Sunday, July 10, 2011

Avenged Sevenfold-Nightmare (2010)

Post #149
After the tragic death of their drummer, Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan, Avenged Sevenfold faced a tough decision of whether or not to continue their musical career. Having already written most of their next album, they decided, after taking some time off, to stick it out and continue on with A7X. As a fan, I was okay with their decision. I can't believe The Rev would have wanted them to give up making music.

My curiosity was peaked as I anticipated this latest album. How would they finish it up? What would the mood be? Would there be tracks with The Rev's unique vocals, either as lead or background? What would they do to honor him? And most obvious, who would finish up the drum tracks for the album?

All of these questions and more were answered with the release of Nightmare. The first answer I learned of, as I followed this project, was that Mike Portnoy, former drummer of Dream Theater, would be filling in on drums. This was at the band's request; Portnoy came to mind as he was The Rev's favorite drummer. Portnoy accepted the offer graciously and performed like a pro in the studio.

This notion is just one of several ways the band honored The Rev in the production and release of this album. There is a 'thank-you' in the liner notes both to Jimmy and to his family. He is depicted in a drawing of 5 skeletons that represent the 5 band members, his tell-tale hair style making him easy to recognize. Another photo of the 4 remaining band members at a bar also includes an empty bar-stool with a full glass on the bar in front of it. The picture behind the CD is of the band embracing, with text below reading, "R.I.P JIMMY "THE REV" SULLIVAN, 02/09/81 - 12/28/09". There are vocals from The Rev recorded on this album in the song 'Fiction', and you can imagine many of the lyrics could be about The Rev, or how the band is trying to cope with their feelings of grief and mourning. Most obvious, however, has to be the lettering on the grave stone on the album's cover-art, which reads, "FOREVER".

All the references to The Rev aside, Nightmare proves to be the most versatile album yet from Avenged Sevenfold. There are a few heavy songs, like the title track and 'Welcome To The Family', and also several softer tunes like 'So Far Away' and 'Fiction' that make liberal use of clean guitars or piano. Some tracks bring elements of progressive metal into the fold, much like they did to some extent on their last couple albums. The biggest surprise, to me, was hearing the song 'God Hates Us', which employs an extremely harsh, screaming vocal-style that hearkens back to the band's early years. It seems like they included this song to prove to their fans from those early years that they can still scream like that if they want to, however I believe M Shadows' history of vocal cord surgery is still a deterrent from using this style to excess.

Avenged Sevenfold have always written songs with dark and haunting tones and themes, and Nightmare brings those moods out again. This time, though, it feels more personal. There is a definite somber mood in many of the songs. I am sure that in many ways recording this album was a catharsis for the band, helping them to deal with their emotions surrounding the loss of their band-mate and friend. No doubt there are a multitude of fans out there who have felt their own emotions brought to the surface while listening to this album too.

Now to honor The Rev one last time, by recommending my favorite tracks from this important album, because music truly does live forever, and with it the memories and experiences of the musicians who created it. My top picks from Nightmare:
-Nightmare (of course, the title track & first single gets my thumbs-up. It shows right from the start that A7X are still heavy, in touch with the scary side of music, and continuing their legacy in fine form!)
-Welcome To The Family
-Buried Alive (This one brings a strong progressive element; starts slow and melodic, but transitions near the end into a mid-tempo thrasher)
-So Far Away (This song, to me, really sounds like it's about The Rev, but it could be about losing any loved one.)
-God Hates Us (As I hinted at, this song sounds like it could have been on one of their early albums; 'Sounding the Seventh Trumpet' or 'Waking the Fallen')
-Tonight the World Dies (Slow & melodic number, but very dark & haunting in its tone)
-Fiction (Perhaps the last time we'll get to hear The Rev singing on an A7X record, "...let it burn under my skin, let it burn!")

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