The Case For Avenged Sevenfold, Their Impact, And The Return Of The Great American Heavy Metal Voice
Avenged Sevenfold, both loved and hated. Loved by their diehard fans, hated by those that judged them by their early emo look and metalcore screamo sound. A judgement that never left their opinion of the band. And that’s too bad because they are failing to see the true purpose of this big band in a time when metal is not anywhere near the top of the musical food chain. Metal has been all but abandoned by the major labels, and unless you’re Metallica you are NOT going to get the support of the big labels. There is only ONE new metal band that is carrying the classic, some might say defined, metal sound to the next generation, and that’s Avenged Sevenfold.
To understand the coming of age of A7x one needs to look at their history, one wrought with continual development. The early years saw these guys doing the early version of emo screamo. Metalcore, an annoying offspring of Pantera’s last two albums, came to be a major force in the metal community. An crappy one, filled with alot of gender confused styling to boot. Couple that with an inability to have anything vocally consistent and it was a recipe for “fuck you” from this old school metalhead. But I kept searching and I found two that had some depth – Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage (still the best metalcore band).
I found A7x by a fluke. I was doing my research into finding great metal, this time on Amazon. I read up on alot of the user reviews and found one album that had a really high rating – Waking The Fallen. I figured what the hell, the reviews seem good, it seems to have a consistent rating of 5 stars from a wide date span. So I bought it. Without seeing what the band looked like. I liked it. It was the first time that I liked anything metalcore. And though I found the screeching portions an annoyance, the whole of the music more than made up for it. And after a few listens I actually began to appreciate it to some degree. Then I made the mistake of seeing what they looked like during this era. Big mistake. I saw a feminized version of The Misfits, but with short hair, and for the life of me I kept thinking they were doing everything they could to rip off Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil look. Everything was feminized and in black!
Man, talk about going from fully erect to limp bizkit in under two seconds. I hated them after that. I would say that their emo look probably delayed my understanding of the change they had gone through for about a year. Eventually, out of sheer disgust with other metal that was being popularized at the time, I went back to listen to the rest of their catalog, this was about 2012. I figured, what the hell, it can’t be worse than the new shit that’s out now. So I started listening to them again, but this time I went through their whole catalog of work.
It was an acquired taste for me, not something I can say I immediately liked, but something I came to like as I saw the musical nobility behind their efforts. And, despite some of the cuteness bullshit they pulled on the self titled album, I came to really enjoy their music, it took about a year to “understand” them. After this I was in. I realized they were a talented group of musicians, real players, and that they had a great chemistry. I realized they had all the components I look for in great metal.
Here’s what I found:
- They use harmony vocals very well, and sometimes overlay contrasting vocal lines that are very creative (see Blinded In Chains at 1:01, an incredible song, pure metal brilliance).
- They write killer guitar harmonies that rival almost any written by the great dual guitar attacks in metal history (Iron Maiden being the greatest of them all of course).
- They have a solid rhythm section, in particular the drum work of Rev. Love or hate A7x, Rev’s work was undeniably good. RIP.
- They aren’t afraid to be emotional in either their lyrics, or their musical projection. See M.I.A. or Danger Line, among others. (I think many metalheads see this as a weakness, not sure why).
- They take chances, stupid ones like the horrific Little Piece Of Heaven, but it’s a chance nonetheless. But the important part of this is that the rest of the album was good and still A7x. Some bands couldn’t do that right (*cough* Metallica’s Load and Reload *cough*).
- They write long epic songs. See Wicked End, M.I.A, Save Me, and others. I have a particular fondness for long epic songs since I grew up in the Thrash era and many long epics were written then.
- The change in vocal style by Shadows has been nothing less than impressive. He went from crappy clean singer, and half ass metalcore vocalist to what he is now, a classic American metal singer with soaring vocals. This was developed through hard work and training, it didn’t just happen.
Now here’s the kicker, and why I came to understand that whether I liked them or not, as a metalhead I had a obligation to support them. Why? There are three very important reasons
One, they have evolved from a bland (albeit they showed signs of creativity early on) metalcore band on their first album to a classic American heavy metal band with great vocals, meaningful lyrics, and a true musical sensibility. They’ve reestablished the great American Heavy Metal voice. And they do so giving credit to the great bands that set the ground before them. They know that metal didn’t start with the legendary Pantera’s last two albums (I love Pantera so don’t give me any shit), they give credit to all the greats that made it possible for them to be who they are now. They do it time and again, and it’s important for the following next reason.
Two, they are introducing the new generation of metalheads to the legendary metal bands of yesteryear, the one’s that really set the foundation, OUR generation metal mofos. It has the added beneficial effect of showing the new generation that being metal doesn’t mean you have to sound like the cookie monster with strep throat, or be a screamo emo lipstick wearing gender confused bitch. This will definitely have an effect on the next generation of vocalists. As I stated in a previous article the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction in regards to vocal styles (going cookie monster scream emo) that eventually it must swing back in the other direction. Well who do you think is now leading the pack in swinging the pendulum back to a clear and soaring vocal style? A7x. It’s a must that metal strengthen in that area. There’s room for all vocal styles, but in sheer numbers, the screamers outnumber the singers, we need to bring balance back to the metal universe. May the force be with us.
Three, they are the only newer metal band (with FFDP being in the mix to a slightly lesser level) that is filling arena’s and headlining the really huge festivals, like Download. They also are the only ones really pushing sales numbers (though that will never be the same as yesteryear until the industry figures out how to protect music from free downloads) in album sales, with two #1 billboard releases. This is GREAT for metal. Whether we like it or not, we need new a band that can move the dial like the big but older bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth can. If there isn’t one to pass the torch to , then metal will suffer greatly. Huge bands lift all boats, helping to keep metal alive in the musical sphere.
My sincere hope is that metalheads take into consideration the validation of the argument even if they will continue to dislike the band. I’m not asking you to necessarily like the band’s music, but to put into context the good they are doing for metal. Whether one likes them or not, they are the new great American metal band. And they are, in my opinion, good for metal. Heavy metal NEEDS a band like A7x to carry to torch to the masses, this will bring people who never really paid attention to metal into the metal family. Hell, as a young kid I wasn’t into metal. You know who my introduction into rock was? Def Leppard’s Pyromania. And within two years I morphed into an all out Thrash metalhead, loving all the heavier shit of the era. And I’ve beena metalhead ever since.
Well, this is an article that is clearly too fucking long, but I felt it was important to make this argument. I hope I’ve added some context to what’s really going on with A7x. And though I hope we can all rally around them to push them even further up the musical consciousness, even if you choose not to, then at least understand what they do, and give them their due in that regard. And if you pay really close attention, they are following the path that Iron Maiden took (maybe more on that in another article). These are smart men. They’ve earned my respect, I hope they earn yours too.
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