Avenged Sevenfold, The Stage, Capitol, $9.98
Given that they boast two of the world’s best metal guitarists (Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance), a vocalist (M who increases his range with every subsequent album) and a bassist and drummer (Johnny Christ and Brooks Wackerman respectively) who keep the sound streamlined, a new Avenged Sevenfold album is kind of an occasion. And with The Stage, their seventh album, the Californian metalcore act makes sure it’s an event.
An eerie organ tone, straight out of an episode of Tales from the Crypt, ushers you to The Stage, the album and and the song. Before it’s echoes can fade, Gates and Vengeance break in, their fingers slinking up and down their fretboards like snakes in the sand. Make no mistake, all 5 band members, popularly known as A7X, may be present but The Stage belongs to the guitarists.
Christ (the bassist, not the Messiah) and Wackerman (the newest member of the band following former drummer The Rev’s tragic demise) set the boundaries of the soundscape with solid baselines and a metronomic beat on the drum — with the occasional splash of cymbals and pounding of the vellum — and Shadows may be the foundation with his dramatic delivery, but it’s Gates and Vengeance who spin out the ear candy. These guys don’t riff as much as they play continuous solos, constantly modifying the tonality of the music, which ranges from the enraged to the triumphant to plain old showing off.
From the flamenco-like chords that they wind down the eponymous track with to the sharp picking in Sunny Disposition and Angels, ending with Exist, the last song — a 15-minute track, which was the band’s sonic interpretation of The Big Bang. Indeed The Stage is about the evolution (or devolution) of mankind to artificial intelligence and all the dangers that poses, like the potential prospect of robot overlords, relayed with Shadows’ signature searing tones. Inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan and his fellow visionaries, it’s like a TedX talk on futurism, but a lot more immersive.
Avenged Sevenfold, ended up putting out one of the best metal albums of 2016, that shows the band’s evolution as well as of metal as a genre: the increase in digitisation, superb mastering and an expanding array of instruments; with the band being joined by a collective of musicians who add their own notes . But in the end, it’s still A7X in all its dramatic glory layered with sheer technical mastery.
So if you want to learn about the future of science, technology and life itself, forget the lecture halls and head to the music store. Or iTunes.