Sound — 10
After releasing their 2013 album "Hail to the King," fans of Avenged Sevenfold were divided once again, with some of them praising the band's new, more raw sound, while the others criticized its simple structure and missing previously used progressive elements on albums such as "City of Evil" and "Nightmare." For those of you who prefer band´s more progressive sound, I tell you, this album was made exactly for you. Let's take a look on the tracks then!
1. "The Stage" - Album opener and first single, this song has a really strong "City of Evil" and "Hail to the King" vibe to it, starting with a cool note-bending intro followed by Gates's tapping melody before unleashing a classic Avenged Sevenfold groove and riffing. I really dig the clean middle section, with Gates's awesome soloing on top of it. When the rest of the band comes in for the epic part of the song, serious goosebumps are to be expected ("Just wake uuuup!").
2. "Paradigm" - Starting with some heavy riffing, this song is the first to show the progressive direction the band took with this album. M. Shadows' low voice in the verses moves onto more powerful singing he's known for during the chorus. This is also the song that really shows what a beast of a drummer Brooks Wackerman really is. Also and this is probably the most pleasant surprise for me on this album, the bass plays a really vital role (finally Johnny Christ!) here.
3. "Sunny Disposition" - Probably my favorite song on the album. Starts with heavy riff and then revolves around the cool bass line throughout much of the song. What's absolutely standout moment here though, is the amazing evil circus-middle-east-like melody after every chorus. By this time you might have noticed that this album isn´t that much about being catchy, but rather dark and mysterious.
4. "God Damn" - Probably the heaviest piece on the record (maybe even the heaviest one they ever released), uncomprosingly fast and heavy. Going a bit thrash-y here are we guys? Ain't much to describe here, prepare yourself for some moshing times. Synyster's using some effects on his leads here and there and also shows us his classical guitar side of playing. Expect something like The Godfather meets black metal near the end.
5. "Creating God" - Starts off with heavy riffs again with great melodic chorus. I feel like this song could've easily ended up on "Nigthmare." This one's probably going to be played live a lot, maybe even end up as a second single. Definitely more classic Avenged Sevenfold and more radio accessible than the rest of the album (excluding the title song).
6. "Angels" - I know you all wished for it, but this one really isn't a cover of that famous Robbie Williams tune. In fact it's pretty dark and moody, introducing some weird timing for the first time on this album. Don't worry, there's plenty more towards the album's end. Revolves pretty much around one melody, definitely taking a new direction here.
7. "Simulation" - Verses in this song, for some reason, feel to me like they were taken from some unreleased track off "Chinese Democracy." Rest of the song though is heavy as hell, getting crazy towards the end, with Synyster doing some intense sweep picking and M. Shadows posing as some kind of maniac doctor in a spoken-word part of the song.
8. Higher" - "City of Evil" meets ambient music on this one. Pretty unique piece from the band. Again, stand-out guitar work by Synyster Gates (I'd love to give more credit to Zacky Vengeance, but I'm not sure if he's involved in recording proccess and they always say that the music is a collective effort by the whole band so...). I dig the use of choir and piano towards the end of the song.
9. "Roman Sky" - This song is the closest it gets to ballad on this album. Don't expect any love song though! Dark and moody vibes here again. It also involves a lot of string arrangements and again, (he really let himself lose on this album) Synyster Gates with his guitar skills.
10. "Fermi Paradox" - It has really strong "Hail to the King" vibe to it. Feels like a lost part of "Planets" from the same album sometimes. M. Shadows has some cool vocal moments here, a bit different from his usual way of doing things. Whole song has a pretty sad vibe to it.
11. "Exist" - The ending epic of the album. This is Avenged Sevenfold showing everything they got. Brooks let himself loose and just destroys the drums. This song is more like a soundtrack to a movie and I gotta say, I almost thought it's going to be instrumental until Shadows came in with his vocals. I really wish that the band would go in this direction in the future, because it just suits them so well. Ahhh... what an ending to such epic journey.
Lyrics — 10
No one can argue that M. Shadows is one the of best singers in the world of rock and metal right now. You can hate the band all you like, but he's got the power, the control and range not many other singers can hope to achieve. Lyrically, this album is pretty dark, probably the second darkest after the "Nightmare" album, for reasons obvious to the fans of the band. From my non-native-speaker brain can understand, the theme here the humanity and existentional stuff in general. Some might say that it's an over-used theme for music, but I'd say it fits the music pretty nicely.
Overall Impression — 10
Well I ain't gonna lie to you. Avenged Sevenfold is my favorite band in the world right now and this album everything I wanted to hear from them. It's a step in the new direction, it's massive, heavy, melodic and dark. Every single member of the band has superb skills and it shows. Maybe the only thing I had to get used to was the way drums were mixed on some of the songs. Sometimes it felt to me like they were too high in the mix, but I guess that´s just my speakers and headphones. Top notch quality this album is.