Tonight could make or break Avenged Sevenfold. The future Download Festival Kings are yet to headline arenas of their own on UK turf, though they’re poised to make the huge step-up into metal’s big leagues in six months time at Download. So, as you can imagine, expectations are colossal on this cold Sunday night. Can Avenged Sevenfold make the full transformation from whiney metalcore wannabes, to certified arena rock gods, in the space of an evening?
Up first, it looks like Californian bruisers Five Finger Death Punch (8) might steal Avenged’s crown, before they’ve even been given a fair chance. Familiar with playing these size arenas themselves – particularly back home in the States – the five-piece clearly mean business from thundering opener ‘Under And Over It’. Though the band specialise in relentless energy and pounding metal, they really excel tonight in the slower, more epic ‘arena’ songs; the ‘Far From Home’ sing-along and the lighters-in-the-air moments during ‘The Bleeding’ show that Five Finger Death Punch aren’t just a one-trick pony, and would be more than capable of headlining this very venue themselves.
But this is Avenged Sevenfold’s (9) night, and they won’t let anyone take the attention away from them. The crowd’s screams during opener ‘Shepherd of Fire’ make that all too clear. While most eyes are drawn to the huge floating Deathbat behind the band, shooting pyro from all angles throughout the show, it’s M. Shadows and co. who are the main attraction. The Huntingdon Beach band have a great arsenal of hits to air, though they mainly focus on material from 2010’s ‘Nightmare’ and this year’s ‘Hail To The King’. Even so, the older fan-favourites, like ‘Critical Acclaim’ and ‘Bat Country’, still sound as huge as ever. It’s the new songs that take most of the audience by surprise, though. ‘Hail To The King’ and ‘Doing Time’ in particular seem to genuinely elevate Avenged Sevenfold to true arena kings.
As most headline sets should flow, there are peaks and troughs constantly during the hour and a half long show, and the emotional ‘Fiction’ and (slightly boring) self-indulgent band jam session suitably drop the energy levels as required. It means you can appreciate the brilliant closing one-two of ‘Chapter Four and ‘Unholy Confessions’ even more when they’re finally played. Lack of ‘City Of Evil’ material aside (no ‘Beast And The Harlot’, guys? What’s up with that?), Avenged Sevenfold still manage to deliver one of the finest sets Wembley Arena has ever seen. Download Festival can’t come soon enough.