Released: Oct 28, 2016
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal, Thrash Metal
Number Of Tracks: 11
With a renewed focus on sonic experimentation, speedy metal riffs, and deeper lyrical themes, Avenged Sevenfold release a very fine record with "The Stage."
The StageFeatured review by: UG Team, on november 07, 2016 17 of 18 people found this review helpful
Sound: The last album by Avenged Sevenfold that I really took in was 2005's "City of Evil," and since then, it's been a smattering of songs from each successive album (most of them being from "Nightmare," due to Mike Portnoy's involvement). I had pretty much completely lost interest in this band when I had heard the first single from their last album, the title track from "Hail to the King." That particular album's mixed reviews and the departure of drummer Arin Ilejay left me questioning if the band would ever really be interesting again. Fast forward to late 2015, with the band announcing former Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman as Arin's replacement, and the writing process for their new album proceeding in a more "aggro" direction. Perhaps a poor choice of words, as it definitely resulted in some snickers from the much more modern metal audience, but nonetheless, the promise of an Avenged album that was going to be heavier piqued my own interest. Released completely by surprise on October 26th, the band finally unleashed this more "aggro" album, "The Stage."
Straight away, the album gets off to a strong start with the epic title track, with its synth drone morphing into Synyster Gates' tapped arpeggios before the rest of the band joins in with an aggressive, fast-paced riff. M. Shadows sings in a clean voice (as he does on almost all of the album), but in a more powerful way than on the last album. The song goes through many different sections in its second half that build up to an impressive climax, and becomes the band's first display of a somewhat more progressive inkling to their sound that pops up further in the album. Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance get some absolutely mind-bending solos throughout the song, as well, and Synyster's acoustic closing ends the song on a haunting note. As far as opening tracks go, this one really sets the tone (or perhaps... the stage?) for the album perfectly. The following few tracks, "Paradigm," "Sunny Disposition," "God Damn" and "Creating God" all feature more metallic riff-based sounds, more amazing guitar work from Zacky and Synyster, and even a few elements that haven't really been around on an Avenged album for a long time, like metalcore-style breakdown riffs, and even a couple of trademark M. Shadows screams in "Paradigm". "Sunny Disposition" also features a prominent horn section which, strangely enough, evokes a sort of Mel Collins in "Red"-era King Crimson sound, with the way it's juxtaposed over the syncopated heavy guitar rhythms. It feels weird to be comparing Avenged Sevenfold to the likes of King Crimson or The Mars Volta, but the band actually managed to produce a result with the horns that doesn't come off as cheesy or contrived. These four songs, being among the album's faster, more "metallic" material, definitely give Wackerman one hell of a workout, and his playing throughout these songs, as well as the rest of the album, is nothing short of fantastic.
"Angels" starts off on a much more mellow note, though it's still a dark-sounding song with an ominous chord progression and ghostly Mellotron-esque keyboards in the chorus, and a very emotive guitar solo. The mellowness continues through the introduction of "Simulation," before that track explodes into possibly one of the fastest and heaviest on the album, with some of the most progressive song structures on the album, including even some brief forays into 7/4 time and quirky jazz chords during the song's outro. "Higher"'s piano intro brings us into a heavier track not unlike the album's first several songs, but with an almost Muse-esque progressive flavour to it, including a lot of Queen-style vocal harmonies and a propulsive mid-tempo beat. "Roman Sky" is the album's lightest track, with a prominent string section and clean Robin Trower-esque guitars. The track does increase in intensity, but in more of a symphonic way, rather than with distorted "metal" guitars, though it does feature a very John Petrucci-esque guitar solo. "Fermi Paradox" returns to the more classic metal sound of the album's first half and even introduces a bit of a thrash metal sound. The chord progression during the intro is great, and the solo over it is incredible as well. It's still not quite as hard hitting as the first several songs, though, being more melodic in a sort of Dream Theater-esque fashion.
