Album Review: Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare

Avenged Sevenfold have dealt with their fair share of positives and negatives since the release of their self-titled album in 2007 but during the course of the last three years, the band has worked tirelessly on giving as much back to fans as they possibly could. Their self-titled release in 2007 was their chance to experiment, to show the world not something new as such, it still carried that signature Avenged Sevenfold sound, but to twist things around and gauge the audiences reaction; every band is surely allowed at least one album were they can and must try new things. Sadly for the band not all of their fans appreciated the sudden switch in sound and the reception from critics matched those of the fans as they were mixed when they heard the album. Still, the band came out with their new direction and even with the reception they sold out tours, picked up the album of the year award from Kerrang in 2008 and made their mark.

Two years after their self-titled album Avenged Sevenfold sat down and began to write the follow up, the album which would propel them back to stardom and prove critics and fans who were now unsure of the bands direction wrong. Though the bands world came crashing down on 28th December 2009 when drummer, backing vocalist and song writer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead at the age of 28 in his home. No-one could have expected the band to continue after such a loss but in the months that followed, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, an individual who The Rev admired, agreed to join the band temporarily to finish recording the album.

When I first sat down with ‘Nightmare’ and noticed that the album was over an hour in length, I was preparing myself for an epic return to the bands roots and a heavy hitting album that would make me feel as if I was in a nightmare but I found myself drifting in and out throughout this full album. Clocking in at over an hour, the band could have used this time to showcase the force they were around the release of ‘City Of Evil’ but instead the band suffers from a serious loss of identity with a mixture of their old material on top.

Avenged Sevenfold Nightmare ArtworkThe album kick starts with the title track which we have all been listening to for some time now and brings the Avenged Sevenfold heavy signature sound through in great flow with an inspiring performance from Mike Portnoy, overall a great hard opening to the album.

“Hey kid, do I have your attention?” opens the following track ‘Welcome To The Family’ with the pulsating power and aggression that Avenged Sevenfold should never slow down with and only continue at this pace. ‘Danger Line’ opens with a drum beat, similar to what you would expect from a marching band, before kicking into the typical high pitched Avenged Sevenfold guitar rhythm. M. Shadows vocals on ‘Danger Line’ are never here or there with many different tempo switches which results in the song having no real sense of direction. From power metal DragonForce fuelled opening to a Guns N’ Roses ‘Patience’ whistling ending, combined with the overall effort in the middle, Avenged Sevenfold have set out with many ideas but instead of splitting them and killing the odd ballad on this album with a good metal song, they have been bunched together in ‘Danger Line’.

The opening solo to ‘Buried Alive’ is described by some as a stadium filler but the slow Led Zeppelin inspired intro before channelling Metallica leaves you wondering how this ballad would fill a stadium as soon as the vocals join the fray. ‘Buried Alive’  loses itself throughout this song as they kick into a powerful, more aggressive chorus and then at the four minute mark, a typical Avenged Sevenfold solo is dragged out before almost exactly a minute later the Metallica tribute comes out in full force. At this point I was starting to wonder where this album would go but the start of ‘Natural Born Killer’ picked my mood up fast. Avenged Sevenfold have set out with a clearer direction here and Mike Portnoy gives it his all. This song is just one of the examples which make this album the Mike Portnoy show; he gives Avenged Sevenfold a nightmare as he has so far been the shining light in what can only be regarded as an ok album.

‘So Far Away’ finds the band returning to the ballads along with ‘Victim’, which when it began I was left wondering what on earth was coming through my speakers with this high pitched vocal that just killed any hope of the me taking this song seriously. ‘Victim’ does pick itself up after the odd opener and remains decent throughout until the end when we are treated to the same high pitched vocal which doesn’t add anything to the song except fuelling your desire for the next song to begin while you wonder what the thinking behind the vocal inclusion actually was.

Thankfully during the bands identity crisis ‘God Hates Us’ splits up the ballads with a slow guitar build up before finally giving us a good old fashioned heavy scream and a song that reminds us who and what this group are capable of. ‘God Hates Us’ turns up at track seven, sadly a little late as it is one of the few moments when the band truly lets all hell loose simply leaving you wanting more of the same. While god may hate them on this occasion, this song is what I had hoped the album as a whole would have sounded like from start to finish and although the album does have heavy material, the power brought out during this song is what we needed throughout.

Sadly ‘God Hate Us’ only splits up ‘So Far Away’ and ‘Victim’, as after the latter we are introduced to the moment when M. Shadows is fused together with Chris Cornell for ‘Tonight The World Dies.’ I wish at this point now I could sit with him and talk about his role on this album when it comes to the subdued ballad numbers. He has a voice built for heavy fast material, but for this “metal” album, there are far too many ballads that fill up the track listing. On these songs there are several points when his vocals just miss the grade but he tries to compensate this by channelling other vocalists. I will say one thing for ‘Tonight The World Dies’, if it was Chris Cornell or whoever he channels to give him the strength for this song, it has been his best performance on a song at this tempo and the first time I could believe him but there is still something missing.

‘Fiction’ was the key song I couldn’t wait to listen to as it was the last song written by The Rev and the recording still features his vocals and performance. By this point I had listened to fifty minutes of ups and downs and enough to make me to press stop, create a playlist of the best points and never play through this album again. ‘Fiction’ is a piano driven song with The Rev taking on piano duties creating an eerie and atmospheric feel to the song; being that it was originally titled ‘Death’ when The Rev wrote the song the sound fits perfectly the original title. The problem that comes with this song and one that could have never been repaired due to the passing of The Rev is the vocal performance. Taking co-lead vocals on this song, The Revs original vocal track simply needs rerecorded as its not strong enough to accompany the music. M. Shadows performs with The Rev as a through the majority of the song which helps the verses but it suffers from the same issues as some of the other songs which find Avenged Sevenfold in their crisis moments.

