Avenged Sevenfold is definitely one of the most famous contemporary metal bands popular among younger audiences in North America. The band started with some metalcore fun rides back in the days and has shifted more and more towards traditional but still quite elaborate heavy metal, as seen on the last studio effortNightmare with Mike Portnoy on drums. This record definitely had its strong moments and I’m still occasionally listening to it.
On “Hail To The King”, all metalcore elements are gone and the band plays a mixture of groove and heavy metal with catchy pop choruses and more and more artificially sounding choir and string passages. The entire album is hold in a mid tempo pace that lacks dynamics, emotions and surprises. The polished production took away all possible forms of edges and energy.
“Hail To The King” itself is an average heavy metal track that sounds like an odd mixture of AC/DC, Manowar, and Metallica. “Crimson Day” is a symphonic ballad with a mature sound, good guitar work, and the only truly solid vocal effort somewhere between soft Metallica and epic Guns ‘N Roses. “Coming Home” is the only fresh sounding piece of music on this album altogether, due to the twin guitars, the vivid bass, and the tight drumming, which finally give us a glimpse at the talent of the involved musicians. These are the three best tracks on the album, and I’ll tell you that they are only of an average to good quality. None of the songs can beat the band’s surprisingly energizing singles “Not Ready To Die” and “Carry On”, or the last record’s masterpiece “Nightmare”.
But it even gets worse. The opener, “Shepherd Of Fire”, has almost the same structure as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and feels quite predictable despite its changes. “This Means War” is a “Sad But True” rip-off of the worst kind. I mean, many bands are inspired by Metallica, but why pick their most popular songs and copy them without any inspiration or creativity? In addition to this, I have never really liked Metallica’s self-titled “black album” and still think it’s their most boring record apart from the horrible Lulu project with Lou Reed. “Sad But True” has always sounded to me like an odd mixture of groove metal and hip-hop, and is one of the metal songs I have always hated the most. Let me tell you that Avenged Sevenfold’s take on this song is even worse than the original. “Heretic” hits a similar way and sounds like a commercial rip-off of another highly overrated and popular American metal band: Megadeth. This song sounds like a handicapped copy of “Symphony Of Destruction”, especially in the main riff and opening moments. If they had to choose American bands and add an overdose of orchestral elements to most of their songs, why couldn’t they at least have been inspired by the amazing Savatage?
Throughout the album, the band tries to sound mature but fails horrifically at this attempt. “Requiem” and “Planets” include an overdose of symphonic elements which desperately attempt to add a sophisticated touch to the music. The problem is the weak song writing, that just lacks substance. The whole thing sounds incredibly artificial, and is nothing but blown-up creative emptiness without any memorable moments. The choirs of “Requiem” don’t fit at all with the rest of the song, and actually made me laugh out loud, while “Planets” gets so redundant and repetitive that one can easily skip the last two minutes (if not the entire song).
But the worst thing on this whole album is the closing cheesy ballad “Acid Rain”. I would have expected this kind of song from Ronan Keating, but not from a metal or rock band. The difference between Ronan Keating and Avenged Sevenfold vocalist M. Shadows is that the first one actually has some good vocal skills, while the latter sounds as if he was singing with a stuffy nose. This song is, in fact, the most pathetic, kitschy ballad I have ever had to sit through. Even the dullest Freedom Call ballad and the most commercial Sonata Arctica single have far more eggs than this stiff piece of boredom. It ends a disappointing record on a truly bad note.
After the solid metal record Nightmare, the promising recent singles, and the rather unusual choice of “Hail To The King” as lead single and title track, everything seemed to be set for a great record. However, Hail To The King feels artificial, bloated, and completely lacking in charisma, energy, and originality. It seems as if the king was going through a severe identity crisis and desperately tried to sound like the new Metallica by forgetting where he really came from and what made him so popular. I hope that critics and fans prepare for a putsch, and are looking elsewhere for a new and more authentic king or queen. Just avoid this release and don’t hop on a crashing trend train.