Avenged Sevenfold, City of Evil

Avenged Sevenfold, City of Evil

What the hell? Okay, let’s try to think this through: Huntington Beach rockers Avenged Sevenfold look like a bunch of Goth-punks, sing the most beautiful harmonies you’re likely to hear anytime lately (including on those treasured emo albums you hide from your too-cool friends), play convoluted, prog-rock-like metal passages that jump time signatures effortlessly, thrash like Metallica used to back before they all got haircuts, craft the noodliest guitar solos this side of Steve Vai, and sing/scream complex song cycles about devils, whores, and brutal wars. And that’s just on one album, the seemingly-conceptual City of Evil.

It’s a little overwhelming, really. Just when I think I’ve got those Avenged Sevenfold guys pegged, they throw me a curve, like the Guns N’ Roses-esque break in “Blinded In Chains,” the angelic vocals and Spinal Tap-esque intro of “Beast And The Harlot,” the quiet, delicate guitar break in “Bat Country,” and the hymnal feel of the end of “M.I.A.” The brilliant opening track, “Beast And The Harlot,” is easily the high point of the album, but that doesn’t mean that it goes downhill from there — “Beast” simply sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the story. Other bright spots include “Bat Country,” “The Wicked End,” and “Seize The Day,” for three.

Stylistically speaking, the eleven tracks on the album jump deftly from heavy thrash (“Burn It Down”) to heartfelt, almost countrified rock (“Seize The Day”) to stark, desert-sounding stoner-metal (“Strength Of The World”), but the transitions are so smooth as to be practically seamless. Heck, I find myself having trouble discerning where one song ends and another begins, and for once, I don’t mind. The band hits a good dozen metal touchstones in each song, from Iron Maiden to L.A. Guns to Killswitch Engage, and yet they’ve made the whole thing their own. City of Evil is all over the place, but somehow, it works.

On top of all that, there’s the literate, fire-and-brimstone vocals, most of which seem to be telling the story of a city doomed to be obliterated for its sins, a modern-day Sodom or Babylon. Kind of. There’re also some hints in here that the “City of Evil” is also a metaphor for the good ol’ US of A, like in “Blinded In Chains,” where vocalist M. Shadows grouses that “I turn around another fuckin’ war, man,” and points the accusatory finger at average joes like you and me for letting ourselves be blinded to the consolidation of government power. Then there’s the album’s closer, “M.I.A.,” which appears to be sung from the point of view of a soldier on the ground in Iraq — “I walk your land, but don’t belong / Two million soldiers can’t be wrong.” The song’s narrator ends the epic final track with a more plaintive cry, quietly sung-spoken at the album’s very close: “Forgive me for my crimes; don’t forget that I was so young / Fought so scared in the name of God and country.” When vocalist M. Shadows’ voice cracks with emotion, it’s a poignant moment worthy of any album, much less one put together by a bunch of guys with tattoos and dyed-black hair.

At the end of the day, City of Evil is the most fully realized, most perfectly crafted metal epic I’ve heard in years, harking back to the glory years of metal, when albums like Reign in Blood and …And Justice For All weren’t afraid to bend and even break the “rules” of metal. Back then I was a big fan of all those concept albums by “progressive” metal bands like Savatage (Hall of the Mountain King), Fates Warning (Perfect Symmetry), and Queensryche (Operation: Mindcrime), because it felt like those bands had finally realized that metal could be intelligent, complicated, and nuanced and still have the balls and heavy guitars to pull it off. Listening to Avenged Sevenfold, I feel the years drop away. And it’s a great feeling.

Forget that the mistakes of “nu-metal” ever happened, forget that grunge ever wussified rock, forget that alt-rock radio ever dumbed-down our collective musical intelligence, and envision a world where hardcore and metal exist happily side by side and play Beatles albums to one another just for fun, and you’ll get a pretty good glimpse of the alternate reality Avenged Sevenfold’s building. It’s grand, it’s raw, it’s beautiful, it’s smart as all hell, and it’s angry and bloody as anything. It’s albums like City of Evil that make me love metal again, the way I did when I was a kid.

(Warner Bros. Records -- http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com/; Avenged Sevenfold -- http://www.avengedsevenfold.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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