M. Shadows - Vocals / Synyster Gates - Guitars / Zacky Vengeance - Guitars / Johnny Christ - Bass / Brooks Wackerman - Drums
While the typical song structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus has existed for decades, anytime someone comes along with a song or songs that break away drastically from that mold, it definitely takes time to adjust. That's completely the case with Avenged's long-awaited new album Life Is But A Dream. Taking pride in being the rulebreakers that they are, they created a record that got not only many fans, but also many non-fans scratching their heads. As an artist, you write music for yourself first and foremost, and hope that like-minded people will resonate with your creation. There's nothing wrong with taking the fans' requests into consideration, but you gotta make sure what you're creating resonates with you first of all. Each album you do is like a photograph or a snapshot in time, because it represents the person you were in that period of time.
If you thought The Stage was a nutty album, Life Is But A Dream takes that to the next level. There are songs on here that really make you wonder what the hell is going on. Much like our dreams tend to not make a lot of sense, this whole album has twists and turns might not make a lot of sense either. It really feels like this album is a dream in itself. "We Love You" seems like the most bizarre track that keeps taking different turns as it goes along. An example is where one of the choruses puts you into a hypnotic state, but then without warning, you're awakened by an abrupt drop into full-on thrash territory. The song then heads into what sounds like a malfunctioning machine where the repetitive vocal line slowly increases in speed, feeling like it's about to self-destruct, and for the final two minutes, it goes psychadelic with acoustic and slide guitar. I know, it's bizarre.
Of course, there are some songs that follow the more straightforward song structure formula, while still adding a couple of twists to keep it interesting, like "Game Over", "Mattel" and "Beautiful Morning", but things get even more bonkers towards the last few tracks, where they start to incorporate elements of electronica, like on "(O)rdinary" and cinematic film scores like on "(D)eath" and the closing instrumental title track. Synyster Gates also keeps things interesting in the guitar department, by showcasing his versatile mastery in areas such as gypsy and latin jazz. I think Robb Flynn said it best when it comes to the process of writing a new record, which he describes it as "being completely lost looking for the door knob in a dark room", because you have no idea where you're going, but things eventually start to fall into place. I guess that must've been what it felt like for A7X when it came to making this album, given the amount of influences they managed to cram across 11 songs, but they managed to make it work.
One of the album's flaws is that much of M. Shadows' vocal melodies feel like they weren't rehearsed or constructed ahead of the tracking process, because many of the songs lack vocal hooks. They feel like they were sung off the top of his head in the vocal booth during tracking and the first takes were kept and put on the album. I know that's not the case, but that's what it feels like because of the lack of vocal hooks. At this point, we're obviously never going to get another Waking The Fallen, City Of Evil or Nightmare again, so all you old school fans are gonna have to accept it whether you like it or not. Avenged Sevenfold are artists, and as an artist, you're here to create and expand. That being said, Life Is But A Dream is one of those albums that requires a lot of listens because it's so vastly different than what people would normally expect. If this is their most bonkers album to date, we can only imagine what kind of insanity they'll conjure up next.