September 20, 2018 Avenged Sevenfold – Black Reign (EP Review)
Arguably one of the world’s greatest Rock bands today, Avenged Sevenfold are set to deliver one mad tea party with the Black Reign EP, which arrives on Friday, September 21, 2018, thanks to Warner Bros. Records.
Avenged Sevenfold have come a long way since their earliest days on the OC Metalcore scene. Affectionately known as A7X, the band are one of the premiere acts in any sub-genre of Rock-n-Roll, beloved the world over, and are officially a Grammy nominated act. This all comes thanks to a string of blockbuster albums, including their 2005 platinum-selling breakthrough, City Of Evil, 2007’s platinum-selling Avenged Sevenfold, and two consecutive No. 1’s on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart: 2010’s Nightmare and 2013’s Hail To The King.
They have achieved Diamond, Platinum and Gold awards for album sales in nearly a dozen countries, racked up over a billion video views and a billion-plus Spotify streams, have consistently been one of the most-played bands on Rock radio for over a decade, and have headlined arenas and the biggest Rock festivals around the globe, amassing a die-hard international fanbase whose members number in the millions.
It is no secret that the guys in Avenged Sevenfold – Vocalist M. Shadows, Guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, Bassist Johnny Christ, and Drummer Brooks Wackerman – have a long-running relationship with the Call of Duty video-game franchise and its creators, Treyarch, so here, they cull together all of their offerings from the series to create the four-song EP, Black Reign. With just over 20 minutes of music, it’s a reason for A7X fans to smile, and yet most fans will have already heard three quarters of the material.
This was all inspired by the upcoming, October 12, 2018 release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Says Jason Blundell, Director of Zombies at Treyarch: “As fans of the game and as world class musicians, Avenged Sevenfold has demonstrated an innate ability to convey the emotion and raw power of the Call of Duty Zombies experience. We’re introducing fans to a new cast of characters in Black Ops 4 and delivering the biggest Zombies experience to date. With IX we knew we needed something epic and A7X delivered.”
For the upcoming Black Ops 4, the band composed the brand-new original, “Mad Hatter,” which was recorded in Los Angeles this past March with The Stage’s producer, Joe Barresi. It is a song that pulsates and throbs through its hills and valleys, with massive sonic layers that also possess a delicate Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun”) influence embedded in its chorus. As always, fans can expect nothing less than magnificent guitar work from the exceptional Synyster Gates, as his equally talented bandmates experiment with a multitude of sounds throughout this one offering – including Shadows going up into the highest reaches of his vocal register to do his best Axl Rose. Music for and inspired by a video game? Sure, but it’s certainly not simple background noise!
Shadows’ soars on “Carry On,” where the band hold down a crunchy fort full of racing guitars and high-octane energy to fuel any gamer’s performance. As the track was initially released in 2012 for Black Ops II, it has a kind of City of Evil meets Nightmare vibe and should already be well-known to fans.
“Not Ready To Die” was initially released in 2010 for Black Ops, and it revolves around the backstory for the game’s Zombies storyline. Here, the band present what one can consider their classic sound: Shadows’ vicious growls, seductive guitars, oft jack-hammering drums, and a steady bass-line anchoring the entire production.
The epic instrumental “Jade Helm” was composed in 2015 for Blacks Ops III. The track meanders through several phases, from a typical A7X beginning, to a Metallica-influenced mid-section, all with a vicious backbone of truly commanding drum work from Wackerman.
So, let’s be entirely honest: while the material on the Black Reign EP consists of four solid tracks from the A7X oeuvre, material that fans should own, most die-hards already know three out of four of these songs. Which in no way downgrades their excellence but is simply a reminder that Black Reign might be black magic mayhem, but it’s a familiar spell, for sure. Loving “Mad Hatter” and excited to see what’s next for this exceptional band, CrypticRock give Avenged Sevenfold’s Black Reign EP 4 of 5 stars.