Avenged Sevenfold are potentially one of the most divisive metal acts out of the US since Metallica. All you need to do is look at their previous two albums, 2013’s Hail To The King & 2016’s The Stage to see the extreme polar oppositions these albums created. The former for how the band wore their Metallica influence on their sleeve, creating their own version of The Black Album, and then the following 2016 release throwing all of their previous influences and sounds up in the air, bringing in outside sources from the likes of Pink Floyd, and creating a wholly new progressive rock/metal experience.
Life Is But A Dream comes out over six years after The Stage but that divisive nature emanating throughout the band’s discography is evidently still there from the opening two singles. Whether this is experimental for the band for experimental’s sake or exploring new and exciting boundaries is a completely different matter however, and with M. Shadows citing the likes of Ye (formerly Kanye West) as highly influential in the creative process for their new album, anything can be possible here.
‘Game Over’ oddly enough, stars as the opening piece to the album. Entering the album to a lightly played acoustic melody, with an almost flamenco sound, lulling the listener into a false sense of serenity and security before descending like a rollercoaster into a thrashy, in-your-face, onslaught of electric guitars & drums, all while Shadows barks quickly-paced shouts down your ears. This switches place with what can only be described as a combination of City Of Evil era meets System of Down style choruses. The band then careens between the two styles frenetically before launching into the first solo of the album. From the off, it gives the impression that Avenged have taken the experimental nature of The Stage and merged it with their previous sounds, creating something wholly new. This mania lasts another minute before submerging back into the flamenco-styled acoustic melodies once more as if the madness had never happened.
When citing Ye as a creative inspiration in creating the album, Shadows was not joking at all. Just like in Ye’s College trilogy, Avenged Sevenfold, similarly have brought in a multitude of different sounds to produce something that is ultimately their own. Whether it’s different vocal techniques like in the track, ‘Beautiful Morning’ where Shadows demonstrates some sublime control very reminiscent of Dirt-era Layne Staley or the following track where he brings on an almost Chuck Moseley vibe, these brand new techniques in Shadows’ vocals elevate the band to a whole new level with the singer sounding fresh and new himself.
The variety of genres, and styles doesn’t begin & end vocally either. Progressive elements leap forward in the eighth track, ‘G’ – there are elements of Polyphia, Van Halen, and even some K-Pop. By any stretch of the imagination, in theory, these songs should not work, Avenged Sevenfold make them do so, and they’ve done that well.
If you’ve begun to think, this is the furthest sonically the band can reach, you’d be wrong. The final tracks ‘(D)eath’ & the title track sees the band take things even further. It begins as if it’s an olden blues, Frank Sinatra classic. Synester Gates opts for a slower, distorted buzz, eliciting a moody, streetlight-in-a-dirty-city feel. They are accompanied by a jazzy orchestra that evokes the atmosphere even more, before dissipating into a fog of horns, pianos, and other miscellaneous sounds that slowly build up this wall of noise, reaching a fundamental crescendo, when suddenly, nothing… The title track chimes in, filling in this vacuum of sound with a classical piece, centred around a piano. Lightly played high notes flit around. There are seemingly no other instruments participating. It feels as if this large echoing room is filled purely by the pianist & their piano. Filling in the silence in the dark.
For a band that was decried for creating derivative or basic music, to then create a prog-rock-inspired album is one thing. To then go away and take it further years later, integrate it with your previous sound and then, on top of all things, push it to the next level, is a triumphant success. Encompassing not only progressive rock sounds a la Pink Floyd, but also alternative metal (Faith No More), grunge (Alice In Chains) and even Progressive metal (Polyphia), is a feat not many bands can say they have done, let alone pull off to the quality that Avenged Sevenfold has done here.
All that said, Life Is But A Dream… will most likely go down as one of the most divisive metal albums to be released this year. It’ll be one that fans will fall into either despising, or loving unreservedly.
But, isn’t that what true art really is?
Buy the album here:
9 / 10