Ride The Black Justice For Magnetic Puppets
Losing a founding member, drummer Jimmy Sullivan, came as a massive hit to the band with a trajectory & momentum unprecedented in the metal world for the last decade. Nightmare was already written when he passed away but 7 months on, I can’t help feel they went to the studio too soon to record this. I’m not one for guilty pleasures as demonstrated by my fanatical love of Basshunter, but if I were, Avenged Sevenfold would be one. I’m totally gay for Waking The Fallen & about half of City of Evil is brilliant.
Opener, Nightmare didn’t make the cut for the album but after Sullivan’s death, the song was reconsidered. It isn’t a bad song but despite a decent chorus & an average solo, it could do with being a couple of minutes shorter. Welcome To The Family has a majestically gay chorus that is more fun than kicking midgets down stairwells but it’s let down by shitty breakdowns in an effort to cover up the fact that the rest of the song is Metallica’s Sad But True. Danger Line opens strongly with over the top backing vocals & frantic guitar work before dropping into an Elton John style piano interlude then closes with a military trumpet & snare combo as we get a Guns ‘n’ Roses style whistle over the outro. The lyrical content on the futility of war & the death of soldier marks a shift towards more mature song-writing which would most likely alienate their key demographic if they were to ever listen to the words rather than writing them out verbatim on the back of their maths jotter.
Buried Alive begins slowly with twin guitar harmony wankery close to Metallica’s One before moving into Ride The Lightning territory for the solo then ends by ripping off That Was Just Your Life cunningly changing the words to “This is now your life.” This is the kind of embarrassingly obvious pilfering you expect from minor league support acts, cough, Godsmack, cough, not chart-topping, major-label bands such as Avenged. Natural Born Killer kicks off with tight double bass drum work as the guitars attempt to keep up with Portnoy’s feet. One of the heaviest tracks on the album, it’s also one of their strongest.
It isn’t until the second half that things really fall apart though. From So Far Away on, Nightmare is an unfocused mess of balladry & solos that lacks any serious cohesion. The track itself is a horrible twangy, country ballad reminiscent of the vomit-in-your-mouth horror of Mama Said from Load. Surely, there came a point as they methodically went through their CD collection picking songs to copy when the reached Load & thought “This is literally the lowest any metal band can ever go.” At least, there should have been.
God Hates Us has a breakdown that not even Lamb Of God could be proud of whilst Shadows attempts an Anselmo but he doesn’t have the heroin-infused magic of Phil. As one of the slowest tracks on the album, Tonight The World Dies is actually pretty decent. A cheesy ballad complete with Slash-style solo that never outstays its welcome. Fiction was the last track Sullivan wrote, featuring vocal harmonies between him & Shadows. November Rain-style piano histrionics abound in an emotional affair that really should have marked the end of the album. Unfortunately, we get closer Save Me, another bloated ballad that begins with screeching guitars & kick drums similar to Eternal Rest but loses steam early on. The whole song could have been cut to the benefit of all involved.
No complaints can be laid at the guitar work. Brian Elwin Haner, Jr., to use his non-preposterous name, might be overrated but the boy can shred regardless of what Morons of the Internet TM have to say. Mike Portnoy was brought in to record the drum tracks based on the early recordings of Sullivan & he does an uncanny job replicating his style, proving once again that there’s nothing he can’t do behind a drum kit.
Suffering from what is commonly known as Kirk Hammett Syndrome, Nightmare is, much like this review, an over-long & self-indulgent affair with flashes of genius. In the hands of the right producer, it could have been a good album but at 66 minutes, their bag of tricks fails to cover up the fact that their strengths don’t lie in piano-driven ballads, breakdowns or Metallica covers. Avenged Sevenfold excel at writing cheese-laden metalcore with pop hooks & brainless, sing-a-long choruses. Instead, we all have to sit through Avenged Sevenfold’s painful puberty as they attempt to mature with their current audience but for what it’s worth, I’d recommend they stick to what they are good at.