Life Is But A Dream...

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Game Over
02. Mattel
03. Nobody
04. We Love You
05. Cosmic
06. Beautiful Morning
07. Easier
08. G
09. (O)rdinary
10. (D)eath
11. Life Is But a Dream...

Southern California metal band AVENGED SEVENFOLD have evolved over the years, and that progression is amplified on their latest album, "Life Is But A Dream..." The band came out of the gate with 2001's "Sounding the Seventh Trumpet" and 2003's "Waking the Fallen", which established them as early metalcore titans, but then changed to a more straight-ahead heavy metal and classic hard rock sound on 2005's "City of Evil" and their 2007 self-titled release.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD's next two albums, 2010's "Nightmare" and 2013's "Hail to the King", took them from underground status to revered, buoyed by chart-topping singles such as "Hail to the King", "Nightmare" and "Welcome to the Family". Then, AVENGED SEVENFOLD changed their sound yet again with 2016's surprise release, "The Stage", which introduced a prog edge to their meat-and-potatoes heavy metal sound.

Now, with "Life Is But A Dream..." , the band have once again morphed. This time, they've released a collection of songs that bring together so many different sounds, it's almost overwhelming, from jazz to grunge to electronic to psychedelia. Perhaps the METALLICA comparisons will finally be put to rest with this one?

"Life Is But A Dream…" kicks off like a traditional metal album, not letting on to the surprise that's ahead. "Game Over" begins with a classical guitar passage and crashes into a classic AVENGED SEVENFOLD song, with aggressive vocals from M. Shadows and sharp riffing from Synyster Gates.

Next up is "Mattel", named after the Barbie Doll company. There's a lot going on in this gem, from thick walls of guitars to grating synths. Here, Shadows sings of an artificial world with dramatic, Freddie Mercury-like vocals. "We Love You" presents a chaotic, swirling, psychedelic song that puts the drums at the forefront and paves the way for Shadows' crunchy, cookie monster-like vocals.

Moving ahead, "Beautiful Morning" is a grungy, sludgy number with dissonant harmonies that sounds like it could fit on an ALICE IN CHAINS album. If "Beautiful Morning" isn't jarring enough, then skip ahead to "(D)eath" for a real shocker. This plays like a full-fledged jazz song, with Shadows channeling Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett alongside slippery, jazzy instrumentals. Gates originally wrote the song for his wife; very romantic.

Meanwhile, "G" is a jam-y, prog rocker with backing vocals from Taura Stinson and Brianna Mazzola, while "(O)rdinary" sounds like a bubble-gum alt-pop song. In the latter, Shadows' voice is almost unrecognizable with heavy auto-tuning and effects. The title track rounds out the album, which is a beautiful, instrumental piano ballad, totally unlike anything AVENGED has ever put on an album.

While "Life Is But A Dream..." is a triumphant example of how much talent the members of AVENGED SEVENFOLD possess, it's also a head-scratcher. Many bands dabble in different styles of music and blend new voices into their sound, but this is a total 180 from what many consider, well, AVENGED SEVENFOLD. It's a conquering album, but time will tell how it stands up to the rest of the band's celebrated catalog. Either way, there's something to respect about a band that obviously adheres to their singular vision, without outside influences, even if that means confusing some fans along the way.

Author: Anne Erickson
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