A ‘Nightmare’ This Is Not

If you are an Avenged Sevenfold fan, you undoubtedly know of the tragic death of their iconic drummer, James “The Rev” Sullivan. His replacement is Mike Portnoy, of Dream Theater fame, who takes over the drums for the band’s latest album, “Nightmare.”

The Rev was a fantastic and talented drummer, and his drumming was an integral part of Avenged Sevenfold’s sound.

Needless to say, a great deal of anticipation was centered around how the music would sound without The Rev, and how Mike Portnoy would sound playing The Rev’s parts on the album.

Portnoy’s execution of The Rev’s parts is just about as good as it gets, and after listening to “Nightmare,” it’s quite obvious why the band chose him. As for the drumming aspect of the record, Avenged Sevenfold made no mistakes. Additionally,  the album is excellent in terms of the songwriting. The band’s sound hasn’t changed much. It’s that well-known blend of grit and sinister melodies A7X are known for. They have achieved an extremely strong following with their sound, so there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance both have their dissonant harmonies and powerful riffs, and M. Shadows’ vocals are suitably gritty. Combined with Portnoy’s spot-on drumming, A7X has managed to faithfully recreate all the key elements of their signature sound.

What gives the record extra meaning and oomph is that it is grounded on a particular, real emotion. The album largely addresses the grief A7X felt over the loss of The Rev, and therefore deals with a certain set of issues, which gives the album that much more depth.

The opening title track, “Nightmare,” begins with an eerie, chiming melody that quickly jumps into traditional Avenged Sevenfold wailing leads and thundering drums. M. Shadows’ catchy vocals through the chorus are one of the high points of the song, and you’ll soon find yourself humming along with him.

Starting off with a similar staccato-snare rhythm as A7X’s own “Blinded in Chains,” “Danger Line,” the third track, quickly bursts into a lightning-fast attack. The song eventually moves into a piano outro with a power ballad-esque solo. It’s here in the end of the song that you’ll find one of the most powerful moments in the album. Shadows’ lyrics, combined with the knowledge that they’re remembering a fallen brother, are sure to hit home. At the very least, the whistling at the end will give you goose bumps. You can truly feel the farewell they’re giving to a beloved friend.

“God Hates Us” starts with a somber guitar intro. Not quiet for long, however—the band throws you into one of the angriest songs on the record. The verses push into a throbbing chorus in which Shadows bellows “God hates us all” over equally hypnotic and heavy guitars.

With its dark acoustic rhythm, sinister slide guitar leads, and Shadows’ vocals, “Tonight the World Dies” comes across as half deranged score for a Western film and half dark ballad, a winning combination in the hands of A7X. The song is well placed between some unconventional work in the outro of “Victim” and “Fiction.” In addition to its quirky eeriness, the track has passionately sung vocals which help to push the awesome A7X-ballad feeling.

“Fiction” starts off with a bellowing, haunting piano that carries through the song. The beautiful melodies are played by The Rev himself, and some of the vocals on the track are sung by him as well. “Fiction” is undoubtedly one of the most powerful songs on the album, not only because The Rev is heard on it, but also because it is full of fantastic melodies and striking vocals that capture the listener.

“Nightmare” is a great album. It’s Avenged Sevenfold through and through. The album has classic A7X elements that will attract every fan of the band, but what truly gives it an edge is that it addresses something powerful that the listener can truly feel through the songs. Even if you aren’t a diehard A7X fan, something from the emotion in the tracks to the technical fervor with which the songs are executed will attract you.