Great news! Avenged Sevenfold's upcoming sixth album Hail to the King, one of the year's most anticipated metal releases, is streaming on iTunes in advance of its official release. The California outfit's metalcore and punk influences are gone entirely at this point, replaced with the sonic imprint of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, hair metal and even a touch of Queen. Here's our track by track breakdown of Hail to the King.
1. "Shepherd of Fire" One of the album's highlights is also its most representative track. Eschewing the exhilarating forward-energy of Nightmare highlights like "Welcome to the Family," A7X slow down the tempo of their attack to focus on the song's heavy-as-hell riff. It brings to mind Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, which is never a bad thing.
2. "Hail to the King" Boasting some lightning-fast shredding, this track is pure AC/DC at the start. After about a minute of theatrical guitar acrobatics, the band settles comfortably into British heavy metal territory, which is the default tone on this album. Unlike their earlier material, A7X seem more preoccupied with driving home the heaviness of the song instead of the speed of their delivery this time around.
4. "This Means War" The band pounds away at a Metallica-styled riff while Shadows wails, "I can't go on this way, not as I am today." The track is more melodic than most on Hail to the King but it stays around a few minutes too long, especially given the cliché "this means war" refrain that's repeated over and over and directed at no one in particular.
5. "Requiem" The most theatrical offering on this album, "Requiem" starts off with a chorus of male voices singing in Latin. Aside from being a nice little Queen homage, it also makes me think they recorded it specifically with the idea that it will eventually end up in a first-person shooter video game (which is a definite possibility, given that they've written for Call of Duty before).
6. "Crimson Day" M. Shadows attempts a mourning, soulful croon on this ballad with mixed results. Some metal growlers can pull off that trick, but A7X just sound like a forgettable '90s alt-rock band on this one. And the hair metal guitar solo doesn't exactly class up the affair.
7. "Heretic" Referencing Judgment Day, "the flames of hell," witches and saints, A7X go unabashedly Iron Maiden on this track. It's an awesome '70s throwback with a killer chugging riff.
8. "Coming Home" Listen to this track for the best guitar solos on the album. They're technically astounding, a lot of fun and will probably split your skull when you see this song performed in concert.
9. "Planets" It's hard to say if this track is a misstep or a delightfully absurd theatrical romp. This overwrought composition incorporates 20th century British composer Gustav Holst's famous The Planets suite into a lengthy metal jam and finds M. Shadows screaming "planets collllliiiiiiiiiiiide!" multiple times to near-laughable effect. On one hand, it's ridiculous. On the other hand, it goes so far it's almost brilliant. Almost.
10. "Acid Rain" Drummer Arin Ilejay—who became an official member of the band this year—performs admirably on most of the album, but the absence of James "The Rev" Sullivan (who died in 2009 of an accidental overdose) and his inventive technique is felt strongly on "Acid Rain." The drumming here is so straightforward that the band could have used a metronome and the track wouldn't be any worse. Plus, the tinkling piano and generic strings augmenting "Acid Rain" aren't doing the band any favors. It's unfortunate the album ends on a low note, because the first few tracks on Hail to the King do pack a genuine punch.
Take a listen to Avenged Sevenfold's new album, streaming for free on iTunes. What do you think?