Avenged Sevenfold: Avenged Sevenfold

Even Chinese Democracy by Guns N’ Roses will be hard-pressed to be as bad as this, the sorry result of a band who caught on to some initial success and let it run away with them.

Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2007-10-30
UK Release Date: 2007-10-29

As the singles from Avenged Sevenfold’s third album City of Evil began to cross over into the mainstream in 2006, vocalist Matthew Sanders, better known by his stage name of M. Shadows, was quick to start promising to whichever glossy magazines would listen to him that the follow-up would be a masterpiece. A work that would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that Avenged Sevenfold were an innovative powerhouse and not an accidental success.

"It’s going to be a sound that no one’s heard – kind of like when Korn came out, they sounded different than everybody. We want to do that for our own generation", he purported in Metal Hammer. Comparing yourself to a band becoming increasingly irrelevant might seem a fairly questionable move if you’re trying to anoint you and your band mates as the ‘next big thing’. Then again, this is the guy that thought St. Anger was an awesome record, and has more recently been mentioning their new self-titled in the same breath as Metallica’s The Black Album.

It’s highly likely that Avenged Sevenfold was the benefactor of a lucky MTV break and some horribly garish promotional photos make it clear that they’ve let it go to their heads. They were happy enough writing songs on City of Evil about bats and apocalyptic horsemen, but now that they’ve tried to blaze their way into the big league (whatever the ‘big league’ of rock music is these days), it becomes all too clear that the group have very little talent between them, and even less that’s worth saying. Admittedly, Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance do not make a bad pair of guitarists together, though a few of their riffs sound like technical exercises out of ‘Teach Yourself Guitar’ books ("Scream"). Kit-basher The Rev thankfully seems to know his place, and can just as easily be ignored, contributing an endless loop of some churning fills a la Vinnie Abbott. The main irk is M. Shadows. The man is a buffoon. Having left a passable metalcore grunt behind, his incredibly grating and scratchy caterwaul sounds like the bastard child of Axl Rose and David Draiman. When you’ve got a voice like that, you should keep your mouth shut if at all possible, not embark on an unnecessary self-promotion tour about how gnarly your new album is. Avenged Sevenfold is the Good Charlotte of metal.

Every second of this jumbled hard rock is trite, and more than half is insincere. "Critical Acclaim" is slyly manufactured rather than borne out of honest belief, because a band appears to have some kind of artistic integrity if they address the war in Iraq. Its five minute contents could have been spliced together off the cutting room floor, and make as much sense. The first minute is a pure, unabashed Iron Maiden-aping intro, organ and all, until it gets going. We then get a crunching nu-metal groove that never really changes chords (and who needs to when the melody is as tuneless as this?), and an overwrought pre-chorus in which the vocals are so ear-splittingly whiney you’d think that Shadows had wet himself. There is more, if you can muster up the courage, he also whispers like a cat, pulls out the best macho Phil Anselmo inside him, screams ‘Fuck you!’ His snarling Southern chops still mars any of his attempts to, uh, sing. Somewhere in this mess we’re meant to pick up a streak of blind patriotism, which flares through in random, disorganized jabs next to the screeching guitars and dissipates just as soon. And who says that song structures like rhythm should get in the way of a good old flag-waving?

"So, how does it feel to know that someone’s kid/ in the heart of America has blood on their hands/ fighting to defend your rights/ so you can maintain the lifestyle/ that insults his family’s existence?/ Well where I’m from we have a special/ salute waved high in the air/ towards all those pompous assholes/ who spend their days pointing fingers". Are you serious? There hasn’t been a lyric that hyper literate about the government since ...And Justice for All. Personally, I think Avenged Sevenfold should get out their political angst in a book instead.

Not that it matters much, as most of these numbers find themselves fighting their own inanity. "Almost Easy" feels like it goes for an age, and "Scream" is shock-rock-mixed-in-with-graphic-sexual-encounter monotony. "Relax while you’re closing your eyes to me / Relax as I set you free / With your arms by your side there’s no struggling / Pleasure’s all mine this time". Shadows, when you’re bragging about how liberating it feels to rape someone, you’re going to come off like a total dickhead no matter how unenthusiastically you moan it, so you might as well go the whole way and at least sound convincing.

The band has barely brushed themselves off after the open misogyny of "Scream" when they revert to ex-girlfriend melodrama that marked City of Evil’s lone ballad "Seize the Day", changing suits from seedy back-alley men to tender lovers without batting an eyelid. Avenged Sevenfold has long ago stopped making any sense whatsoever, but canned and performed straight-faced, the track begins and ends with an absurd symphonic interlude.

And the orchestral elements splattered in as an afterthought, far from delivering on the band’s promises of making them sound ‘more mature’, only ascertain what Avenged Sevenfold so desperately lack, restraint. It’s best not to ask who the hell thought "Gunslinger" could use a backup gospel singer in the middle of (God help us) a guitar solo, or what the reasoning was behind the inclusion of clumsy, eight-minute Disney-gone-mental soundtrack "A Little Peace of Heaven". Prolonged and funny for all the wrong reasons, the various instruments, reduced to little more than juvenile sound effects, are painfully out-of-sync with Avenged Sevenfold’s chugging attack. Come back, Metallica! All is forgiven!

Unoriginal, overlong even at a ten track setlist, and riddled with banality (the disc is even being released the day before Halloween, could it get more corny?), Avenged Sevenfold is execrable in nearly every conceivable way. The album bears the unmistakable mark of a handful of amateurs who’ve overshot their station and think that what they’ve accomplished is ambitious and mind-bending. The rest of us can do little but... well, laugh in pity.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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