The Orange County metal kids have surprised everyone with the release of a great new album after the misstep of their last one.
I will begin by saying I was a fan of Hail to the King. Yes it had a lot of musical similarities to some stone cold classic songs, but I am a sucker for good heavy tunes.
With that out of the way, let us proceed. This album is conceptually based on AI and the writings of Carl Sagan and Elon Musk. It is also the longest they have put together to date, with a running time of 73 mins or thereabouts, something I thought my shallow attention span would have trouble digesting but, gladly, it didn’t.
That is the key to this album. It is constantly moving musically so that nothing ever feels overly long, and the band are on fire throughout. Synyster Gates pulls everything he has out for this, and new drummer Brooks Wackerman (ex-Bad Religion) really brings it all together from the first track.
Album opener “The Stage”, is showcase for everything the album has to offer, from the carnival-themed organs, to the drumming tearing out the gates, and the excellent guitar work out in the mid section. “Paradigm” is the angriest the band have sounded in years. M. Shadows even lets out a couple of great screams. This is followed up by what, after many listens, is my favourite track, “Sunny Disposition”, and it’s all because of the great horn section (you read that right), that glow in the first half and round out the end of the song after some more staunch guitar theatrics.
The album keeps up this solid pace, and modern heavy sound, until the sixth track, “Angels”, which starts off a couple of slower numbers, something I have always found disappointing with any and all great bands and great albums – there is just no need to slow down when you are on fire like this. That said, the slower tracks do not deviate from the overall concept, and fit in nicely. Then we get to “Higher”, and I think I am in for three slow songs in a row until it comes cracking out the gate at the one minute mark and we are off again into great modern metal territory. The musically sparse “Roman Sky” leads into the last two — both more great modern heavy tracks – and it must be said album closer “Exist” is prog metal mastery, right down to the Neil DeGrasse Tyson spoken word piece he wrote specifically for the song.
The more I listen to The Stage, the more I am reminded why Avenged Sevenfold will be one of the bands to keep metal in the mainstream. They really deserve all the praise they get for this, especially after their misstep last time. Like the band or not, you should give this a solid listen. It is worth your time.
1. The Stage
3. Sunny Disposition
4. God Damn
5. Creating God
9. Roman Sky
10. Fermi Paradox