Sound — 10
After 18 months of touring in support of their self-titled album, Long Beach quintet Avenged Sevenfold began writing their next album. Described as a dark concept album, the band were weeks away from entering the studio when tragedy struck. Drummer and founding member Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan was found dead in his home, and the band were left to pick up the pieces. However, after months of turbulent emotion, the band decided to complete the album, and, along with the help of ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, record what they called their drummer's masterpiece. The album opens with the creepy xylophone of "Nightmare". The song is classic Avenged Sevenfold, with dueling guitars throughout and a blistering solo from guitarist Synyster Gates. Next up is the first Rev piece on the album: "Welcome to the Family". The song features a pounding main riff, and will remind the listener of tracks such as "Afterlife". "Danger Line" is essentially this album's "Gunslinger", a song for the troops with a fantastic outro solo. The album breaks some new ground for the band with "Buried Alive". Clearly inspired by Metallica tracks in the vein of "One" and "The Day that Never Comes", the song features a beautiful clean guitar passage before breaking into some soft dueling guitars. After the crushing choruses, the song changes dramatically, taking a complete right turn into metal territory, before finishing with a great solo and some fantastic vocals from singer M. Shadows. After the uber-catchy "Natural Born Killer", the first half of the album closes with "So Far Away". Written by Synyster Gates", the song is a tribute to The Rev. Lyrics such as "I have so much to say but you're so far away" will bring tears to the listeners eyes, as well as the simply beautiful solo and powerful singing at the end of the track. Definitely an album highlight. While the first half of "Nightmare" features more of what fans have come to expect from Avenged Sevenfold, the second half features some of the band's best work. "God Hates Us" brings the band back to the metalcore sound of their earlier albums "Waking the Fallen" and "Sounding the Seventh Trumpet" with some frantic riffs, huge breakdowns, and (what a lot of fans have been begging for) all-out screaming from M. Shadows. Up next is "Victim". A mellow track featuring some great female guest vocals (where you can't help but think of "The Great Gig in the Sky"), the song deals with the morning after The Rev's death. It's definitely a different Avenged Sevenfold track, but with it's emotional lyrics and another great solo, it's one of their best. "Tonight the World Dies" is a haunting, acoustic track, featuring some bluesy riffs and one of the most powerful vocal performances on the album. But it's what's up next that every Avenged Sevenfold fan is waiting for... "Fiction". The final track written by The Rev, completed just 3 days before his death. There is no guitar on the track, just a truly haunting duet between M. Shadows and The Rev. Drums and piano dominate the song, while Jimmy sings "Now I think I understand/How this world can overcome a man". The lyrics are The Rev's goodbye to the world, almost in the sense that he knew he wasn't long for this earth. This reviewer found it very difficult not to cry when the song finishes with The Rev singing softly "I know you'll find your own way when I'm not with you". The song fades with a final chord, leaving behind the legacy of a fantastic drummer, writer, and brother. The album ends with the longest track the band has ever recorded: "Save Me". At damn near 11 minutes long, it features fantastic performances from every member of the band. Beginning with Johnny Christ's thumping bass, the track slams in to a duel solo. With The Rev growling "Skull" and whispers of "They all know", the verse only kicks off two minutes in. The harmonies are fantastic throughout, particularly when M. Shadows sings "We only (only) wake up when we sleep" and during the chorus. The song changes pace during the solo, where Synyster Gates is shredding with all his heart. The song quiets down for a truly unbelievable bridge with brilliant guitars before slamming back into the chorus. The song, and the album finish with a chorus of "Tonight we all die young". It's a true, 21 gun salute to the life of their bandmate, their friend and their brother James Sullivan.
Lyrics — 10
Originally dubbed a concept album, the band ditched that idea following the death of their drummer. Lyrics for the tracks "Nightmare" and "Danger Line" were kept because, according to M. Shadows, Jimmy was a fan of the songs. The rest of the album, particularly all tracks after "Natural Born Killer" deal with the band coming to grips with the death of their friend. Vocalist M. Shadows is on top form throughout the album, with his vocal acrobatics ranging from a soft whisper on "Save Me" to the piercing screams on "Buried Alive" and "God Hates Us". The lyrics themselves are some of the most emotional lyrics the band has written, with highlights such as "So Far Away" and "Victim". The raw emotion in the singing is evident on every track, such as the final goodbye of "Tonight we all die young" on "Save Me" and especially on "Fiction". Fans will get chills when they first hear The Rev's voice, salvaged by producer Mike Elizondo from the demo completed days before The Rev's death. It's hard not to smile and cry when you hear him scream "Let it burn!" or, when you hear his last goodbye to the world: "I hope it's worth it/Out on the highway, yeah/ I know you'll find your own way when I'm not with you".
Overall Impression — 10
"Nightmare" is Avenged Sevenfold struggling to deal with the death of their drummer. It's an emotional roller coaster, featuring everything from the acoustic ballad to the full out metal that has made the band famous, without them getting lost and unfocused in the tragedy that has overwhelmed the band this last while. Personally, almost no albums get a perfect 10 from me, only the true classics of their respective genre get the five stars from me. But there is something about this album that, just like Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, has a special place in my heart and in the hearts of Avenged Sevenfold fans all over the world. And that, I believe, is his true masterpiece.