Look on the interweb and you'll find love for Avenged Sevenfold and you'll find hate. A lot of hate. I understand the love, but I don't quite understand the hate. The hate brigade's consensus would maintain that they're poseurs. Wannabes. Clowns in the metal circus. This is dismissive.
I've always viewed them as a group of kids who don't quite know what they want to be when they grow up. As kids, they seem to be having fun being rock stars but have succumbed to the trappings of such to varying degrees. They're not pretending to be metal. They wear their love for the genre on their half-sleeves. But musically, they seem to lack focus and as a listener, this can be frustrating.
They aren't the first band to try and marry a metal sound with a seemingly punk ethos (their credibility in the latter has certainly been brought into question), but while the amalgamation has seen much success with other bands, it creates a dichotomy with Avenged (I will not call them A7X, as I am not 15 years old and I am not sending a text) that they just can't seem to overcome.
Their first couple of albums were spotty - some good but mostly bad, but on 2005's City Of Evil, they finally seemed to come out the other side of their growing pains. The album was far from perfect, but they found a hook-laden groove in tracks like "Bat Country", "Strength of the World" and "The Beast and the Harlot" that served them well. The subsequent follow-up albums, Avenged Sevenfold and Nightmare, while having some glimmers of hope, unfortunately proved that the growing pains had yet to be completely over and done with.
Hail To The King shows the band as more confident, more self-assured, and more grown up but the flip-side to that, is the band has never sounded more boring. It would seem that all the youthful hubris and balls of what made City of Evil great, is now gone and the band has settled for mid-tempo, mid-road mediocrity. Think Linkin Park with more tattoos.
Ok, that sounded bitchy. A band with this much potential just shouldn't sound this plebeian. But don't misconstrue these comments. I am not a hater. My intent is not to shit on this album. But Avenged have strayed from the path. I still maintain that "Bat Country" was one of the most exciting, energetic songs to come out in a long time, but there's nothing even close to anything capturing that energy on Hail To The King. The only bright spot on the entire disc isn't found until track 8 - "Coming Home", which harkens back to the Avenged of yesteryear. Despite this album and all of its flaws, I'm not quite ready to dismiss Avenged Sevenfold. I think that there may still be a great album yet to come from them. Until then, all I know is that Hail To The King isn't it.