Well, it was bound to happen; all these hardcore bands running around dressed like glam rockers sans the teased hair had to inevitably lead to a return to the music that spawned that same fashion. Until now, the bands have sounded like short-haired mosh-metal, but the clothing has been decidedly glam. Certainly, the hardcore scene of the past was rife with machismo and the violent crews and straight edge riots did nothing but encourage the testostorone-fueled antics of the more fanatical members of the scene. But at some point, the tide began to turn. Suddenly a vibrant and vital music scene that had been hijacked by the worst stereotype of jock swung to the opposite extreme; it became effeminate, delicate even.
Relegated to the memories of older scenesters were the memories of kids in fake furs being pummmeled at Earth Crisis shows; instead, the faux fur would emerge as a symbol of the most forward-thinking fashionista. The natural consequence of this? Avenged Sevenfold and their City Of Evil.
I suppose what I'm saying is that you can't really fault Avenged Sevenfold for their chosen genre of music. The kids wanted to look like glam rock; they wanted the major labels, the cash and teenaged groupies of glam rock. Eventually someone was bound to put two-and-two together and ask why they were bothering with this whole hardcore thing when they could just save time by singing like Guns'n'Roses and playing like Guns'n'Roses. And the “Guns'n'Roses-core” of Avenged Sevenfold is not ironic; in interviews they speak lividly of “markets” and focused demographics; undoubtedly, they will be tracking their soundscan numbers from the luxury of a plush, major label bus as they make their rounds to the Warped Tour, playing to kids who weren't old enough to remember Axl Rose. No, Avenged Sevenfold has fully immersed themselves in the heavy fuckin' metal of 1985, and expect all the trapping that it could bring.
Accordingly, while the failed auteur of Chinese Democracy is certainly the first name that springs to mind when listening to City Of Evil, comparisons to Alice In Chains' decidedly more metal Facelift are also deserved. Vocalist M. Shadows sounds eerily like the late Layne Staley, particularly on “Burn It Down.” Almost completely boiled away are the Thrice comparions which dogged their first full-length, replaced instead with what I imagine will be endless kudos from the British metal press; the band conjures up Iron Maiden far more than Bad Religion this time around. Harmonized leads, endless soloing and cover art which could have been borrowed from a long forgotten 80's hair metal album; it's all here.
Besides the overwhelming power metal cheese of the band -- which may or may not be a strike against them depending on your perspective -- there are some decidedly more objective problems with the record; the first is certainly the overwhelming length of many of the songs. While it is possible to write an effective song at longer than five minutes, it is remarkably difficult for Avenged Sevenfold to do so while mantaining any semblance of a theme and still keeping things interesting; far too much of the material on the record stretches far beyond any measure of patience, often reusing bridges, choruses and ideas haphazardly.
The frustratingly catchy “Blinded in Chains” starts strong, but falters simply because of the sheer endurance as the song seemingly repeats itself for about three minutes before finally finding its footing. At more than six minutes, one wonders why the band didn't consider ending the song about halfway through; instead, a catchy opening is forgotten as they trudge aimlessly through the song.
“Seize The Day” is clearly the band's most obvious scrounging of Guns'n'Roses, complete with a nearly-plagarized melody layered over a piano and a guitarist soloing in what I imagine is a top hat. The seven-minute “Sidewinder” begins with a solid, shredding riff, but the eventual caterwaulling vocals which accompany it deaden any of it's power.
Avenged Sevenfold has pulled off a remarkable transformation over their few records; gone almost entirely is the screaming, the growling and other vocal cartwheels at which M.Shadows admittedly excelled; in its place are songs that place a remarkable amount of pressure on his singing voice. At times, he succeeds, and at other times his Axl Rose imitation falls short. The band has strayed so far from hardcore that it becomes incredibly difficult to rate it; as a hardcore, punk or even metalcore record, it is a decided failure, choosing all the self-indulgent noodling that inspired bands like the Ramones and Minor Threat to do something different. On the other hand, as a attempt at power metal, it succeeds on nearly all counts. All the elements of the genre are in place and done surprisingly well.