Friday, November 4, 2016

Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage (2016)

There were probably no one that was not surprised over the sudden album release of Avenged Sevenfold (except those who do not care). After releasing the first single entitled "The Stage", there were rumours that the new album would be called "Voltaic Oceans" (a very weird title if you ask me) and that it would be released some time in December. Fast forward two weeks, and the band drops the new album out of nowhere, with a very interesting cover and a totally different, and more boring, name in "The Stage". I like that there are some bands that goes away from the regular album promotion cycle, being spontaneous and give everyone some jaw drops, but you better believe that the material have to hold up, or it was all for nothing.

Let us first talk about the first single, "The Stage", which certainly got my attention when it was released. First I have to say that I do not like the music video, it is simply boring and ugly. The song itself is intriguing at least, having a length of 8 and a half minutes, and is not as direct as regular A7X singles are, and not as catchy too for that matter. "The Stage" grows on you, and it has some neat moments here and there, like Gates and Baker's riffing, but it is not the exciting opening that I hoped for.

After hearing it, I thought that the title track would be a odd track on the album, but instead, it is actually a good representation of the whole album. "The Stage" is a fairly long, fairly complex album, going away from the more mainstream and linear style that A7X is more well known for. It still sounds like A7X though, and that is a big sigh of relief, since the last album, "Hail To The King", was a huge disappointment, acting more like a cover album than an original piece. Of course, this is no Dream Theater level of complexity, but do not expect any catchy hits like "Bat Country" or "Afterlife" here.

With that said, that does not mean that "The Stage" has some good, memorable songs in it. Several songs, like "Sunny Disposition" and "God Damn", shows a lot of aggression and power that comes straight from the finger tips of Synyster Gates and Zachary Baker, spitting out some insane riffs here and there, and mixing it with more mellow stuff from time to time. Together with new drummer Brooks Wackerman (what an awesome drummer name), bassist Johnathan Seward, and rough edge vocalist M. Shadows, the band plays with fire and passion, something they truly lacked in the predecessor.

But most of the album are reflected in the album cover. The structures of the song can be best described as space like, feeling very distant and mysterious, which somehow works really well. In "Creating God", we got some really cool riffing starting up, but the song evolves multiple times, and the chorus is long and sweeping, a very interesting transformation indeed. And there are several other calmer parts of this record that either work or do not. One really confusing song is "Simulation", which is basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in musical form. It opens up with a very calm, almost ballad like opening, then suddenly, we get some demonic and very heavy riffing together with a frightening Shadows. This shift between personalities goes on for the entire song, making it very confusing.

The whole second half of the album is very peaceful and slow, which is another thing I did not really expect, but it is done with enough finesse so that it does not become stale. Songs like "Fermi Paradox" and "Higher"are extremely soothing, yet enjoyable, and I know that A7X have done some slow song in the past, but these songs are more refined, not as cheesy. Another surprise can be found at the end of the album, a whooping 15 minute and 41 second track called "Exist". While I do think it is cool that the band tries their hand on songs with mastodon length, but this was a failed attempt, close to 16 minutes of wasted space. There is a lot of instrumentation here, performed well for sure, but it does not add anything, it is just senseless jamming, and it does not get better towards the end, where the last third of the song is the same melody line over and over again, together with some mumbling from Neil DeGrasse Tyson in the background. I definitely love me some science, but this is so god damn unnecessary! If we scratch the last song, we got roughly an hour of quite good material.

"The Stage" is not your typical mainstream Sevenfold. Instead, we got a band that is expanding their horizons, trying to evolve their existing sound. This is a big step forward from "Hail To The King", but it is also obvious that the band still has some way to go in their new direction. Because even if "The Stage" is a good album overall, it is still too long, and it needs some more meat on its bones. The stage is certainly set for more greatness in the future, so let us wait and see if the band can give us an unforgettable show.

Songs worthy of recognition: Creating God, God Damn, Higher

Rating: 7/10 Sunny Dispositions

More reviews of Avenged Sevenfold
Hail To The King

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