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Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage (Album Review)

Monday, 31 October 2016 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Three years ago, ‘Hail To The King’ made genuine stars of Avenged Sevenfold. Orange County’s best-dressed metallers took their sixth album’s stomping, mid-tempo rock and used it to fashion a festival-headlining, arena-traversing template. It was a bit safe, but it worked. Surely the stage is, ahem, set for more of the same this time around?

Well, no. The music that comprises ‘The Stage’ is just as surprising as the album’s last-minute, here-you-go, keep-the-change release. ‘Hail To The King’ was guilty of being derivative, but its follow up combats those shortcomings with 73 minutes of utter ridiculousness.

‘The Stage’ crashes through the cranium like a steam train on a bouncy castle: it is fucking wild. Former Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman brings back the pace and gets Avenged Sevenfold thrashing on God Damn, a track that could’ve been culled from ‘Waking The Fallen’ had that LP been dipped in Cradle Of Filth’s ‘Nymphetamine’ first.

The 4/4, ‘Black Album’ Metallica stomp of ‘Hail To The King’ remains on Simulation, but it’s less an imitation and more an interpretation of their heroes this time around. It’s all held together by Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates’ six-stringed glue and the same applies to the title track, which has a mid-section indebted to ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’-era Iron Maiden in its scope rather than its delivery.

While the band are excellent throughout, and the squealing solos make a full-blooded return, M. Shadows is placed centre stage. Sorry. The vocalist has become Axl Rose puppeteered by Tim Burton and his snide, commanding drawl slithers all over the record and completely owns it. The breakneck Paradigm even has a throwback scream after the chorus, but it’s really not needed. He is so accomplished these days that it almost seems cheap to throw in a token nod to the past to cheer up any unhappy old-school fans.

His staccato delivery during Sunny Disposition’s chorus complements some overblown horns to recall Sevenfold classic A Little Piece Of Heaven, while he simply croons on Fermi Paradox as frosty tremolo-picking and blastbeats evoke a nigh-on black metal atmosphere. It’s something you wouldn’t usually associate with a chart-topping band.

But that’s just Avenged Sevenfold. They don’t push the envelope here, they burn it and scatter the ashes in the faces of its nearest and dearest. Exist closes the record, with its 15-minute duration comprising electronics probably nicked from a PS2 first-person shooter, Metallica playing Battery with a better drummer (sorry, Lars) and a speech about space by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. It all nicely ties up the record’s paranoid AI theme and, yes, it’s much better than Richard Dawkins with Nightwish.

‘The Stage’ is not an instantaneous, bubblegum, give me more singles now now NOW sort of record. There are pieces you’ll pull out after a few listens – Higher’s gorgeous choral section or Angels’ splendid balladry, for example – that don’t get you during round one. But they will get you eventually. ‘The Stage’ is a conceptually and musically heavy record that deserves multiple appraisals. It’s Avenged Sevenfold’s best work since ‘City Of Evil.’

Avenged Sevenfold Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat January 07 2017 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Tue January 10 2017 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Thu January 12 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Metro Radio Arena
Fri January 13 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Genting Arena
Sun January 15 2017 - SHEFFIELD Arena
Mon January 16 2017 - MANCHESTER Arena
Wed January 18 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
Thu January 19 2017 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Sat January 21 2017 - LONDON O2 Arena
Sun January 22 2017 - LONDON O2 Arena

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