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Despite the most terribly underwhelming single ever released, ‘Hail to the King’ isn’t such a bad album after all. Avenged Sevenfold sound like they’re out to prove themselves as serious contenders in the current rock scene; aiming at times for a classic rock sound yet always showing their aptitude for versatility.
A7X have continued to mature with each release since they made the switch from metalcore to a hard rock/heavy metal sound for ‘City of Evil’ in 2005. ‘Hail to the King’ is no exception and while it isn’t their best record to date, it is surprisingly well done. Anyone could have been forgiven for getting worried after that first single, which is undeniably the low point of the album. However, the rest of the songs on offer might just be enough to wash out the bad taste in your mouth left over from the anticlimactic yawn-fest that is the title track.
Moving on, the majority of the album is a mostly well-constructed, varied and enjoyable affair. It’s not hard to tell that A7X have been really heavily inspired by more classic metal bands such as Metallica, to the extent that some of their riffs almost sound like they’ve been lifted straight out of the ‘Black Album’ (particularly the intros of ‘This Means War’ and ‘Crimson Day’).
Inspirations aside though, ‘Hail to the King’ still sounds like an Avenged Sevenfold album. M. Shadows leads the band well as always with his unique vocals, and guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance lay down their distinctive dual guitar harmonies and solos, which are satisfying as ever. When it comes to drums however, new stick man Arin Ilejay falls really, really flat. Unfortunately for Arin, he had some big shoes to fill coming into this position. After previous drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan, and more recently the absolute genius that is Mike Portnoy filling in on ‘Nightmare’, Arin was probably never going to live up to his predecessors. But regardless of the drummers that came before him the patterns and ideas implemented on this record feel stale, boring and empty.
In short, Avenged Sevenfold have set out to achieve some pretty lofty goals with this record. While they may not be sitting on the rock/metal throne just yet, they still ought to be commended.
If you were worried that the rest of ‘Hail to the King’ was going to be as anticlimactic and disappointing as the title track (and we wouldn’t blame you), have no fear. It’s no ‘City of Evil’, but it still holds its own. Give it a listen a see for yourself.
1. Shepherd of Fire
2. Hail to the King
3. Doing Time
4. This Means War
6. Crimson Day
8. Coming Home
10. Acid Rain