On August 27, Avenged Sevenfold released their latest album, entitled Hail to the King, and it’s their first work without the creative stamp of the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, the band’s original drummer, who died during the production of their previous release, Nightmare.

Bands that endure such a loss must find a way to evolve in order to survive, so the band is different now, understandably. The most notable difference is that the members returned to the studio with an intensely focused goal of writing for the song, and these songs take charge with some badass sounds and lyrics.

The album’s opening track, “Shepherds of Fire” sets the mood with ambient and ominous sounds of a clock tower strike augmented by an orchestral horn section while the guitar sets the stage for the rest of the band to hit. The song takes off from there, and the band's execution on this opener is tastefully impressive.

The very next song is the title track, and the hypnotizing opening melody for this current hit single sets the listener for a powerful ride that is the latest dose of proof in metal’s ability to produce insanely catchy songs. “Hail to the King” could very well set Avenged Sevenfold on a path that hearkens the destiny of Metallica in worldwide popularity. I remember how this band exploded when “Bat Country” hit the radio waves.

Déjà vu, anyone?

Déjà vu? What does an Yngwie Malmsteen song have to do with it?!” someone may say.

To which, I’d be like, “Chill, Doc Brown. You finally learned what ‘heavy’ means, and now you’re trying too hard to impress with your shredder knowledge.”

I’m betting you’re either ROFL’ing or scratching your head right now, but I digress…

The drum sounds on this record have the huge and tight tone that made guys like Lars Ulrich and Vinnie Paul legends, and it’s no secret that it was designed that way. According to the September issue of Revolver magazine, M. Shadows, the frontman of Avenged Sevenfold, stated, “To us, there’s a serious musical drop-off after the Nineties, so we wanted to do our version of what a Nineties-and-before metal record should sound like, but with a 2013 production.”

After hearing songs like “This Means War”, I have a feeling that Avenged Sevenfold’s lead guitarist, Synyster Gates, will achieve a new status of influence among the younger generation of upcoming guitarists. If I were a kid in high school right now looking for a cool guitar song to show off, I’d want to play “This Means War” in front of my peers. This song is grooving, full of attitude, and the guitar work is very well-constructed, full of melodic phrases laced with harmonic screams and rapid runs across the fretboard. Gates also shows he knows how to work that whammy

Dude, what if the record wins a Grammy? Or what if I randomly met the Rock in Miami? Or what if I had to wash my car with a dirty shammy?…






"Requiem" is an example of what I love about this band and its ability to meld a variety of influences into an undeniable brand of power. It grooves as hard as Metallica onstage with a symphony, while adding a chorus of operatic voices to create an epic work that I hope their stage show can rival what’s pictured in my mind.

Every great record needs a ballad, and “Crimson Day” delivers. It catches the ear with a calming guitar tone that has a story to tell, a hopeful and reflective piece that should make bands like the Scorpions proud that the guys leading the pack today are paying tribute to them. That’s the connection I make at least, because I hear so much of what I grew up on in this record. I can only imagine how many kids are going to become turned onto old school metal because of this record. Seriously, these guys are onto something.

“Heretic” makes me happy that I don’t have to listen to Dave Mustaine to get that early 90's Megadeth vibe I love. Sorry, I have the deepest respect for all the dudes who’ve ever been a part of Megadeth, but nowadays, when Dave speaks, it’s often hateful garbage that makes me go “WTF?”, whereas the guys in Avenged Sevenfold are openly paying tribute to the guys who inspired them to follow in their footsteps while putting their own spin on it.

“Planets” and “Acid Rain” are the final tracks on this record and, according to Shadows in Revolver, “the coolest ending of a record that we’ve ever f**king done, two of my favorite songs that we’ve ever written…and two of the most different songs that we’ve ever written.” Gates, in reference to the band’s naysayers, adds, “They’re gonna be standing there at some festival we’re playing at, holding a beer, and I want to f**king knock the sh*t out of them. I want to make them look up and be like, “Holy sh*t, this is awesome! Who is this? Avenged Sevenfold? Where did these guys come from?” Ultimately, that’s what I want.”

I’ve said this to friends before, but I believe James Hetfield is metal’s 5-Star General, commanding a war of metal’s mainstream legitimacy, and if I may speculate, his influence could have inspired Avenged Sevenfold to go a little Maverick and do a fly-by on entertainment enthusiasts who like to crap on the true metal heads for who they are. These dudes have the talent to rock, and they know how to step up. Watch what happens as a result, because this band has thrown down some work that just might shake things up a bit. The intensity of metal’s tight melodic drive combined with the raw attitude of rock n roll is still alive and well, so be sure to thank God and bands like Avenged Sevenfold for the fact that even though times are crazy right now, at least there are some killer new records out there which will bring awesome tour lineups.

If you're a fan of heavy music with melodic hooks, get your copy of Hail to the King today. You won't regret it.

By the way, if you understood the random yet mildly relevant entertainment references spliced throughout, you earn a banana sticker, and if you just got that reference, you rule.

Longs Lives the Metals…and have an A1 day ;)

-Chris Koyle