Hail To The King is Avenged Sevenfold’s 6th studio album and the first I have reviewed. I’ve lived with the album for about a month and half now so decided to do the review once I had got over the original excitement of hearing it for this first time. Not that it made much difference.
Album opener ‘Shepherd Of Fire’ starts with the calming sound of rain fall followed by a bell-toll to signal the start of what is a blistering track. It’s absolute Judas Priest riffage from the get-go, some horns added in to the mix and Arin Ilejay absolutely makes his mark from an early start. Opening lyric “Let’s take a moment and break the ice” – feels like a nod to anyone wondering what the band would sound like after 3 years away and the first album without any trace of The Rev (some drum parts and his vocals were used in 2010’s Nightmare). It has a great classic Brit-Metal sound to it, a typically Avenged Sevenfold technically-brilliant solo and will no doubt sound huge when played live.
Title track ‘Hail To The King’ has a real patience to it, the band certainly not showing off and happy to show what they can do. With an almost constant hammer-on guitar line running through the track it builds into the choruses brilliantly. ‘Doing Time’ switches to a Blues-Rock feel which reminded me of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ and the vocals are just magnificent. The pace picks up dramatically from the previous track but unlike many of their massive-sounding tracks I can see this being played in a packed, tiny club; it would sound amazing.
‘This Means War’ is a 6:10 minute monster track. Opening with guitar harmonies is always a pleasure to the ear; come the dramatic pause just a few seconds in this song swaggers straight out the blocks at a solid pace and just blows you away. Screeching solo, heavy riffing and a rabble-rousing chorus and outro of ‘This means war’ makes this a huge track off the album. ‘Requiem’ opens with a Latin choir which I wasn’t expecting. If Queen were a metal band, they would have done a track like this. It’s a big theatrical production (but certainly not over-produced) and evolves quickly into a very Avenged Sevenfold track. Metal 101? Maybe. But it’s damn good.
On to ‘Crimson Day’ and we’re already half way through the album. Ballads are a must-have I suppose and something the band do well but ‘Dear God’ will forever remain the benchmark for sheer passion (obvious given the subject) and the emotion it made you feel. As far as metal band ballad’s go the track is solid but my expectations were just too high to enjoy it too much.
Judgement day themed ‘Heretic’ is a bit more of the textbook Avenged Sevenfold as heard on ‘Requiem’ but some great guitar work makes it a whole lot stronger. The clean tempo change works well to make the track stand out further and create a platform for the solo to layer over the rest of the band returning to full volume. ‘Coming Home’ has a very, very Iron Maiden feel to the intro – lead guitar riffing, vocal delivery very similar to Bruce Dickinson, building hi-hats and into full band with duelling guitars. It’s just superb; one for guitar fans that’s for sure thanks to the phenomenal solo-of-the-album performances from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance.
‘Planets’ features samples from Gustav Holt’s ‘Planets’ so you can imagine the huge, atmospheric undertones in this almost 6-minute gargantuan. Detailing the end of the world, the track is sung to Earth during her downfall which is an interesting approach and one that works well. The samples work well and create a great dramatic sound.
To close the album ‘Acid Rain’ kicks off with a warm piano intro. It’s the other side of ‘Planet’s’ and feels very cinematic. It’s written from the viewpoint of “Well, this is it” after the Earth has been destroyed in the previous track. A big, dramatic track to end on; not typically Avenged Sevenfold’s sound but closes the last chapter of the album very well indeed.