Avenged Sevenfold is a metal band from California that has been around for over 15 years. Although their debut album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet had them stuck as a virtually unknown band with a strong emphasis on heavy metalcore and the only album to feature bassist Justin Sane, they followed it up with Waking the Fallen in 2003 to achieve cult underground status. It was their third album City of Evil that had them break into the mainstream a few years later. After the successful self-titled album Avenged Sevenfold and the tragic loss of founding drummer The Rev, their next album Nightmare propelled them to stardom even more so, with Mike Portnoy taking over for drums. 2013 saw the release of the album Hail to the King with new drummer Arin Ilejay. Fast forward 3 years later, A7X hires yet another new drummer, and their 7th album The Stage was released with very little timing and marketing.
1. The Stage
3. Sunny Disposition
4. God Damn
5. Creating God
9. Roman Sky
10. Fermi Paradox
The band consists of vocalist M Shadows, rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengence, lead guitarist Synyster Gates, bassist Johnny Christ, and drummer Brooks Wackerman. Of note is that this is the first album to feature new drummer Brooks, the third drummer since The Rev’s passing in 2009. Previously the long time drummer for Bad Religion, Brooks adds a completely new punk rock twist to A7X, and is quite prominent throughout the album. M Shadows also draws his influence from a few heroes of past yet again, but adds his own style to the vocals.
The Stage was announced on October 27th, and merely hours later, the album became available to purchase. This was to take a twist in their lawsuit involving their former label at Warner Bros. It also completed the desire for A7X to take a new approach at marketing, and wanted everything to be a surprise in one big swoop, instead of revealing samples and light teasing prior to the album release.
The overall concept focuses on A.I. and a human’s self-destruction. It is A7X’s first concept album, and is an interesting take on the various subjects throughout the album. It ranges from historically seeing human failures as a whole, nuclear warfare, higher intelligence gained by computers, exploring space, and more. It might take a few listens to grasp certain stories, but the diversity on the lyrical subjects is noteworthy, and follows the overall album concept excellently. The metaphors are vast though, and can be a turn off at certain times.
One of the scenarios played heavily on is religion, while blending in the A.I. concept. “Creating God” is a prime example of this. It shows that man has the ability to make up their own God, for a variety of reasons. It’s fueled by afterlife questions and the addiction to find truth to one’s own belief. A7X is quite remarkable with their lyrical approach, almost sidestepping the message while staying straightforward about it.
“Simulation” takes a sharp turn, but stays true to a human’s desire for answers and beliefs. Basically, the song is about what is real and what isn’t, and if someone, such as possibly their A.I. concept, actually decides in the end. It’s an interesting take on a rather simplistic scenario but the overwhelming metaphors can make it hard to grasp. “Sunny Disposition” is more lyrically straightforward than the other songs, describing nuclear weapons. Although the Cold War is no longer in the air, the facts and fears of nukes is still possible, and A7X creates their own vision of the topic with ease.
As noticed by now, this album is riddled with someone finding their own self-awareness. “The Stage” makes references to shadow governments, and how one person is expected to live and die by these so called entities. The track encourages the listener to take a glance at history, and then take a glance at themselves. Lyrically it’s a solid opener, and sets the basis for all of the other songs on the album.
Although tracks such as “Paradigm” and “Fermi Paradox” sounds musically similar to most A7X songs, the band does have a few new tricks up its sleeve. “Sunny Disposition” is a standout track, adding a horn section by the widely known band Fishbone. It matches the consistent guitar riffs, creating a unique groove to the song. The chorus itself is fast yet brief, with a punk influenced vibe, almost reminding listeners of A7X’s first two albums.
“God Damn” is a heavy track, with A7X showing their brutal guitar riffs prominently. It’s a classic metal song by any standards, but adds a small twist towards the end with an acoustic salsa guitar. “The Stage” also features this guitar at the end of the song as well. As an actual intro track, “The Stage” is pretty long, clocking in at 8 minutes. It goes from an extended piano intro, to a groove metal influenced sound, to a classic A7X breakdown which can remind listeners of the City of Evil days, to the acoustic guitar ending.
Melodic choruses make an appearance yet again on this album. “Higher” is, to the say the least, a powerful track with a strong chorus. Brooks’ punk-influenced drumming is also a strong point, and this song displays it the best. His odd timing sets him apart from the previous two drummers, and that change is a huge factor in making A7X sound fresh and not too repetitive. M Shadows increases his vocal range quite high in this track as well, and comes off well.
During Synyster’s guitar solo, he basically mocks M Shadows’ chorus singing with his guitar. Although this can be fine and dandy, it’s not too original. It comes off at a desperate attempt to kickstart a solo. He also repeats this technique in other songs as well, mainly “Creating God.” Although it’s not a huge letdown, it seems kind of odd that he would go word-for-word with his guitar.
“Creating God” has M Shadows making his voice sound almost like Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots during the verses. His vocals are almost raspy and this isn’t the first time that he strongly drew an influence from a past artist. During the chorus, he returns to his typical singing voice, and the vast differences between the two parts of the song is a refreshing change.
A7X is no stranger to slow melodic tracks, and “Roman Sky” is a perfect example of this; sadly, it comes off as a boredom filled 5 minutes. The light stringed guitars and smooth vocals are eventually followed by a slightly heavier guitar riff and a keys section, but it doesn’t save the song. It seems like a cheap attempt at catching the melodic fanbase. “Angels” also has hints of a melodic track, but picks up at more moments than the previously mentioned song.
“Exist” is the closing track and is A7X’s longest song yet, clocking in almost 16 minutes. Although not a terrible song by any means, it jumps from subgenre to subgenre at a rapid pace. The vast musical variety on this single track is unique, and isn’t a bad thing, but can be overwhelming to some. The last 3 minutes of the song is also overlapped by a spoken word track, which isn’t exactly worthy of being on repeat.
With this being A7X’s 7th overall album, they had to insure their listeners that they aren’t a repeatable band. It’s a vast improvement over their last album Hail to the King, which at most times was generic at best. The Stage sets a new high for the band, proving that not only are they still attached to their roots, but they have grown new ones as well.
- Sunny Disposition
- Creating God
- God Damn
- The Stage