Avenged Sevenfold – Diamonds in the Rough: The Four ESSENTIAL Songs!

What’s up, guys! Happy album release day to all of you.

As usual, most of the music I’m diving into today is brand spankin’ new (Green Day, Sepultura, Galantis, God Dethroned, etc.), but I can’t shake this strange feeling that I’m in some sort of time machine….

That’s because even though last I checked it’s February 2020, Avenged Sevenfold are releasing a b-sides album for their 2007 self-titled album. Nearly 13 years too late.

OK, that’s not entirely true. They’re repackaging and updating 2008’s Diamonds in the Rough for streaming services, and even including one brand new unreleased song for good measure.

Since there’s undoubtedly a lot of Gen Z A7x fans who didn’t even know these songs existed, I figured it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane and dissect what I believe are the four essential tracks from this rarities collection. Because contrary to what the band clearly believe, some of the material on Diamonds in the Rough was completely worthy of inclusion on the self-titled album. But of course, that’s for us to debate!

You can find the full video here:

 

October 2016 Album Round Up!

Back in August I forecasted music release bedlam for the month of October, and boy was I right! Among the albums I heard but didn’t write up here: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Jimmy Eat World, Darkthrone, and OneRepublic.

Among the albums I didn’t even get to hear yet: Candiria, Red Fang, Wormrot, The Game, Serpentine Dominion, NxWorries, and many, many more!

But I’m sure I’ll have some time to catch up next in the next few weeks – thankfully, the music industry’s about to lightly tap the brakes. But for now, I present to you my musings on what October 2016 had to offer!

The Last Hero – Alter Bridge

2013’s Fortress was Alter Bridge’s magnum opus – it found the band fully integrating a metallic edge into their accessible Hard Rock approach, walking a line only a select few have done successfully (white album Avenged Sevenfold, maybe?).Topping it was going to be next to impossible, but The Last Hero is an excellent follow-up. Once again, anthemic melody is co-existing harmoniously assaultive battering – just listen to “My Champion” and “Island of Fools back-to-back. I also gotta shout out the title track, which is a vast stylistic collage that even brings in some Extreme Metal elements. Aside from two misfires (“Twilight”, “You Will Be Remembered”), Alter Bridge hit another home run. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Stage – Avenged Sevenfold

Out of nowhere, A7X released a bonafide masterpiece that I had no idea they were capable of making. Back in a monstrous way is the wild experimentation that made City of Evil and the White Album so special. The band weaves every mood, every tempo, every groove, and every instrument imaginable into these 70-plus minutes. The dark lyrical concepts running through the LP – dystopia, the dangers of science, the human ego – are as riveting and emotionally potent as anything we’ve heard all year. Not to mention the tear-jerking narration from renowned scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson that closes out the record. An absolutely essential listen. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Hotel EP – Yelawolf

Yelawolf’s surprise EP takes the bluesy Folk Rap of last year’s Love Story LP – a record that was too bloated and self-indulgent for its own good – and marries it with the gritty, speedy, and wildly charismatic bars that made him famous in the first place. It’s the first full project I’ve enjoyed from Yela in several years, and it reignited my interest in what’s next for ol’ Catfish Billy. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Revolution Radio – Green Day

I’m absolutely baffled by how much I’m into this record! I went in with zero expectations, and was pleasantly surprised with a set of high-energy Pop-Punk offerings that made me feel like I’m in middle school again! (That feeling is nearly impossible to come by these days). Other than some poor lyrics (“Youngblood”) and some filler (“Too Dumb to Die”, “Forever Now”), I’m digging Green Day’s latest – the first album of theirs I’ve enjoyed since American Idiot. RECOMMENDED

