ALBUM REVIEW: Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage
It usually takes us two or three listens to figure out if we like an album or not, but when we were asked to review Avenged Sevenfold’s new album The Stage we were convinced that we would love it; but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Even after several playthroughs we couldn’t get our heads round it. Was there a change in direction? Did a new drummer, in the form of Brooks Wackerman, really change the band so much that we couldn’t decide how we felt? Was it so far removed from A7X’s previous offerings that we just needed time to get used to it? Or could it have been that we weren’t mentally prepared for a new album: there was some (no doubt, deliberate) confusion to the release of the album, particularly with it coinciding with a compilation album.
So what’s The Stage all about? The concept is different to anything the band have ever produced, centred around artificial intelligence and the self-destruction of society. The band admit that a lot of the lyrical content is inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan (astrophysicist) and Elon Musk (entrepreneur and space investor), which in theory is great; a trippy album with a sprinkling of AI and questioning big ideas. We’re afraid however, that in practice, it does need some fine tuning.
The album opens with The Stage, and it’s promising start with a familiar Synyster Gates riff and M. Shadows on vocals. It would be at home on any of the band’s previous efforts and is about humanity as a whole and how we treat one another.
From there we go to Paradigm where Wackerman has his opportunity to shine; we can easily say his intensity is a perfect fit, almost living up to the late Rev and yes, he is a welcome addition to the band. But from here we don’t feel the uniqueness. God Damn and Fermi Paradox are loud and grandiose, but it still doesn’t feel like we’re given enough. It’s almost like A7X are using the length of the tracks to justify more of the same content; we’d have much rather had fewer, shorter tracks.
Crucially (for us) the slower, more mellow Roman Sky has a backstory related to the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno who was sentenced to death, which as thought-provoking as it is, doesn’t really fit in with the modern aspect of the album.
Our standout track of the album has to be the closing number Exist. At over 15 minutes long it may as well be multiple songs in one – that’s exactly what it feels like. The build-up is complete A7X with drums and guitars, missing out vocals completely before quietening down into a ballad, then finishing with what can only be described as the one of the greatest endings to an album in recent memory: a repeating backing track with narrator and acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson telling us that as a species we’re pretty much doomed, unless we explore the cosmos.
Firstly, there is no doubt that this is an A7X album: it’s loud, hard-hitting and just as epic as an A7X album should be, and with 11 tracks lasting 1 hour 13 minutes no one will be complaining about lack of content. By no means are we saying that the album is bad. The concepts and ideas behind it are thought-provoking and unique, but we felt something was lacking. A7X have always had the ability to send shivers down our spines, be it with iconic lyrics or remarkable music, and yes The Stage does have this, but not to the extent that we were hoping. We wanted to love this album, make it our 2016 album of the year, even; but what they gained in concept, we’re afraid to say they lost in execution. Existing fans will love it because it’s A7X, but there was also potential to do so much more.
Standout Track: Exist
For Fans Of: Metallica
Written by: Omar Malick