The album closer, "Exist," is certainly the album's highlight. Clocking in at nearly sixteen minutes long, it's not just the longest song on the album, but in Avenged Sevenfold's entire discography. The first seven or so minutes of the song are entirely instrumental, and feature some of the album's most blistering guitar playing, some of the hardest-hitting riffs on the album, and some of the grandest symphonic sounds. A synth segue and short guitar solo bring us to the much softer "body" of the song, a melodic and simple section that's another very "progressive" sounding part. This segues into a third movement of sorts featuring a persistently looping synthesizer arpeggio with a backing track that gradually increases in intensity, especially for Brooks Wackerman, whose playing is nothing short of exemplary on this closing section, with a guest vocal appearance by famed astrophysicist and science entertainer Neil deGrasse Tyson. Though the addition of synthesizers may make one think "mid-'80s Rush," it's cheesy, but not so much so that it's hard to listen to. The addition of Neil's dialogue over it actually makes this entire section very moving.
Production-wise, the album is mostly good, with a lot of layers added that don't take anything away from the music. The only real sacrifice made on this album seems to be Johnny Christ's bass playing, which is almost inaudible during some of the heavier songs. This is sad, because when you can hear Christ's playing, it's actually really solid and melodic. Some of the guitar solos seem a little overly loud at times, as well. But these are fairly minor gripes considering how great the songwriting and playing are on this album. // 9
Lyrics: A theme that's becoming quite common in metal nowadays is an influence from prominent rational and scientific thinkers and philosophers. Nightwish did so with "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", tackling life and evolution with influence from Richard Dawkins. Epica have been influenced by science fiction and the idea that the universe may be a hologram, a popular notion in modern scientific philosophy. Many bands have quoted Alan Watts, including The Contortionist. Architects have quoted Carl Sagan...
And now, Avenged Sevenfold joins the club of scientifically and philosophically-minded heavy metal acts, citing the influence of Carl Sagan, Elon Musk, and Neil deGrasse Tyson (who makes an appearance on the song "Exist"). The album's general lyrical themes seem to mention a lot of the things that our generations will have to answer for in the future ("The Stage"), an increasing turn away from spiritual faith all while reinforcing our prejudices based on those faiths ("Creating God"), the idea of the universe being a simulation ("Simulation"), the loneliness of the cosmos ("Fermi Paradox"), to the idea that the world does not, in fact, revolve around us, and that our place in the universe is so much smaller than we realize ("Exist"). It's all quite abstract when reading through the lyrics, but they are powerful and deep, and one can paint the picture of these lyrical themes while reading them.
Neil deGrasse Tyson's quote that closes "Exist" is one of the most poignant and powerful lyrical moments on the album, and the album's lyrical theme can be summed up quite nicely with this passage:
"Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Each fabricated conflict, self murdering bomb, vanished airplane, Every fictionalized dictator, biased partisan and wayward son Are part of the curtains of society's racial, ethnic, religious, national and cultural conflicts? And you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers."
Vocally speaking, M. Shadows has a lot to be proud of on this album. While a lot of his detractors (and even some fans) hear a lot of Axl Rose in his voice, I have to say that I've also found a lot of Layne Staley of Alice In Chains in his voice, especially when he sings in his lower register as on "Paradigm." His distinctive vocals ring clear throughout the album, and his sense of melody and timing is a lot better than I remembered it being from past albums. The nasally quality that had initially turned me off on past Avenged albums is not as prominent here and dare I say he's actually quite pleasant to listen to on this album. And of note to those who miss the band's earliest sounds, he does manage to coax out a couple of really good screams on "Paradigm," proving he's still capable of shredding his vocal chords when needed. // 9
Overall Impression: Considering that I hadn't found a lot of Avenged Sevenfold's most recent music all that interesting, I was genuinely not expecting to enjoy this album as much as I have been. Perhaps this is down to my own personal tastes or preferences, but let me make this perfectly clear, I was never the biggest fan of this band, and I genuinely love this album. The band's exploration of progressive song structures, time signatures, synthesizer textures, symphonic elements, and deep philosophical and even scientifically minded lyrics have made this a very fresh take on their signature sound, but none of it actually comes at the cost of that signature sound, either. The band has managed to retain the very core elements that make them sound like Avenged Sevenfold, but the penchant for experimentation on this record has made it a real winner to me.
