Thursday, February 1, 2007

Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold

Coming off a Best New Artist Award at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, the members of Avenged Sevenfold returned to the studio, ambitious to create an exciting follow-up to City of Evil -- perhaps overly so, as their self-titled release focuses entirely too hard on pushing the songs into non-metal territory. Their signature, blistering Yngwie Malmsteen guitar arpeggios and lightning fast double-kick drums are still evident, but the overall heavy metal thunder is diluted by their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. Left alone in the studio to record the album on their own, AS show their unbridled enthusiasm to be as inventive as possible as they run through a staggering amount of production enhancements: four songs have string arrangements; violinists, pianists, and vocalists make guest appearances here and there; "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a strange Mr. Bungle type number with sax, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet, and "Unbound (The Wild Ride)" throws in the most un-metal addition of all -- a children's choir. Some of these enhancements help take the songs to the next level but most detract, and give the sensation of inappropriately mashed-up styles, like listening to a Dream Theater album on a boom box while a nearby clock radio plays Charlie FM. Vocalist M. Shadows, who required surgery on his vocal cords after Waking the Fallen shows that his training with Ron Anderson (vocal coach for Layne Staley, Axl Rose, and Chris Cornell) has been for the greater good. Rather than screaming or doing the metal growl, he sings in a few gritty voices, showing an obvious Mike Patton influence, and actually sounds pitch-perfect. His skills, and the entire band's technical ferocity, is flawless as ever, but just gets lost in a cluttered vision. Perhaps the worst culprit of their excessive studio trickery is when a Cher-esque "Believe" pitch corrector/vocoder is introduced to the chorus of "Lost," essentially stomping out a fiery '80s speed-metal jam into lukewarm embers of passé electro. While their willingness to experiment is admirable, despite the fact that they've gone overboard with their overdubs, the overabundance of studio polish leaves one to wonder if it's not because the songs just aren't as strong this time around.

Metallica - Live In Athens 2007

After the inevitable waiting about for the guys to arrive we were taken backstage and lined up ready to meet the band we have been following for many years. One by one they emerged. Rob was first, he seemed in good form, very happy to pose for a few snaps and see how we all were. Next up was Kirk, again he seemed his usual calm self making general chit chat and posing for photo's. To be honest, it took up until now for me to relax a little and prepare some questions for James & Lars. Big Jim strolled round next, he was quite shocked as I was English! I think he was expecting a 100% Greek M&G! We debated about the possibility of playing Breadfan or even changing the opening song, I got a generic "We'll put it in the suggestion box" reply but he genuinely came across as a nice bloke. Was I star struck... just a tad. After about 5 hours (slightly exaggerated) or so, Lars made it out, he too was shocked to be speaking to an Englishman in Athens! We spoke for some time about the set and the possibility of No Leaf Clover making a return. He was well up for it!!! Shame it didn't get an airing til Sunday at Wembley, maybe I planted the Clover seed!?! Lars was amazing though. He genuinely seemed to enjoy speaking to the fans and didn't seem just to go through the motions of "sign, picture & move on". Considering it was well under an hour before show time, he seemed happy to take his time and make sure all the M&G winners got to have a chat.