In their second album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200, Avenged Sevenfold breaks away from the fast-paced metal of their past in Hail to the King. The tone has slowed significantly without the driving metalcore force of their deceased former drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who passed away in 2009. The Rev was a significant creative force to the band’s unique sound and is sorely missed by all.
The album exudes sounds from the band’s early metal influences and, in particular, Metallica. Just as Robin Thicke was inspired in this summer’s popular anthem “Blurred Lines” by Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Gotta Give It Up,” Avenged takes their inspiration just as far, and “This Means War” sounds too closely related to “Sad But True” off Metallic’s Black Album. Throughout the Hail album, the ol’skool rock sound is omnipresent. The general feel of the album is rather depressing. The words of “This Means War” could have been written by someone in a very bad place or Darth Vader. (Listen to the lyrics – not a far stretch at all) In the title track “Hail to the King,” a little more Avenged-style aggression is felt in the amazing vocals. The song is somewhat mellow, but its rhythm is infused with the passion of the lyrics and their strong delivery. “Crimson Day,” one of the slower tracks, is written so beautifully, it can be considered nothing less than poetry with a musical background. The other ballad “Acid Rain” is not as moving, but does have soul-seeking lyrics such as “There is no death, no end of time when I’m facing it with you.”
There is no denying the drumming on Hail to the King is sub-par post Rev or even that of his temporary replacement, Mike Portnoy. I believe it is the slower pace of the drums that have slowed this band to an 80’s hairband pace. I have seen them live with all three drummers, and I am hoping one day they ask Mr. Portnoy, nicely, to come back. He understood the band and the spirit of the Rev. He brought to the table what is needed to keep the rebel sound of Avenged Sevenfold pumping. In fact, I have seen videos of Portnoy’s very young son play “Nightmare” on YouTube. He might even be a better replacement. That kid drums circles around Ilejay. It is clear Arin Ilejay just doesn’t have the talent to keep Avenged on the cutting edge of metal.
It is easy to understand Avenged Sevenfold’s top spot on the Billboard 200. Through the years they have acquired a hardcore fan base who awaits the release of any such works. However, is Hail to the King the beginning of the demise of the Avenged monarchy? Just as Metallica lost a band member and never fully recovered the sound that made them metal legends, will the fate be the same for Avenged? Hail is their first album released without any contributions from The Rev. There is a noticeable void in the music left by his passing and I fear Avenged will never recover. I have been a loyal subject to Avenged Sevenfold for many years but this time, I will not Hail to the King. Avenged Sevenfold: Hail to the King Tour will be at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, October 13, 2013. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. For further information, please see the band’s Facebook or official website at: www.avengedsevenfold.com
-By Erikush Growski