Technology is one of the few things in this world that is always advancing. It makes our lives easier, as human beings, while also seeking to create different purposes for itself. What happens, though, when this marvel advances too far and proper precautionary measures are not taken? This isn’t a sci-fi novel/movie we’re talking about, this is real life. AI is very real, has begun to develop self-awareness and has become incredibly curious. Rather than write a traditional album, Huntington Beach Rock/Metal legends Avenged Sevenfold has decided to bring awareness to the scientific pros and cons of AI. On October 12th, the band released “The Stage,” their first piece of new music since the arrival of ex-Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman joined the fold. Admittedly, it would seem that the premise of this single was set up a lot like “Hail to the King,” starting out with an ominous tone before guitarist Zacky V and Synyster Gates lit up the speakers, in true Avenged fashion. The single hit radio before it hit the web and the online world exploded with excitement. What could this mean? Are we getting that new A7X album that the band promised us back in January? Only time would tell… indeed, it did. To further toy with fans, though, Chris Jericho (Fozzy/WWE/Talk With Jericho) decided to get together with vocalist M. Shadows and create a fake title and release date (which he later removed, as if creation by mistake), to further fans’ anticipation. Voltaic Oceans was to reportedly be released on December 9th… the mystery had been solved, or so it would seem. The band started teasing a HUGE live stream event, courtesy of the new VR platform VRTGO and Universal Music Group and their new label Capitol Records. On October 27th at approximately 8pm ET, without warning, one of the biggest rock bands today made history by releasing their ENTIRE new album, The Stage, upon an unsuspecting world… in both digital AND physical formats. This groundbreaking announcement was made just moments after they took to the roof of the legendary Capitol Records building in LA, where they performed a 4-song set (Nightmare, The Stage, Planets, Acid Rain), complete with some spectacular projected effects that brought it to life in a whole new way. So there it was… an 11-track, 71-minute epic record that would seek to change the face of music forever. Having had quite a spectacular career, thus far, how does it stack up? Let’s dive in and find out.
In terms of how this album was put together, vocalist M. Shadows put in a ton of research into the subjects that he wanted to discuss. The idea was sparked by the writings of Carl Sagan and Elon Musk, while the album itself features a speech written by Neil Degrasse Tyson specifically for the album. The track in question, “Exist” clocks in at just under the 16 minute mark and is their longest track to date, musically projecting the beginnings of the universe to where we are today. Where Hail to the King was a smorgasbord of the band’s influences, creating a much more stripped-down version of the band, The Stage takes experimentation to an entirely different level. Vocalist M. Shadows has obviously been working on his range, first evidenced on “Planets” and “Acid Rain” from the aforementioned HTTK. That work has paid off and continues to show with “The Stage” tremendously. Most notably in the chorus, he has become a lot more confident in his vocal abilities and, thus, has begun stepping out of his comfort zone. Years ago, as a young man writing lyrics for the bands’ first 2 albums, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet and Waking the Fallen, I have no doubt that he would’ve failed to hit the notes that he’s hitting today. This means one of two things: either he’s got a hell of a vocal coach, who pushes him past his comfort zone, or he’s just that driven as a vocalist and wants to see what he can do next. Zacky V was quoted as saying that the album comes across as “aggro” and no one could really grasp what he meant by that. It’s clear now that he meant aggro in an aggressive, hardcore/punk-influenced way. This becomes evident through tracks like “God Damn,” which is a testament to where our state of political and religious affairs has left us and what could happen, if events continue unfolding the way they are. The way that man has become reliant on technology has been called into question on one of my personal favorites, “Creating God.” “We’re creating God, master of our design. We’re creating God, unsure of what we’ll find” Shadows warns, as he tells of the impending dangers of technology advancing too far, without creating some type of security measure to deal with any mishaps. Specifically, we’re talking a self-aware, sentient being devoid of feeling and, thus, a major threat to the world we hold so dear. Syn’s father and guitar virtuoso, Brian Haner Sr. lends his talents to the outro solo on “Angels.” This track shows Shadows melodic voice, in the vein of previous A7X tracks such as “So Far Away,” “Crimson Day” and “Seize the Day” but not quite as melodic as “Warmness on the Soul,” it still has an edge to it. The solo is quite impressive, given the fact that Haner was given complete creative control and nailed it in one take! “Simulation” is another stand-out track, to me, as it calls to what happens when an Artificial Intelligence realizes just how much more superior to humanity it really is. The lyrics call out, as if they’re mocking the human race… warning that their entire annihilation is just over the horizon.
This album deals with some truly terrifying realizations, from a scientific standpoint but does its best to present them in as understandable a manner as it can. The Stage is the band’s most ambitious album to date, cherry-picking the best parts of their back catalog and blending them together to present their best work to date. Produced by the band and Joe Baressi (Tool, Coheed and Cambria, The Melvins) and once again calling upon Andy Wallace for mixing duties and Bob Ludwig for mastering, this album has the best, high fidelity sound that an album can have in these days. Drummer Brooks Wackerman shines bright, even bringing in some blast beats (a first for the band, even Sounding the Seventh didn’t contain that) and giving a recognizable playing style, reminiscent of the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, which will make fans of the band extremely happy. I’d go so far as to say that The Stage is the best album of this decade, if not further into history. So, take that “admit one” stub, take a seat and be ready to be blown away, as Avenged Sevenfold takes The Stage, out now on Capitol Records!
“The Stage” (Official Music Video)
“Avenged Sevenfold – Live From Hollywood (on top of the Capitol Records building)”
Avenged Sevenfold is:
Matt Sanders (aka M. Shadows) – Vocals
Zachary Baker (aka Zacky Vengeance) – Guitar
Brian Haner Jr. (aka Synyster Gates) – Guitar
Jonathan Seward (aka Johnny Christ) – Bass
Brooks Wackerman – Drums