Album review: Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage

Avenged Sevenfold album cover

By Fraser Bryce (@fraser_bryce)

You know what my biggest problem with rock music in 2016 is? Bands don’t take risks anymore. Too concerned with being inoffensive and appealing, bands have lost the edge and ingenuity that was a key part of what drew me to rock music in the first place. Take Metallica for example. Metallica are my favourite band of all time, and their new album is, quite simply, fabulous. What it doesn’t do, however, is stretch any boundaries. So, when Avenged Sevenfold’s seventh record, The Stage, dropped without warning on October 28th, I feared that they would suffer the same problem.

Luckily, my apprehensions were short lived. The Stage is by far the most ambitious thing that Avenged have ever attempted. Loosely based on the concept of artificial intelligence and space travel, the album encapsulates pretty much every era of the band’s music, while still adding a whole new dimension. The eight minute title track is a stomping hard rock anthem, fitting of the arenas the band now find themselves in, while the relentlessly heavy Paradigm invokes memories of their metalcore roots. Sunny Disposition harkens back to their self-titled album, with trumpets and maracas at the fore alongside the guitars. Creating God is another highlight, containing some exemplary playing from new drummer Brooks Wackerman.

Track four on this record is called God Damn. If you’re an Avenged fan and haven’t heard this song, prepare to spunk yourself inside out.

The second half of the album is where Avenged really spread their creative wings. Simulation alternates seamlessly between tender balladry and face-melting riffage, whilst Angels has an almost blues-like tone to it. Higher is pure Iron Maiden worship, and Roman Sky is an orchestra led ballad that features some brilliant guitar work from Synyster Gates.
The album closes with Exist, which clocks in at over 15 minutes long. The only way I can describe Exist is an avalanche of riffs. Mainly instrumental, the song, which the band claim is meant to represent the big bang, is fiendishly inventive and, at times, skull crushingly heavy. Combine this with some mellotron, some electronics and a guest appearance from Neil DeGrasse Tyson – yes, that one – and you’ve got the most ambitious thing Avenged have ever attempted.

Quite simply, there are no weak moments on The Stage. It brims with energy and life, something which 2013’s Hail To The King was sorely lacking, and it ventures into new territories without disappearing up its own arse. The ingenuity of the album doesn’t end there, however, as Avenged have said that tracks will be added to the album over the course of the coming months, in what they’re calling an ‘evolving album’. Considering the record already lasts just under 80 minutes, that’s quite an undertaken. The Stage is a real return to form for Avenged after the disappointing Hail To The King and, with the promise of a stage show to rival Pink Floyd’s The Wall to accompany their upcoming tour, you’d have to be a total loony to miss it.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);