Thursday, September 9, 2010

Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare serves as moving tribute to fallen drummer

Genre: Hard Rock
Warner Bros.
Running Time: 66:45

On December 28, 2009, the face of popular rock music changed forever when James Owen Sullivan died. Better known as The Rev, Sullivan served as the creative glue that helped mold Avenged Sevenflod together. In addition to being a standout drummer, he had a large hand in composing the band's material and providing backup vocals.

His passing had an undeniable effect on the band's sound as they released their fifth studio album, Nightmare. Filling in for Sullivan on this album is Mike Portnoy, the virtuoso drummer from Dream Theatre.

Since Portnoy first announced his involvement on this album, one of the major questions was how well of a job he could do of filling Sullivan's shoes. I'm glad to say that Portnoy's drum work hits the spot. If you didn't know better, you might almost think the Rev never left.

Musically, Nightmare is noticeably mellower than their previous efforts. It seems like almost every track was meant to pay tribute to The Rev. "Tonight the World Dies," "Victim," and "So Far Away" are uplifting power ballads featuring mellow acoustic guitar work and fantastic solos.

Guitarist Synsyter Gates may be best known for his shredding guitar solos, namely the "Afterlife" solo, but "Buried Alive" has perhaps the best solo I've heard him lay down. But of course, the band also comes through with some great hard rock material. "Buried Alive" and "Natural Born Killer" will really get your pulse pumping, but Avenged Sevenfold really kicks it up another notch with "God Hates Us."

When the opening riff kicks in, you'll wonder if you're still listening to the same band. Singer Matt Shadows employs a screamo style on this track similar to his style on the band's first two albums. If you were a fan of Avenged Sevenfold's Sounding the Seventh Trumpet or Waking the Fallen albums, you will likely dig this track.

Elsewhere, the title track offers up a catchy lead single in the vein of "Afterlife" and "Almost Easy" though not quite as compelling. "Danger Line" mixes it up a bit with horns and a piano in the outro.

But nothing on the album is quite like "Fiction," the last song penned by Sullivan before his death. The track kicks off with a haunting piano melody. Shadow's vocals plays off the piano part in a way to create a very unique melody.

Overall, Nightmare is a solid album for Avenged Sevenfold. It sees them leaving behind their headbanging anthems to a certain extent, but they prove capable of churning out some very heartfelt ballads.

Granted, it is music made for mass appeal which means this album may not be for everyone. If you liked the sound of their first two albums but felt left in the cold by City of Evil or the self-titled album, then Nightmare may not do much to win you back.

Likewise, if you tend to prefer more underground metal, you may want to stick with that. However, any fan of heavy rock or metal music should at least give Nightmare a chance to witness Avenged Sevenfold's parting ode to their fallen bandmate, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan.

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