Two Vines – Empire of the Sun

The Australian Electro duo’s best album yet! Compared with 2013’s Ice on the Dune – an album that has been the soundtrack to so many incredibly fun times for me – Two Vines is less banger-centric and more laid back and unassuming. It’s interesting that this LP came out in late October, because compared to its predecessor, it’s way less Summer-y and more tailored towards chilly late night drives. “ZZZ”, “Way To Go”, and “Before” are my favorite cuts on here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Serenity of Suffering – Korn

Rolling Stone called this thing “turn-of-the-millenium Korn-by-numbers”, and they’re not wrong. There are zero new ideas on this album. That being said, it’s earning a lot of praise from Metalheads because it’s Korn “returning to form”, per se. And on tracks like “Black is the Soul”, with its dissonant riffage, and lead single “Insane”, with its brooding refrain, that rings true. But its detractors also have a point, especially in the latter half of the LP – you can’t seriously argue that the chorus to “When You’re Not There”, for instance, is anything but a snoozefest. But if you’re looking for an intense, cathartic expulsion of all of your fucked up feelings, or you’re just curious what late-90s Korn would sound like with modern, cleaner production, give this thing a whirl. RECOMMENDED

Joanne – Lady GaGa

 What a colossal fucking disappointment. GaGa dulled her edges, stripped away all the kooky eccentricity, and what’s left is a record with zero personality. Vocally she delivers some great performances, but everything feels so lifeless and uninspired. It’s tough to explain, honestly, ‘cause the songs seem like they should “work”, but when I try and  connect with them, they feel stiff and aloof. I was totally ready to embrace a mature GaGa, but I’m astonished at how much I didn’t like Joanne. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but for now? BLEHHH. NOT RECOMMENDED

The Brotherhood of the Snake – Testament

If you’re on the prowl for 45 minutes of straight Thrash action from one of the Bay Area OGs, Brotherhood of the Snake cannot possibly let you down. But this LP is not nearly as catchy, intricate or dynamic as the band’s 2012 masterpiece Dark Roots of Earth. Not to say it doesn’t perform as advertised – it’s got some ripping thrashers in the vein of their classic records – but it offers nothing beyond that, which left me (ever so slightly) disappointed, especially in comparison with Dark Roots. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

Rage & the Machine – Joe Budden 

Even though I dug his last album (2015’s All Love Lost), I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rage & the Machine isn’t another complete mopefest exclusively about breakups, depression, and self-pity (believe me, I love that shit though). On album number six, Joey diversifies things – there’s sample-heavy boom bap, hype trap-influenced shit, and R&B-tinged moments as well, all providing a soundscape for his usual dense rhymes. “Wrong One” is a slapper and a half – ArraabMusik’s beat (he produced basically the whole project) goes SO fucking hard. “Serious” is a menacing duet with Budden’s Slaughterhouse compatriot Joell Ortiz. But there are several misses too – Fabolous’ sing-song flow on “Flex” is terrible enough to drag the entire album down on its own, and “By Law” bores me to tears. As a big Budden fan, I got some great new jams out of this, but I’m still waiting for the hooks, the narrative, the bars, and the beats to all add up into a single classic project. RECOMMENDED

 Three – Phantogram

 Phantogram’s dramatic, occasionally theatrical third LP is their best yet. I especially enjoy how the often bleak lyrics pair equally well with hard-hitting synths, dreamy, shoegaze-y landscapes, and some of the more Hip-Hop based production. But I’m not in love with everything here – namely, the irritating hook on “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” and the plodding “Barking Dog”. Overall, Three is a concise crash course in the many facets of the Phantogram sound, which you can broadly label as “Alternative”, but which gets pretty sophisticated when you try and whittle the versatile duo down to a single subgenre. RECOMMENDED

DC4 – Meek Mill

Zzzz……I usually listen to these albums at least three to five times, but I made it through three songs on this one. Same ol’ same ol’. NOT RECOMMENDED

