Final Rating : 9.5/10

We’ve seen artists such as U2, Beyoncé and Drake drop surprise albums, but none of them have ever done it as extravagantly as Avenged Sevenfold. The band live streamed a performance on top of the iconic Capitol Records Tower in LA, which then lead to the announcement that their seventh studio album The Stage, was available now.

What made this surprise release really unique was the fact that The Stage was not only available digitally on October 28th, as the band managed to also have physical copies ready to purchase at your local stores on the same day. Prior to the live stream, the band and their team did a fantastic job at throwing people off. Shortly after the title track was released, WWE wrestler and Fozzy front man, Chris Jericho, “accidentally” leaked information which had people assuming that the new album was titled Voltaic Oceans, and had a release date of December 9th. In my opinion that was a genius move, as it had everyone assuming the special live stream was going to be an album announcement and pre-order launch.

The Stage is Avenged Sevenfold’s triumphant return to the music scene, as it felt like they had lost themselves when their drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, passed away in 2009. From time and time again, the band has stated that The Rev was the mastermind behind a lot of the catchy hooks that were found on City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold, and Nightmare. This was evident in their release Hail To The King, which felt like more of a tribute to their favourite old school metal bands as opposed to an Avenged Sevenfold album. The Stage contains that special spark that fans have been missing on their previous release.

When the band released the title track, fans were pleasantly shocked with the direction the band was taking. Little did we know that this would only be a very small piece to the epicness that was to follow. This album is by far the band’s most unique to date. It’s their first concept album, which revolves around artificial intelligence and the self-destruction of society. The lyrical content is much darker with songs such as ‘Creating God’, which features the lines ‘‘We’re creating God / Unsure of what we’ll find’, ‘We’re creating God / Committing suicide’. The song powerfully exposes our reliance on technology, and points out how this will eventually lead to the end of us. The Stage is also the band’s first album with their new drummer Brooks Wackerman (ex-Bad Religion). Wackerman brings a lot to the table, as his drumming style feels similar to The Rev’s yet he still found a way to put his own spin on it which really helps build up moments of tension throughout the record. The drumming gets even more intense when you add in the powerful fills of bassist, Johnny Christ, while the chemistry between dueling guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates provides riffs and solos that help moves listeners seamlessly throughout the album. What really brings this album together is the dynamics of vocalist, M. Shadows, as we get to hear his vocal range transform in songs such as ‘Sunny Disposition’, ‘God Damn’, and ‘Fermi Paradox’.

‘God Damn’ is definitely a stand out track on the album. Not only does it showcases Wackerman’s impressive drumming abilities but it also proves the fact that contrary to popular belief, Shadows does not need to be screaming in order to make a powerful impact.

The Stage closes out with a nearly 16 minute song titled “Exist”. It is a very unique track as it starts out very synthy but then seamlessly transitions into thrash metal and then into a somewhat ambient type of song. As the track wraps up, there is a 3 minute spoken word piece performed by award-winning astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (Currently know for the TV series Cosmos); who wrote the piece specifically for the album. It took a while for me to digest this song, but after a few listens it has easily become one of my favourites.

I think what I enjoyed most about this album was the fact that it took a few listens to digest. There is so much going on within each song; the more you listen to it the more you appreciate it as you start to pick out little gems that you missed on the previous time listening to it. From the lyrical concept, to the infamous Zacky Vengeance & Synyster Gates guitar solos; The Stage is a masterpiece that proves that Avenged Sevenfold has what it takes to shine bright amongst the best in metal and rock.

Songs to check out : The Stage, Sunny Disposition, God Damn, Exist

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