Let me repeat this again, I was never a very big fan of the band before, and I had no idea I would go into this album enjoying it this much. But this surprise album, released with little prior fanfare or hype, and intense speculation, has managed to be an even bigger surprise for me. A few small faults with the production aside, this is one of the most interesting albums I've had the pleasure to hear this year and if you, like myself, were unconvinced about Avenged Sevenfold, check this album out. While it might not shatter the preconceptions of the worst of the haters, it's a surprisingly well-crafted album, and coming off of the mixed reaction to their prior album, this may do well to turn some fans that abandoned hope in the band back on to them. Special kudos go to Brooks Wackerman on this album. For his first album with this band, he really nailed the playing, bringing the groove that fallen former drummer The Rev had, and mixing in a bit of Mike Portnoy's technicality and flashiness in with it, and it is my sincerest hope that he remains with the band for the long haul, because his playing was one of the things that really instantly connected with me while listening to this album for my initial impressions.
prcek295, on november 03, 2016 8 of 12 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 10
Lyrics: 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. // 10
Overall Impression: 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. // 10
SawGuru, on november 03, 2016 5 of 8 people found this review helpful
Sound: With the surprise release of their newest album "The Stage," Avenged Sevenfold have cast aside the commercial tones of their previous endeavor for a much more ambitious soundscape. Given the unexpected approach in songwriting, this album took a few listens to fully settle in and show its true colors.
The guitar and bass mix opt for a heavy tone much akin to "Planets" from Hail to the King, with a lot of the riffs being darker in tone than the typical Avenged Sevenfold. Jonny Christ's mix in this album plays a particular role in the sound, adding much needed depth to these tracks. "Paradigm" gives you the first taste of the rhythm dynamic this album chases. Synyster takes these riffs to a new height with his leads on this album. While Zacky chuggs along with a hefty chunk in his tone/writing, Synyster glides across lofty, almost space-rock inspired solos (especially in the back half of the album, including the epic, near-16-minute "Exist). Brooks Wackerman seems a good fit in this set-up (and has a particularly interesting drum pattern during Syn's solo in "Creating God"), but the drum mix leaves a few things to be desired. The toms are particularly flat and become a missed opportunity for a more cohesive sound, as well as a questionable snare tone in "Exist."
The biggest contributing factor to this ambitious effort is the heavy utilization of prog elements (atmospheric keys, shifting guitar modes, etc). While the band is no stranger to infusing synths into tracks, this album really takes the idea and runs with it. Tracks such as "Higher," "Fermi Paradox," and "Exist" run with this atmospheric direction. By adding in this factor to an already dark and atonal ensemble, the "space" sound is cemented. // 9
Lyrics: In many ways, Shadows takes a back seat on this album (or at the very least, steps down with the rest of than band rather than being lead). His lyrics are more a complement to the complex song arrangements rather than the focus. He shifts in and out from his typical voice throughout the entire album. Tracks like "The Stage" and "God Damn" will sound familiar, while the back of the album delves into unfamiliar territory. "Creating God" has tinges of Alice in Chains to it's verse structure and melody.
Shadows has a somber tone to a lot of the tracks on this album. Tracks like "Angels" and "Roman Sky" are well placed ballads toe complement the album, and lyrically on par with past efforts. However, there are a few moments where Shadows choice in lyrics and melody leave question marks. "God Damn" is one of the only other tracks on this album that sounds radio friendly, and suffers simplistic lyrics and melody for it. // 7
Overall Impression: Overall, this album feels like Avenged Sevenfold reinvigorated in their songwriting, infusing old sounds and new. There are a few familiar tracks, such as "The Stage," "God Damn," and "Creating God." But the atmospheric sounds of the lead guitar coupled with with various synth tones and atonal passages throughout the other tracks create a new feel. After teasing us with "Save Me" from "Nightmare," this album has Avenged Sevenfold adopting prog and space rock elements into their arsenal.