The Whole of the Law – Anaal Nathrakh

Listening to Anaal Nathrakh’s eclectic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to Extreme Metal is like playing subgenre I Spy. In a matter of seconds, these motherfuckers will cycle through Grindcore, Black Metal, Death Metal, Power Metal, and God knows what else, making for a uniquely exhilarating listening experience. There has yet to be a major misstep in the band’s catalogue, but “The Whole of the Law” might just be their best in a decade. Sure, you can criticize this record for being a bit wonky and over-the-top, but that’s EXACTLY why I love it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Breathe in the Water – Kyng

Kyng’s throwback blend of Hard Rock and Metal continues to work on album number three. You can find Breathe in the Water at a delightful intersection between Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Baronness.“Pristine Warning”, “Bipolar Schemes”, and the title track all pack quite the punch in the riff category. I just wish this band would get the fucking attention they deserve! RECOMMENDED

 

 

 

 

Avenged Sevenfold’s “The Stage” Single

The connection between a diehard fan and his musical deities of choice is one of the most powerful things on Earth. Without missing an ounce of detail, I can recall EXACTLY where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling the first time I heard Avenged Sevenfold’s self-titled album. I can recall EXACTLY where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling the first time I heard Nightmare. And I can even tell you what I ate for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner the day Hail to the King dropped (a Bacon, Egg and Cheese from Dunkin’ Donuts, a peanut butter sandwich, and a cobb salad from Route 99 in southeast Massachusetts, respectively, as if you somehow gave a shit).

Since I was a young and mischievous little preteen shithole, it has been nothing short of a MAJOR EVENT every time Avenged Sevenfold has released a new album. And the band’s yet-to-be-announced seventh album is gearing up to be another massive happening in Rock and Metal, especially after 2013’s divisive Hail to the King which was, to use a lazy comparison, A7X’s “Black Album” (look, setting aside the “Sad But True” issue, the analogy does hold up. Hail to the King found the band dialing back their usual ambitious complexity and gunning for a sound meant to fill up stadiums. The Black Album did something very similar.)

And today, the world got a small taste of the madness to come: the first new Avenged Sevenfold track in over three years, entitled “The Stage”.

A7X fans have been trained to expect sharp stylistic left turns with every new record, but “The Stage” isn’t a total 180 from Hail to the King. The song’s simple, four-on-the-floor verse groove would’ve fit snuggly into Hail’s track list, as would its booming chorus.

Elsewhere, however, “The Stage” is dominated by Synyster Gates’ guitar playing, which is definitely a change of pace. This fucking track is LITTERED with Syn’s leads, some of them harmonized, some of them not, some of them measured and melodic and some of them chaotic and shred-tastic. It’s thrilling to hear lead guitars carrying an Avenged song on their shoulders again. It’s a cornerstone of the band’s appeal to have prominent lead guitar sections woven into a song’s structure (something that’s very Maiden-esque), and it’s an element that was sorely absent in parts of Hail to the King. If I had to pinpoint one thing that Avenged diehards will be most stoked about with “The Stage”, it’s gotta be the lead guitars returning front-and-center. In particular, that harmonized solo that waltzes in around 7:10 is CLASSIC fucking Avenged. As for Synyster’s solo from 4:40 to 5:25, that’s arguably the climax of this song.

Directing our attention over to M. Shadows, his vocal approach hasn’t changed too much. He’s still as raspy, tough, and forceful as ever, and he continues to throw himself in the running for “best Axl Rose impersonator” with his sassy cadences at the tail end of the second verse.

These eight-and-a-half minutes also mark our official recorded introduction to new drummer Brooks Wackerman. Wackerman’s role in the Avenged world will likely reveal itself with the release of more material, but in the first 90 seconds of “The Stage”, his drums are more involved than Arin Ilejay’s were on the entirety of Hail to the King.

“The Stage” is nothing revolutionary . It’s not about to silence all the non-believers and change the landscape of Rock music forever. It’s not about to pit entire fanbases against each other with its wild adventurousness. But there’s more than enough here to plant the seed of optimism for long time fans. And we’re waiting with bated breath for what comes next.

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.