heretic" which I feels links back to the previous album "Nightmare" nicely. Overall this track isn't one of my favorites but has some nice sounding guitar on it and links back to the "City of Evil" era with arpeggios during the chorus. "Coming Home" is track eight and I think its one of my favorites from the album. The intro riff is nice and this is reiterated via the backing of the verse. The solos are awesome and the lyrics are catchy. "Planets" comes in at track nine and is one of the heaviest songs on the album. With heavy riffs and solid drums, including some double bass drumming during the chorus "Planets" has to be one of my favorites on this album. There are some real headbanging moments in this song and the chorus is extremely memorable. "Acid Rain" closes the album as track ten. It is a calmer piece and I've heard it is the aftermath of "Planets" or the world after the apocalypse. It has some guitar that reminds me of Steve Morse in a way but it is mainly focused around being a piano ballad. Overall "Acid Rain" is a nice way to close the album and is good for easy listening. A bonus track came with the deluxe edition of the CD called "St. James." It is a tribute song to The Rev and is a very groovy piece with a nice guitar riff that echoes throughout. It strikes me as something that could have come out of the writing of the self-titled album but didn't make it onto the CD. For a bonus track it is brilliant and I feel it is one of the best parts of the album with chorus melodies similar to "Trashed & Scattered" and "Lost."
Lyrics — 8
Overall the lyrics were good but in some places I felt they lacked imagination such as on "This Means War" the title is repeated four times and then on "Requiem" the phrase "In Flames" is repeated a few times. However M. Shadows vocals have not wavered at all and it doesn't sound as if he is straining to reach the harder notes. The stories behind the lyrics sounds like standard metal pieces but because they have been left open to interpretation people will hear different meanings behind each song. The lyrics fit well with the musical style and create good songs.
Overall Impression — 9
I do believe that this is a strong effort and will hold up well in their repertoire. The new guitar sounds are welcome with Synyster Gates new amp and Johnny Christ's signature bass its something interesting. However I do feel like the sound of the guitar doesn't change drastically between some pieces and its a more "that will do" job rather than "that sounds awesome!" I find it quite difficult to compare with other albums because it isn't really drastically similar to anything else they have done before but this is no bad thing. I have read a few times that Arin's drumming is "sloppy" but I don't hear it and to me it feels like a way for people to get at him because he isn't The Rev. The songwriting doesn't feel as complex as with previous albums but I've heard from interviews that this was their intention but I feel its because The Rev isn't there. Overall I enjoyed "Hail to the King" and if you enjoy metal then definitely give this a listen. I will look forward to seeing what Avenged Sevenfold offer in the future and in the meantime will listen to this album intently.