After releasing new single, ‘The Stage’, Avenged Sevenfold barely gave us enough time to recover before shocking fans with the release of their new album! With a level of epicness only they could achieve, they made the global announcement at the end of a live-streamed concert from the rooftop of Capitol Records in LA. The performance included four songs; fan favourite ‘Nightmare’, ‘The Stage’, and the less known but equally impressive ‘Planets’ and ‘Acid Rain’. The release of the unexpected yet awesome single, followed by the album’s release two months before the promised date and then this exciting live-stream… the bar had been set exceptionally high for The Stage. And it was reached with ease.
In ‘Paradigm’, we get a faster track than opener ‘The Stage’, with a chorus you just can’t help but head bang to and a bridge that emphasizes Gates’ superhuman guitar abilities. Maintaining the sinister tone, ‘Sunny Disposition’ couldn’t be farther from the brightness its name suggests with its eerie brass sounds and Shadows’ creepy whisper coming through at certain breaks in the song. It ends almost pleasantly, however, with a clear acapella as it drifts off with the final line: ‘it’s an illusion’.
The beginning of next track ‘God Damn’ shocks us out of the reverie of this illusion rather marvellously. It’s much more drum-oriented, allowing us to witness the real extent of Wackerman’s impressive abilities, and much louder. The song features great contrasts between the quieter lulls versus the heavy drums and loud vocals. Vocals that prove Shadows doesn’t need screams to make an impact.
A few songs later and we finally get the customary ballad in the form of ‘Roman Sky’ (track 9). This song draws attention to Shadows’ exceptional vocal abilities, and the combination of his voice with the strings is nothing short of beautiful. I’d definitely have this on the setlist for their upcoming tour.
Lyrically, The Stage is A7X’s most serious album; its deeper than anything we’ve seen from them before. ‘Creating God’ in particular is so powerful in displaying how we’re crafting our own demise. ‘We’re creating God/Unsure of what we’ll find’, ‘We’re creating God/Committing suicide’ exposes our reliance on technology and how that same technology will be the end of us. Arguably, ‘Creating God’ is musically less impressive than many others on the album but it’s lyrically outstanding – as seems to be the case with the album as a whole compared to its predecessors.
Final song ‘Exist’ features an explosive instrumental opening into what becomes the second ballad of the album. With the actual song falling a bit flat, its ending is arguably its redeeming quality; the purpose of the entire album is summed up in an impressive speech played over the song’s uplifting riff. Here, we get another example of the focus of this album being its message rather than its music. That said, as a whole it still succeeds on both fronts.
As earlier hinted at by ‘The Stage’, there’s a definite darkness and sense of irony that runs through the album; the band are completely unafraid to highlight issues most don’t want to speak of or even consider. The Stage is undeniably less exciting than, say, City of Evil, but not of a lower quality and shows how A7X have evolved over the years. It is their longest album to date (at 73 minutes, 40 seconds) and whilst each song is to a high standard within this time, you’re definitely aware of the length. That said, in this album they may well have created a masterpiece.