Nightmare - Avenged Sevenfold
The indie / alt / underground music scene has proven to be music's salvation, and metal led the way in that regard way back when, retreating into a myriad of suddenly manifesting labels when the mainstream world turned its back. Over time, dicey imprints like Metal Blade, Mausoleum, Earache, and then the truly fine Century Media established unshakeable ground from which the majors could no longer shy. Thus, decades later now, the genre has returned rather nicely to the surface world - not as fulsomely as long-time headbangers like myself may wish, perhaps, but sufficiently to warrant at least cautious enthusiasm - and Avenging Sevenfold has quickly become a prime player in the game. A single listen to this release reveals why.
Blending a generous infusion of the greatly missed old days of Iron Maiden along with a number of floating less obvious influences (Cradle of Filth, Faith or Fear, Dream Theater - with the increasingly ubiquitous Mike Portrnoy sitting in on drums on this release! - even, vaguely, some Alice Cooper and Styx), the band has created a speedily melodic juggernaut of crushing velocity and fireball passion contrasted by laconic ballads like "Buried Alive". What the band is practicing is somatic mind theater, a place where the body can't help but groove with the staccato flow of tempos while the mind locks into a spreading narrative in a context maintaining coloration and inflection persistently - a song cycle, in other words, even if it wasn't intended that way (and I strongly suspect it indeed was - yea, even unto the artwork, in which Travis Smith proves himself a master of the genre's spooky milieu).
Moreover, there's a good deal of classical sensibility present, many songs benefiting not only from florid keyboards but also compositional nuances indicating a strong understanding of aesthetic architecture and gestural sophistication. Even the suspends and bridges are far from orthodox rock and roll, and damned if one doesn't feel almost aristocratic while laying an ear to the whole 11-song saga…despite the morbid visual and literary thematics, or perhaps even because of them (hell, you know how devilish aristos can be!). Ah, but metalloids have always been closet grandeur junkies, borrowing from their brothers and sisters over in progrock, and that element has remained an abiding resource since one of the very first proto-rivethead 70s bands: Gun. So, yes, there's definitely a place for brontosaur two-step ensembles like AC/DC, blood 'n thunder groups like Black Sabbath, and even thud 'n blunder combos like Motorhead, but the wrenching sonic loquacities of bands like Avenged Sevenfold indicate much more enticing Byzantine horizons and ensure that heavy metal, one of the most unkillable wrinkles in the rock and roll quilt, will be around for a long long time to come, leading the way out of a screamingly mediocre culture heading for the grave.