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Avenged Sevenfold's Brutal Dive into Existentialism

For years, likely since the beginning of the millennium 23 years ago, music fans worldwide have grappled with the question: Is rock and roll dead? This is a viable question as the genre, and all of its vast sub-genres, have had their fair share of downright treacherous years since 2000. This millennium for metal and rock music began with the brash and genre-bending introduction of nu-metal. A riotous blend of hip-hop, punk rock, death metal, and screamo music. This movement was marked by triumphant highs and despicable lows. Terrible bands burst into the scene like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach; music filled with corny attempts to connect with their depressed fanbases and empty prods at inciting half-baked violence at the live shows.


Nu-metal, however, did do its part for metal as it ushered in acts like Korn, Slipknot, and Linkin Park - each of which certainly had their early-2000’s cliche, half-baked, edgy tantrums that have aged quite horribly - but this was a vital movement to advance metal towards the next age of truly methodical, educated, and driven metal musicians.


In 2003, a group of future titans of the metal genre emerged as the brutal and abstract collective Avenged Sevenfold. The group has had an absolutely incredible career thus far, with their lead guitarist and masterminded composer Synyster Gates trailblazing a 20-year stint of mind-warping guitar solos, symphonic compositions, bumbling flamenco tangents, and somber piano interludes. Gates does it all and makes it appear effortless Adding the formidable, devastating lead vocals provided by Matt Shadows, the group was destined for heavy-hitting metal greatness.


The true inspiration behind this article and what I set out to discuss, however, is that Avenged Sevenfold, along with similar bands like Trivium and Machine Head, seemed to discover a land of mystical inspiration in the mid-2010s that every other metal band that came out around the same time seemed to miss. Slipknot fell off, Korn fell off, and many bands simply ceased to exist. However, Avenged Sevenfold released, “The Stage,” an hour-plus-long extravagant, flashy dive into existence and space travel through the medium of progressive metal, death metal, and aggressively long, magnum-opus-tier songs.


“The Stage,” is simply an achievement in my eyes. I was fourteen when it came out and it rocked my small, simple existence. I was shocked at the pure talent seeping through the tracks. The fluidity of the tracklisting, the stark mood changes, and the existential, lyrical writing were game-changers. Now, bands like Dream Theater and Tool had been crafting experimental, inter-dimensional metal records for plenty of years before, “The Stage,” however this was the first record to really blatantly point its talented, ruthless finger of prog metal directly in my face and shout,


“You need to pay attention to this!”


“The Stage,” was a potent dive into prog metal as the band pondered existence, religion, and the never-ending, intimidating nature of the cosmos and our surrounding universe. Quite the topics, ones that have been pondered since the beginning of humanity. Seven years later, after a worldwide pandemic and countless injustices, fears, and acts of senseless violence unveiled and enacted across the globe, Avenged Sevenfold is back, this time with their existential musings turned up ten notches and the musical acrobatics following along.


The unfortunate events that caused me to drift away from the metal bands I grew up listening to, huddled in a corner, wondering what my mom would possibly think of the racket I was listening to was that I outgrew them. I outgrew a lot of the lyrical content, more specifically, but the musicianship I also felt became lacking. Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium are two bands who have seemed to grow up with me, somehow, and this is what makes the newest Avenged Sevenfold release, titled, “Life is But a Dream…” so electrifying right now.


“Life is But a Dream,” is a musical dive into the prolific, wonderful musings of the late Albert Camus, a French philosopher, and author that pondered the absurdity of existence and the pointlessness of suffering. The band themselves credited Camus for inspiring their latest dive into another complex metal composition, and they seem to have outdone themselves despite the life-altering nature of 2016’s, “The Stage.”


“Life is But a Dream,” has already begun to be deciphered by fans of both Avenged Sevenfold and Albert Camus; the lyrical confidence and relatability of this record is really what is creating such a connection for me off of first listens. This philosophical, genre-bending record from a childhood favorite band of mine comes at a time where these ideas and authors are living on the forefront of my mind.


The actual musicality of this new album from Avenged Sevenfold is jaw-dropping. There are eloquent tangents into disco-infused rock, all the way down to an interpolation reminiscent of Daft Punk’s, “Get Lucky,” on track, “G,” (The first edition of a three-track run spelling the word, “GOD.”) Sevenfold didn’t just blindly credit Camus as a major inspiration for this record to sound smooth or intellectually superior to other prominent metal acts, the lyrical content of this album is genuinely original and filled with philosophical wonder. There are nostalgic dives into blazing death metal, perfected with M. Shadows somehow still rugged and fantastic guttural screams - as if the man’s vocal cords haven’t aged a day.


Synyster Gates, musical genius, delivers once again on this record. He delivers hair-raising guitar solos and grimace-inducing riffs, Gates closes out this album with a five-minute piano composition that he wrote and performed himself. Gates wrote a composition for a 78-piece orchestra for this album. This is Avenged Sevenfold at their very finest hour with unlimited resources and a well of untapped inspiration.

It is absolutely refreshing to get such a quality metal album in 2023, especially from veterans like Avenged Sevenfold. With such a well put together body of work, it would be hard to claim that metal is dead just yet, we’ve still got some heavy hitters who haven’t quite tapped out yet.

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