Sound — 9
After reading about their history, recent interviews and press releases it is clear that Avenged Sevenfold have 1 clear aim. That is for world domination. They want to be the Black Sabbath or Metallica of their time, and according to the Californian metallers no one has yet risen up to the bar set by Sabbath or Metallica. They are a band not short of ambition but their last 2 albums were undeniably patchy and understandably unfocused, with Nightmare held as a homage to the late Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan. Now, after a break, the next chapter unfolds in their attempt at world domination with new drummer Arin Ilejay and their 6th studio album, "Hail to the King." "Shepherd of Fire" starts us off in typically eerie fashion similar to Black Sabbath's eponymous album opener, but then it hits you. Hits you like a wall of noise with each element ricocheting inside your head, an explosion of emphatic sound as if to say "WE ARE F--KING BACK." An ear splitting and mature solo from Synyster Gates then breaks down into that devilish intro riff building up to that brilliant chorus. Title track "Hail to the King" perfectly embodies this new Avenged Sevenfold chapter. High pitched main guitar riff which is held together with pounding drums and rhythm thick layers of electric guitar from Gates and Vengeance and the visceral vocal attack from M. Shadows combine spectacularly throughout the catchy chorus. "Doing Time" moves like a bullet and is a bridge between their heavier past and their new direction. M. Shadows delivering a snarling refrain and screamed vocals are an unexpected feature. "This Means War" has a riff the size of Belgium, full of metal chunk and sleaze, held down my some classy tight drumming by Arin Ilejay. This is followed my "Requiem," which has some weird latin chanting but then there is noise everywhere. Almost like the old Avenged, but more mature and chunky. For me, this is the weakest track on the album, but still a decent song. "Crimson Day" is one for the Metallica fans and is more heartfelt and full of love, than the later tracks on "Nightmare." Drums and distortion eventually take over, but this is still a lighter song and the solo is so fitting and suitable, just phenomenal. "Heretic" is number 7, and the drums and beefy distortion are back. Johnny Christ leads this one with a pulsing bass line and the drums continue the heat. Insane sweeping solos also maintain a link to their past. "Coming Home" starts off slow, but builds up to be one of the strongest tracks on the album even if it is Maiden-heavy. "Planets" is devilishly excellent, and they have continued the excellent crunchy riffing right to the end. The double bass drumming is excellent, and the vocal melodies again are really catchy, with harmonising break downs. The emphatic album ends with a near 7 minute instrumental, "Acid Rain." This song could easily be a James Bond movie theme. Maybe Avenged felt they needed another song like "A Little Piece of Heaven" but perhaps lacked a little creativity although lets not take nothing away.
Lyrics — 6
Avenged Sevenfold have always impressed with their intriguing lyrics, especially in "City of Evil." However, "Hail" is littered with lyrical cliches. Specifically "Crimson Day" and "Doing Time" during which "M. Shadows" sings "When there's no writing on the walls; I see the lifeless devils start to crawl; And I don't need no lessons; After all; Everybody is doing their time." They have always been a proudly patriotic band and this is evident in songs "This Means War" and "Planets" where the lyrics are focusing on topical issues. Matt Shadows' vocals are solid as ever and he screams in 1 song "Doing Time" but overall atypically solid performance.
Overall Impression — 8
Hail has typically eerie riffs and dynamic moments which Metallica lawyers might consider a little cheeky. This is in no way similar to any of their previous albums. They have signified a new desire to build tracks differently by focusing on atmospherics and feeling big, without overdoing it. Pantera, Sabbath and Guns N' Roses style riffs all feature on muscular set of songs which hurl A7X back on the metal scene. The classic rock comparisons are clear, but it is Avenged Sevenfold's next big step on a new path. It is less over the top and more mature and suitable, particularly from Synyster Gates. Arin Ilejay's debut drumming performance is modest, but he manages to create a hellish atmosphere. It might not be what you expect in certain places, but Avenged Sevenfold have not parted with their old roots, and have grown into a band suitable of metal greatness.