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If you haven’t sat down and listened to them, you’ve no doubt seen their name. Avenged Sevenfold has been a juggernaut in the music industry since at least 2005 with their 3rd full length album “City of Evil.” (Feel old yet?) Fun fact, when they initially got signed by Warner Records, they were supposed to be writing and releasing a Metalcore album, similar to that of “Waking the Fallen.” Instead, they dropped an epic, winding album consisting of a new wave of traditional heavy metal and hard rock. Not only was that (unfortunately) the best decision they could have made for their music careers, going against the grain like that was a sign of what was to come. Fast forward almost 20 years and a couple of “cookie cutter” Butt Rock albums later, we have their newest album from just a couple of months ago, “Life is but a Dream…” Ok so just from what little I’ve written, you’re probably already getting the vibe that I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m in the minority when it comes to their music. I truly believe they mastered Metalcore with “Waking the Fallen,” and would have loved it if they continued down the path of making heavier music. Knowing their potential admittedly has had me a little salty for the past two decades. But back to the album, “Life is but a Dream…” is one, if not the most progressive album I’ve ever heard from a mainstream band. It had to take something special for me to really want to sit down with an album of theirs again, and this was it. The album’s debut track “Nobody” was suggested on my Youtube feed, so I played it assuming it was something I was going to hear on the radio the next day. Although it did surprisingly get radio time, that’s not the sound we got. After my first listen, I immediately started looking at the public’s reception to the most off putting song I’ve heard in modern metal. “Nobody” immediately makes it clear that this wasn’t written to gain mainstream popularity. Quite the opposite, and that’s the angsty part of my brain that made me fall in love with Avenged Sevenfold in the first place, many, many years ago. Coincidentally, this album was also the first time lead singer M. Shadows had used screaming vocals in that same amount of time. From first listen, I already knew that this had the potential to be something special. They did not let me down. Right from the opening notes of the first track, "Game Over," it's evident that Avenged Sevenfold has poured their heart and soul into crafting a progressive, personally meaningful work of art. The album's songwriting is a labyrinth of complexity, with unexpected time signature changes, intricate guitar harmonies, and nuanced drum patterns.

Some of the defining features of "Life is but a Dream…" are the winding, storytelling narrative(s), and sometimes fairly abrupt blending of genres. Avenged Sevenfold fearlessly integrated too many genres to count into their sound, but has been appropriately described as avant-garde metal. The idea of trying to put a label on this album is laughable. Both M. Shadows and the lead guitarist Synyster Gates have openly spoken about being largely inspired by their experiences with psychedelic drugs, particularly a derivative of DMT. After a full listen of the album, you likely won’t be surprised about that.

At its core, "Life is but a dream…" is a compelling narrative. The album explores themes of self-discovery, the fleeting nature of existence, and the frustrations of living in a world controlled by organized religion. The lyrics are thought-provoking and introspective, I can’t recommend enough for everyone to delve into the philosophical musings hidden (yet sometimes painfully obvious) within each track.

“I am the plan

Cheap imitations by obsessive fans

But you're great, and fun to watch

On the seventh day I thought about world peace

But I decided just to take it off” It’s this kind of angsty method of writing that really strikes me as it being something that’s heavy on their hearts.

I just can’t do the album justice by describing it. While most tracks aren’t particularly approachable by themselves, by sitting down and giving this album an honest listen, you'll likely find that there’s more than what meets the eye. The depth, creativity, and care put into “Life is but a Dream…” is a true representation of a band making the music that they want to. The majority of people that have been vocal about the album slam it for being off putting with nonsensical flow, having (intentionally) jarring transitions, and questionable production choices. For whatever reason this is what earned Avenged Sevenfold a renewed fan. Do yourself a favor, clear an hour of your time, and experience this musical masterpiece.

Stephen Patrick Morrison is a resident of Russellville, an avid gamer, competitive Pokémon player, and purveyor of all things heavy.

Reach out on Facebook or Instagram. @RattyBlueWIZARD


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