For Avenged Sevenfold fans and rock aficionados alike, Nightmare has been one of the most highly anticipated albums of the summer. It would be a lie, however, to say that all of this anticipation was in good faith. It’s no secret that the band’s drummer, Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, passed away in December 2009, and since then the production and even the release of this album has been on unsteady footing. But out of the shock and mourning by all Avenged Sevenfold fans, who respected and adored Sullivan for his relentless musical skill and overall role in the band, Avenged Sevenfold persevered and completed the album, with the assistance of legendary drummer Mike Portnoy, formerly of progressive metal band Dream Theater. Needless to say, the state of the album, as well as its overall nature and sound compared to previous albums, was under severe speculation prior to its release. It is also needless to say, for those who rushed out to buy and pre-order the album that it has established itself as one of Avenged’s most daring albums to date.
The first track to dip your toe into is the album’s first single ‘Nightmare’, and for a six minute track you most certainly get your money’s worth. The track oozes with the pulsating drumming/bass camaraderie and the deliciously twisted guitar riffs that made their two previous albums such massive successes on the mainstream rock and metal scene. A phenomenal track yes, but you may get the feeling afterwards that you’re getting set up for more of the same from the Huntington Beach rockers. But don’t be disheartened, as the tracks that follow are purpose made for shock. There have been several mentions that many of the songs on this album offer a sort of cap-tip to rock veterans such as Metallica, and in many ways a more sustained and refined metal sound can be heard seeping through Matt Shadow’s melodic and often less aggressive vocals in tracks such as ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘So Far Away’. But any homage to more established rock outfits – including traces of Megadeth in the riff work on ‘Danger Line’ – more often than not rears its head in the form of extended guitar solos. Tracks like ‘Natural Born Killer’ and ‘God Hates Us’ have more of a step-backward quality to them, employing a volatile playing and singing style that hasn’t been heard much since the early albums, like Sounding The Seventh Trumpet. At this point we’re thinking “this is flashbacks and tributes, show us something new”. But then we get to tracks like ‘Welcome To The Family’ and ‘Tonight The World Dies’, which ring true with a quality of addictive tonal darkness that can’t be replicated; you’re reminded why this band has consistently set itself apart from others. Nightmare is a coming to terms with change, and even though it’s really only a stepping stone it shows hints of a whole new mutation of the band.