When drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan died at the end of December, Avenged Sevenfold's future was in doubt. The Rev was a huge part of the band's sound - and talent. After all, he shared vocal duties with M. Shadows, played his kit impossibly fast and also wrote the songs and played several other instruments.
Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater stepped in with drumming duties and the remaining members of Avenged Sevenfold recorded Nightmare (Warner Bros.), a hauntingly dark and delicious metal album. In short, Nightmare is a perfect tribute for The Rev.
A loose concept album, Nightmare opens with the title track. At first listen, it seems "Nightmare" is the strongest track on the album. This isn't true. In fact, it probably comes in around the middle of the pack in terms of songwriting and memorability. The fact is, on Nightmare, every song is increasingly complex. The album shows Avenged Sevenfold moving in a slight progressive manner. The album is still slick and super polished but it's less commercial than Avenged Sevenfold or even City of Evil. On Nightmare, all the songs need to be considered as a package to really get the entire vibe of the record.
Like "Nightmare," "Welcome to the Family" is a fast rocker. This song will likely become a live staple. M. Shadows manipulates his voice and Synyster Gates does his best Guitar Hero interpretation. Things get real around "Danger Line" and by this time, you should be hooked.
The expanse of influences on Nightmare is wide and impressive and Avenged Sevenfold doesn't try to hide playing up to their music heroes. "God Hates Us" opens with a classic Anthrax sound and easily morphs into Slipknot territory.
Just as soon as Anthrax and Slipknot come to mind, Nightmare shifts focus once again for a song like "Victim," complete with ethereal female vocals and beautiful Glam guitar solos. Just wait for the breakdown - it's like listening to Slash during the Use Your Illusion era all over again. In fact, I almost cried a little when I heard the guitar parts on Nightmare - it was all I hoped it would be and more.
My two favorite songs on Nightmare are the deeply moving "Fiction" and the metal rocker "Save Me." "Fiction" is the last song The Rev wrote and also features his vocals and some amazing piano work. "Save Me" is meant for guitar fans, clocking in at around 11 minutes. From an instrumental perspective, this is one of Avenged Sevenfold's best efforts.
"Serious" music critics have given Nightmare mixed reviews, but that's okay. I know more about metal than the average, hipster loving "critic" who prefers the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and Freelance Whales to anything remotely metal. So there.
Buy Nightmare. Metal lives.