It’s quite common in today’s world of music to hear a band talking about their album in interviews prior to release, claiming that it’s something new, ground breaking or different from their earlier music, when quite frankly, it’s not. Avenged Sevenfold have clearly stated in the build-up to the release of Hail to the King, that they’re going back to the roots of heavy metal, taking influences from the greats, like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Black Sabbath, which is precisely what they’ve done. The band have made their intentions crystal clear, they want to play ball with those bands that they grew up with and make that step up, that Slipknot most recently took. They’ve thrown down the gauntlet, and they’re coming at you.
The introduction to the album opener, Sheppard of Fire, is a clear ode to Black Sabbath, with the chiming of a church bell that descends into classic heavy metal, reminding us of what’s great about the genre, one main riff, one powerful voice, no synthesisers or crossing of genres, straight up heavy metal. Hail to the King, continues in the same fashion as Sheppard of Fire, a straight up ode to Maiden and Metallica, with lyrics that could be taken from the script of Game of Thrones.
Doing Time, is the real curveball on the album, with a Guns ‘n’ Roses rock ‘n’ roll vibe but a heavier sound, maybe M. Shadows just spent too much time working with Slash on his first solo album? Who knows! Either way, it’s three minute storm that Slash and Axl, if they weren’t at each other’s throats, would be proud of.
With the tragic loss of former drummer, Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, who was such a creative figure in the bands creation of music, there were question marks over this album but it feels like Synyster Gates has really stepped up with his leads on this album, especially on This Means War. Reminiscent of Metallica’s Sad But True, This Means War packs riffs with more groove than should be allowed on one song and badass lyrical delivery that would make Hetfield desire more fuel and fire.
If you listen to Requiem and don’t immediately have the cloaked ghouls of Ghost pop into your head you either haven’t heard Ghost or need to book an appointment with your GP to get your ears checked. Requiem’s an operatic, spoken word, satanic throwback to old-school metal.
What would an Avenged Sevenfold album be without a ballad? Crimson Day, the ballad, and Heretic Blood apply the brakes, taking things down a notch and going back to a more recognisable Avenged Sevenfold sound with less, in your face influences.
Bringing us back to a heavier and more powerful Iron Maiden esc realm, Coming Home, re-introduces us to the likes of duelling guitar solos, and a powerful singing vocal delivery which continues into Planets, which will leave trumpets and “Planets collide” ringing in your ears.
In true Avenged Sevenfold style, we finish with the longest and most epic song of the album, Acid rain, but if you’re fortunate enough to have snagged yourself the deluxe version of Hail to the King then you’re in for a real treat. The deluxe version features a bonus track that beautifully celebrates the life of fallen band mate, brother and loved icon by all Avenged Sevenfold fans, Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. St. James, as described in the album booklet, “is the light to So Far Away’s dark, St. James is a celebration of Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan’s heart and colour, and should be listened to with your favourite beverage!” A song that should never have been a bonus track and if you’re buying or even downloading this album, make sure you grab the deluxe version for this emotional but fitting finish to a great album.