Avenged Sevenfold have undergone a great amount of change over their time. The initial sounds that came from ‘Sounding the Seventh Trumpet’ bear hardly any similarity to ‘Hail to the King’. This album shows the band is taking a whole new step forward in their musical style. The untimely death of James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan has meant that their signature drum style of galloping double bass pedals and off beat rhythms has very much ceased to be. Arin Illejay has had very big shoes to fill, but this album is so unlike any that Avenged Sevenfold have done before, that to simply have ‘drummed like the Rev’ would have been a pointless endeavour. The album has a much more raw musical sound. Vocalist M. Shadows stated:
“On this record, we want a very ‘bare bones’, riff-oriented approach. Because it’s really easy for us to say ‘That melody would sound great here, throw this background vocal here, here’s this harmony.’ We had to restrain ourselves from doing that just to keep it more badass and just more straightforward rock”
This style was very much achieved when relating to tracks such as ‘This Means War’, ‘Doing Time’, ‘Heretic’ and ‘Planets’. The strongest tracks on the album are the opener, ‘Shepherd of Fire’, a track that relies strongly on the initial guitar riff and says a fond goodbye to the dual guitar licks that we have come to know so well, and ‘Coming Home’ a track that resembles the style style of bands like Iron Maiden and the harmonies associated with them. ‘Hail to the King’ itself is the most ‘stripped down’ of all the tracks. Simple 4/4 drum patterns and a distinct lack of double bass pedals creates a simplistic yet powerful track. The dark and dangerous side of the band, however, is not lost. ‘Requiem’ has a very satanic aspect to it, not only because of the Latin chants, but also due to its sluggish movement and grinding beat. Tracks such as ‘Acid Rain’ and ‘Crimson Day’ keeps true to the style of Avenged Sevenfold, as they are known for the ability to produce strong, powerful yet laid back tracks such as these, such as ‘Victim’ from the ‘Nightmare’ album and ‘Dear God’ from ‘Avenged Sevenfold’. The guitar style of Synyster Gates keeps true to his ‘melodic shredding’ that he is so famous for. Although the shredding aspect appears on only a few tracks, the melodic solos and riffs are prominent throughout. Finally, the band returns (almost) to their previous style when it comes to the bonus track that is dedicated to The Rev. ‘St. James’ features many of the harmonies and styles that feature on the previous albums.
This album is not to be compared or put up against the ones that have come before it when it comes to judging it. This is a brand new style from a band that has lost a strong counterpart to their previous song writing mechanism. ‘Hail to the King’ presents the listener with a brand new style that is in many ways much more powerful than the previous.
Review by Max Anderson.