by Andrew Tyrrell, Managing Editor
On October 28, Avenged Sevenfold became the first metal band in history to do what Beyoncé and U2 had done before them: they released an album with absolutely no warning whatsoever.
And to the delight of many, the album has done well.
The Stage is Sevenfold’s seventh album, coming three years after Hail to the King, an album that was decent, but in comparison to their previous work, largely disappointing.
Avenged Sevenfold have been around since 1999, when they released their first album, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, when the band was at the tender of 19 years old.
Their albums display an incredible journey from thrashy metalcore with screeching vocals to the kind of mastery of the genre that is delivered in The Stage.
To better understand what Avenged Sevenfold’s sound is, there needs to be some familiarity with Metallica, one of the most influential, popular, and commercially successful metal bands in history.
There also needs to be familiarity with Tim Burton and frequent collaborator and composer, Danny Elfman.
That’s right, a metal band who was influenced by the Nightmare Before Christmas does exist.
Hail to the King left me and many other fans wanting.
Prior to the release of their fifth album, Nightmare, the band lost their drummer, Jimmy Sullivan, to a drug overdose. Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy filled in admirably, but after that tour he left the band to pursue other ventures.
It was then that the band tasked Arin Ilejay with filling the massive shoes left by Sullivan, who at the time of his passing was considered one of the best drummers in the world, and arguably the best in the genre.
Hail to the King dropped shortly afterward and it was lacking everything fans had come to expect from the band.
Their confidence was gone, their style and tone had watered down, and every song had a massive hole in the percussion section, left unfilled by their new drummer.
But that was then and this now.
The band announced last November that former Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies drummer, Brooks Wackerman, would be taking over for the recently departed Ilejay.
Everyone knew that the quality of Avenged Sevenfold’s next album rested squarely on his shoulders; the hole left by Jimmy Sullivan still needed to be filled.
And goddamn, did Wackerman deliver.
The confidence, flamboyance, staying power, and Burton-esque composition that Avenged Sevenfold’s previous album had been devoid of returned in full force in The Stage.
Not only has Wackerman filled the gap left by Jimmy Sullivan, I’m going to take it one step further and say that he’s better.
His drumming is precise and powerful, and it was the shock to the system the band needed to produce what is by far and away their best album.
Everything that made the previous six albums great got combined into one for The Stage and got dropped on the world of metal when no one was expecting it.
The vocals are top notch, the guitar playing from Brian Haner and Zach Baker have topped everything else they’ve ever produced, which is a tall order, and for once the bass playing of Jonathan Seward is not only audible but relevant to the music.
Not only have one of the most talented metal bands in the industry delivered, from a musical standpoint, with their latest album, but they’ve done something new and challenging for themselves. The Stage was done as a concept album, exploring the possibilities that come with the advent of true artificial intelligence.
If you’re looking for a powerful, wonderfully performed metal album that harkens back to earlier times in the genre that fellow metalheads may be longing for, or are looking to get into metal, (or if you’re a fan of Danny Elfman’s compositions) then pick up Avenged Sevenfold’s newest album, The Stage.