“The Stage” was released the day it was announced. (Courtesy of Capitol)
Like their previous effort, “Hail to the King,” Avenged Sevenfold’s new album is one piece of work nobody seems to agree on. “The Stage” has been released to a myriad of different opinions. Some people think its the worst work the band has released, while others claim its unique sound rivals the best in the band’s catalogue. Whether or not it pleases listeners, it is certainly a brave effort, taking Avenged Sevenfold to place they have never before traveled musically.
Many of the tracks on this album are quite experimental. One way to describe this album is to compare it to what “Somewhere in Time” was to Iron Maiden, or even “Blackwater Park” was to Opeth. They do depart from the sound fans have grown accustomed to with their classic releases like “Waking the Fallen”, “City of Evil”, and their self-titled album.
However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the gimmicks on this album work very well. Several of the tracks have long intros with unique riffs, guitars that are not as heavily distorted as usual with Avenged Sevenfold, low bass and the first Avenged Sevenfold song with blast beats. This album goes from fast to slow to heavy to mellow to the moon and back down in a matter of heartbeats.
While this work certainly shows Avenged Sevenfold testing the waters a bit, there is much of this album that relates back to their previous work, “Hail to the King.” That album has been described by the band on several occasion as being a tribute to the classic bands they grew up listening to, such as Led Zeppelin, Metallica and, as mentioned earlier, Iron Maiden. It seems like they kept this formula with their latest release, except they made it heavier and added the progressive elements. Some of these songs are somewhat stripped down, like “Simulation” which is basically a main motif that they change the tempo of at different parts and add keyboards and horns to. Same deal with “Creating God” which after some introduction proceeds with a straightforward, crunching riff that Metallica and Megadeth would envy.
Avenged Sevenfold also raised the ballad count for this title. Again, this is good or bad depending on your perspective. Perhaps the band is known for their heavy anthems like “Bat Country,” “Afterlife” and “Unholy Confessions” just to name a few. The band also has a reputation for putting to together a ballad as well. One only needs to listen to “Sieze the Day” or “Buried Alive” to realize their prowess at the writing of softer songs. This aspect of the band reappears in songs like “Angels,” “Higher” and especial in “Roman Sky”, where guitarist Synyster Gates and Zacky Venegance prove through these tracks they can rock with a clean sounding guitar as much as a distorted one.
One interesting thing to discover in the upcoming months would be which songs they add to their live set and potential future singles. Most of these songs might be odd choices (especially “Exist,” though it is a great song, but has a long keyboard intro before the band goes into thrashing and quick riffs). It is speculated that “God Damn” will be a popular song, and not without reason, as it is definitely one of the heavier songs on the album. Other than that, its a toss-up. These songs are so unlike the band’s former catalog, its difficult to predict what will catch people’s ears.
The experimentation also makes this a difficult album to grade. How does one compare a progressive Avenged Sevenfold album to the previous catalog? A grade of a B- might be most appropriate though. B- is making the grade. Unfortunately, this might not go down as the greatest Avenged Sevenfold album ever. That being said, though it has quite the competition. “Waking the Fallen,” “City of Evil,” “Avenged Sevenfold” and “Nightmare” may be remembered as prime examples of 2000s heavy metal at its finest. That is very tough company to beat. So while it may not compare to those bright moments, “The Stage” is still worth a listen.