The album ends of the eleven minute ‘Save Me’, a song built for the dedicated fan of Avenged Sevenfold as coming in at six to seven minutes too long, the song offers nothing miraculous to the shape of the album and for those who come away with the same impression as myself, by the time the song ends you will have drifted off a few times. Overall it is a good song but If ‘Save Me’ had been brought down to a four or five minute song, I could see myself enjoying it much more than what I did and it would have marked a good ending to the album.

It will come as no shock when I now state what a disappointment this album is overall with only a few good moments; this could be a true nightmare for the band if reviewers value it on the same level as ‘Avenged Sevenfold’. The problems arise when you look at who the band are and where they came from to where they are now. Avenged Sevenfold have a unique sound, there is no doubting that they have their own signature style but the fact that they limit themselves in the way they do on ‘Nightmare’ just shocks and stuns me.

‘Nightmare’ fills in somewhere between ‘City Of Evil’ and ‘Avenged Sevenfold’ when you focus on certain songs. From ‘City Of Evil’ we were all hoping for some true aggressive action packed songs as the band moved forward but they failed to truly grasp it until now with songs like ‘Nightmare’, ‘Welcome To The Family’, ‘Natural Born Killer’ and ‘God Hates Us’. ‘Fiction’, although we are not looking at the aggressive side of the band here, would have been a great inclusion if the vocal performance was stronger but the eerie atmosphere creates a great attribute to the album late on. The rest of the album though feels more so a filler with, again I say it, the band losing their identity and becoming mundane. The feeling of losing their identity could and very likely is simply due to the loss of The Rev. They have lost not just a friend or a member of the band but a brother, a member of their family that no matter what would have always been there for them like they would for him. Trying to focus with the thought on your mind always that he is gone will have certainly had an effect on the members and trying to work under such a burden doesn’t work, for anyone. ‘Nightmare’ should have been postponed till the future, allowing the members to find a better place in their minds and come back fresh when their wounds were healed and then create the album that would have blown everyone’s, not just fans but even those who criticise their music, minds.

Avenged Sevenfold have already fallen into that zone were we describe their music as “typical.” Although the band have their signature sound, the formation of their songs, solos and rhythms have become typical and you can tell what is around the next corner before you take a step. I suppose the attribute of the band becoming someone else for the majority of ‘Nightmare’ was their hope of not falling into this zone but even then the characteristics of ‘Nightmare’ offer nothing of a band who is looking to develop and grow, simply a group who is content with their current success and wish to ride off that.

Fans of Avenged Sevenfold who loved their self-titled release in 2007 will likely love this album and find zero fault with what the band has produced here but for those of us who were critical over their 2007 effort, it is now more apparent than before that if Avenged Sevenfold do continue beyond ‘Nightmare’ that we can only expect much of the same.

For the songs I noted, ‘Nightmare’, ‘Welcome To The Family’, ‘Natural Born Killer’ and ‘God Hates Us’, this shows the direction that Avenged Sevenfold should be taking but until the band find themselves again after the loss of The Rev, I don’t think there will ever be much more to expect from them than this. The question is simply now how long can the band last. Mike Portnoy has completed the first task with the album and now he is helping the band by filling in on tour but that can only last so long, especially with Dream Theater also on the road. The band need to seek and hire a full time replacement drummer, one who can tour and perform at the levels required and then decide after their touring cycle is complete if it is worth carrying on or bowing out while they can still hold their heads high and be proud of the work they have released.

Rating – 6

     

About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

3 Responses to “Album Review: Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare”

  1. Great, another review complaining about how A7x didn’t make another 100% metal album. Avenged Sevenfold already said that this album would revolve around the death of The Rev, and the emotions that came with it. It’s hard to pour your emotions out when every song is pure metal. I feel that the ballads, along with “God Hates Us”, are necessary to send the message across to listeners about how A7x were feeling after The Rev died.

    You can’t just expect A7x to simply forget the fact that their brother died, and then go on and make a pure metal album that has nothing to do with The Rev. You just can’t.

  2. Finally. An honest review. I’m a huge Avenged fan but I can’t stress how disappointing this album is. You’re absolutely right about the ridiculous amount of ballads. Not too mention that ‘Tonight The World Dies’ and ‘So Far Away’ are practically the same song.

  3. Waking the Fallen foREVer 31/07/2010 at 3:03 am

    I went on wikipedia and saw this was the lowest rated review there for Nightmare and I thought hey maybe I can see if I have the same feelings. I knew this album would have the Dark Knight effect and I’m very disappointed. It’s a shame this is #1 and their other albums were not as hyped because their previous 3 were gems.

    “So Far Away” should have been the only ballad. Maybe Critics think “God Hates Us” is heavy, but it doesn’t sound like them and it sounds a bit weaker and slower compared to their older heavy songs. Songs like “Nightmare” “Welcome to the Family” and “Save Me” are great and remind me of the unique genius of this band, but I feel bad that Jimmy will be remembered by a record that was too long. “Fiction” is a nice song, but with a lack of heavy songs to fill the album out it really doesn’t shin the way it should.

    I personally disagree with the statement of the self-titled album being nothing new and just experimental. That album was killer and deserved the A7X title. Critical Acclaim and Almost Easy were much heavier than God Hates Us. Hopefully they will rebound, but it seems unlikely.