First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
Back when I reviewed The Darkness' Permission To Land, the rock and roll guilt floated heavily in the air. Every bad 70's rock cliché was trotted out, magnified and strapped onto moldy platform shoes...while I sat there lapping up every fricken' note.
Avenged Sevenfold reminds me of my Darkness experience, mostly because they pull in several rock sub-genres while avoiding the smell of retread. Well, OK, drop the camp and the platform shoes too.
City of Evil plays around with the punky thrash of Megadeth and early Metallica, the theatricality of Queensryche and even the dual guitars (thank you Tipton and Downing) of Judas Priest. This isn't to imply that Avenged Sevenfold have nothing of their own to say.
See, the thing that's most noticeable about truly recycled music is the lack of passion (Kingdom Come, anybody? OK, I admit it...I bought that record too. Now let's move on...). Not here. The blistering "Bat Country" (dedicated to the late Hunter S. Thompson) is stuffed full of careening drums, chunky guitar riffage, stuttering start & stop passages, full-throated singing (M. Shadows reminds me of a deeper-voiced Gary Cherone), and good 'ole snarling lead guitar.
Chops display in any form of music can force some bad alchemy onto the artist. "Too much", whatever that means (and we seem to know it when we hear it) and the band risks being ghettoized as "math rock" (or even "progressive", but I'm avoiding that here because of the term's current schizophrenic and overloaded nature). Well, these guys can indeed find their way around their instruments. More important, something interesting and fun comes out. More than any other criterion, its the fun factor that wins me over. I'm tapping' my toe, bashing the steering wheel and suppressing the urge to play air guitar. Sure, I spend a lot of time gettin' the "big wow" out of snazzy instrumental interplay and and jagged rhythms, but when a band makes all of that seem effortless, the fun takes over...and i reach for the volume knob.
Longtime fans of bands like to cry "sellout" when their cherished group makes a major label debut. I've never really bought into that reaction myself. If this record is a sellout, I'll be in line to get the next one.