The album takes inspiration from the past and infuses it with this new genre expansion. "Simluation" hearkens back to "City of Evil," "Sunny Disposition" has shades of self-titled, and "Paradigm" could've passed as a "Hail to the King" B-side. Various riffs throughout can be compared to "Waking the Fallen" and "Nightmare" as well. A solid effort with plenty of ambition, "The Stage" passes as a welcomed follow up to the lackadaisical Hail to the King. It sets out on it's own grandiose path that is both familiar and new, and is definitely worth the ride. // 8
gianlucaperot1, on november 03, 2016 2 of 16 people found this review helpful
Sound: After a very straightforward and catchy album, they made an 180 turn into a more progressive and less melodic territory. There are various different vibes throughout it the album, it's heavy on songs like "Paradigm," stoner-ish on "Angels," blues-y on "Roman Sky," and a lot of sudden changes from heavy and fast to calm on songs like the title track. Sonically it feels very raw and as if they played the songs live during the recording. Whilst the vocals, guitars and bass feel familiar, the drums feel newer and more complex/unrpredictable compared to previous albums. // 7
Lyrics: Traditionally Avenged Sevenfold tend to have catchy melodies and various harmonies, but ever since "HTTK" they keep cutting back on those. As far as the lyrics go, the band has tackled current events and reflects on how we got to where we are. On lines such as "Bought peace through wars that doomed that doomed our children to die" makes reference to the current wars in the middle east. On songs like "Creating God," the band gets really brainy as it breaks down the "logic" behind believing in God and religion. Whilst I always enjoy a catchy melody/chorus, the deepness and cleverness of the lyrics make up for it. // 6
Overall Impression: Well written songs that keep you engaged despite the fact that there are no sing-along choruses. One thing I have always loved about the band is that every album is very different from one another. whilst the band has done long and complex songs before, "The Stage" has a more raw sound as opposed to layering various different guitar and vocals as seen on albums like "City of Evil." Although I enjoy the album as a whole, tracks that stand out: "The Stage," "Paradigm," "Roman Sky" and "Exist." Lastly, being a Bad Religion fan and knowing of Brooks through his time in the band, I was really amazed how versatile and creative he is. // 7
Muser9909, on november 30, 2016 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Really this year is fucking amazing with new music... I don't know what to think. This is really one of the best records of the decade, one of the best metal albums I ever heard in so much time. I never didn't expected that this amazing band could change in a direction like this.
Well, I give my experience with the band, first, I knew A7X with "City of Evil" and "Waking the Fallen," I loved the both, they're the best records that I ever listened in metal too, I wasn't a fan (but after listened to the "The Stage" I've consider a one), simply I consider that the musicality of this two records is complex with awesome riffs, spectacular drums (R.I.P. The Rev), and a rebel singer, simply a definition of a rockstar band, like Guns N' Roses, AC/DC or even Iron Maiden.
I liked the traditional heavy/hard rock style that the band adopted after "City Of Evil" (but also, "Waking the Fallen" is fucking fantastic being a metalcore album). Then releases the self-titled debut which for me is a bit less good than the previous album, but I enjoyed so much. And then releases Nightmare (this was after The Rev's death), I don't liked this record so much, but have some killer tracks on It.
In my opinion, "Hail to the King" was disappointing, very bland record for me and I lost interest on this band after this record, also their new drummer, Arin Illejay, was decent... But didn't fit in the sound of the band. It was an album so basic and cheesy to me.
But when I've noticed that Arin left the band, and a new (FANTASTIC) drummer, Brooks Wackerman joined the band, I guessed that the band probably gonna make some different vibes in the next work. Brooks is a monster of the drums, he gave Bad Religion a flawless discography from "The Process of Belief" to the last album "True North" in 2013, his style of drumming is phenomenal. So, when he joined the band, I thought: "Why a hardcore punk drummer would be in a band like A7X?, It doesn't fit me well"...
These Stupid expectations blowns away when the 73 minutes of truth comes true. The album was released by surprise in October 28th and previously the single "The Stage" blown my mind.
