Song Dissection: Avenged Sevenfold’s “Eternal Rest”

Jesus Christ, I bought this song on ITunes in 2007. Let me translate: TWO THOUSAND SEVEN. As in before IPhones were publicly released. As in before anybody knew who Justin Bieber was. As in before my first kiss. And yet, its impact still strengthens every time I hear it.

What makes this early Avenged Sevenfold masterpiece so special is its ability to drag your mind through radically different places within the context of one five-minute piece of music. “Eternal Rest” functions like three different songs in one. It begins with a chaotic Slayer-meets-punk-rock opening: 41 seconds that are as terrifying as they are exhilarating . It then abruptly switches gears, launching into a Pantera-esque groove metal song that is nothing short of aural steroids. If the first “movement” was a panic-inducing barrage of fear, movement two is where you gather your thoughts, dive into the pit, and start beating the shit out of everybody around you. Yet even as the second movement brings the song to a more focused aggression, it’s just as menacing. Lead singer M. Shadow’s demonic howls are the only appropriate delivery for lyrics like: “dark in their hearts/I can feel it burn inside of me/tormented young with no souls watching me/pain in their lives, all they know is misery”. Not to mention the evil guitar harmonies from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance that lurk behind him.

And just when Satan couldn’t find a better soundtrack, the song transitions into its third movement, the very embodiment of morbidity and despair. As a spooky organ creeps into the arrangement, M. Shadows switches to a clean vocal passage that is even more haunting than his screams. All at once, the conceptual reality of eternal rest bludgeons the listener. The inevitable end we all face. The possibility of no afterlife, the possibility that one fateful night we may close our eyes and begin to rot for the rest of existence, with no hope of ever returning. I sound a bit disturbed, don’t I? Listen to the song and try not feeling that way. It’s frightening and it’s infinitely depressing, two emotions that weave in and out seamlessly as the latter half of “Eternal Rest” darkens the mind of the listener.

After quickly reprising the heaviness of the second movement, the song closes out with the bleakest musical passage yet, bringing doomy thoughts of mortality full circle, leaving in its wake an inescapable feeling of emptiness. A twisted tour through fear, rage, death, and hopelessness, the metal perfection of “Eternal Rest” helps explain why Avenged Sevenfold’s ascension in the mid-2000’s was as meteoric as it was.

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