This album was Love like first sight, but this at first listen... My ears were cumming (I try to don't sound like a fanboy, but I'm failing too much!). Also, I'm gonna to tell you that this is a improvement from "Hail to the King"? This album is fucking amazing musically, my principal attention was focused on the new style of the band... I never, NEVER thought that the band became progressive. I swear, I spend most of my time listening to monsters of progressive like Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, ARK, Devin Townsend Project, Mystery, etc... And Avenged Sevenfold perfectly fits in this genre. Men, even the song "Creating God," one of the best songs of the album, reminds me so much of the chorus of "Absolute Zero" by the progressive metal band ARK, which is another amazing song... My goosebumps gave more attention to this song than me.
The direction of A7X being progressive is a very, VERY BIG STEP UP for the band. The riffs, solos and licks of Synyster Gates are fucking Messed Up, combines the classical style of the band mixed with neoclassical styles that sounds worthy of monsters like John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen, a perfect example is the song "Paradigm," in some parts. Definitely this is the BEST work of him...
But also, he isn't the only that steals the show, Brooks is a fucking beast, a monster of the drums, if in Bad Religion made a very big work, In a progressive album is the step-point that I never thought that he could gonna arrive, there are blast beats, Fast tempos, and even influences of Black Metal in songs like "Fermi Paradox" (Even the band confirmed this in a notice released by this page, Which I could never agree more).
Also, we couldn't forget the additional instruments, the saxo in "Sunny Disposition," the keyboards in "Exist" (one of the best songs of the band, ever. The longest, too.) the production, every thing equals perfectly. And it doesn't sound commercial, It sounds that the band does what they want like they want and in the best way.
Really a fucking 10 to this thing... No more words. // 10
Lyrics: Matt Shadows doesn't sounds so energetic here... I prefer his aggressivity in the previous albums, he sounds very melodic and he loses a bit of strong rage on his vocal, relaxed. But when one see the lyric concept of the album, does this have a very importance here?
Very strong concept of the album, Matt Shadows conveys a very solid and mature concept about the human being, the knowledge of stars, the Universe, the land, the destruction of the society, the philosophy, etc... All in one and combines everything with the madness in some songs, like "Simulation." Definitely, "The Stage" is very interesting in the lyrical part. But the best moment definitely is the monologue of Neil Degasse Tyson in "Exist"... SHIT! Even him is the reason that why I'm falling in love with this album... Probably I suppose that him was an important part in the concept because is very realistic, and solid that the entire band had most of the inspiration by this beautiful mind. This hooked me up, I don't know what to say. // 10
Overall Impression: No... This album It doesn't compare to any previous album of the band... Nothing. This is very, VERY DIFFERENT. Is understandable that at the first listen isn't very accessible, but I have my years listening to prog music, and I have to say to the fans of this genre that this is a very big record to spend the time on it. Don't ask me more, GO TO LISTEN.
And I like to say to the fans of A7X that don't liked this album so much. Spend more time on it, it worth, definitely is the most complex and most efforted album of the band to the date. The instrumental part is very advanced, the concept is very interesting and introduces you to know more about the Universe, the Knowledge, and Philosophical terms... You've gonna love it after multiple times of listen...
I love everything of the album, I'd say everything before... Nothing that I hate, nothing. I would buy it Again, and again, and AGAIN. It's a very solid work of the band, If they continues to exploring more of this music, In a couple of years this band gonna take a very important place on the metal scene, after the years of hate that they accumulated in the previous records. They should keep Brooks as batterist, I feel that him is like the new soul of the band, Arin Ilejay doesn't had that, he yes. The Rev should've gonna very proud of him.
The best songs of the album are "Simulation" (and definitely this is one of the best songs of the band, ever, at least in my opinion), "Exist" "Creating God" and "The Stage." But all the songs are amazing in my opinion.
Don't lose it of sight. With "Terminal Redux" of Vektor (another amazing album!, that had a very similar concept of this) and "Dissociation" by The Dillinger Escape Plan, definitely are the best albums of the entire year and the decade, without a doubt. Check it! // 10