At present, A7X (sorry, but it’s way easier to type that than “Avenged Sevenfold”, so deal with it) has six albums, and I own them all.
Honorable Mention: Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. Their debut album, but actually the third one I purchased. “Warmness on the Soul” is really, really great. A7X uses piano a lot in their metal (which may sound incongruous, but trust me, it’s awesome), and they’ve almost never done it better. However, they’re still in the “screaming all of our lyrics in an unintelligible fashion” phase for almost all of their songs. The first track, “To End the Rapture” is probably the single best song I’ve ever heard that’s less than a minute and a half long.
5. Waking the Fallen. My first purchase, thanks to Madden 2004, which had “Chapter Four” in the sound track, which we thought was about gardening, but it turns out it is not. The second one they produced, they still scream a bit too much, but it’s more or less intelligible, a big upgrade from their first effort.
Best song: “I Won’t See You Tonight, part 1.” Remember how I said that A7X has “almost” never done piano better from “Warmness on the Soul”? This is the exception. It’s magnificent. The concept is that it’s about a man who has seen a particular girl one too many times, always regretting it, and that this is the time he finally decides to leave it alone. For some reason, even though I’ve never been in that situation specifically, this still resonates.
Worst song: “I Won’t See You Tonight, part 2.” I think — this is speculation — this is the girl’s response, and it’s really fucking irritating. The beginning, I swear, has made my ears bleed before. I get you’re trying for “jarring”, guys, and I guess mission accomplished, but it’s still horrible. Probably my single least favorite song of the band.
4. Nightmare. I had a difficult time choosing an album for this slot, but something had to be fourth. This was the first time I heard about a new album from someone else — incidentally, my then 18 year old cousin, which I decided either made me insanely cool or insanely lame. In any case, also the first one I bought entirely digital.
Best song: Ridiculously close. “So Far Away” is the tribute to their drummer, who OD’d. It’s a great song, but for some reason I like “Welcome to the Family” better. I honestly don’t know why — I’m a sucker for sappy songs. “Victim” finishes strong but I’m not fond of the beginning.
Worst song: “God Hates Us.” When A7X misses, they miss big, and this is a miss. They decide “hey, remember when you could hardly understand us? Let’s do that again!” and it’s just… okay. I’m not against screaming in metal per se, but for whatever reason they do it poorly.
3. City of Evil. My second album. It drifts, ever so briefly, into hippy bullshit, but it only slightly touches it. They aren’t really a political band, in my estimation. This is the one that pushed them onto a major label, and it shows a bit.
Best song: 99% of the time, it’s “Seize the Day.” (Remember, I love power ballads.) However, when I’m feeling really angry, “Trashed and Scattered” is an AWESOME song to be pissed off to. “Seize the Day” is better, though.
Worst song: “Blinded in Chains”, but only because it’s not memorable. It’s just kind of there. It blends in with “Burn It Down.”
2. Hail to the King. Their latest, and a really, really tremendous one. They’ve matured, as a band, over time, and I can almost unequivocally say they’re always getting better.
Best song: “Acid Rain.” Don’t worry, it’s not environmentalist bullshit. It’s actually about the end of the world. Absolutely fantastic. “Shepherd of Fire” is really cool, but if you’re a hardcore Christian you’ll be angry when you realize it’s actually supposed to be Lucifer singing. (Doesn’t sound like him, but the lyrics are definitely counter-Jeebus.)
Worst song: “This Means War.” I have to choose something, and the chorus is a little annoying. Still pretty awesome.
1. Avenged Sevenfold. Who’d a thunk — their self-named album is actually their best! Not everybody will like it — it’s the one album they use a bit of auto-tune on, and two of the songs are actually kind of disturbing in a visceral way. I think it’s tremendous.
Best song: “A Little Piece of Heaven.” It has everything — plays on words, a fantastic story (essentially, boy meets girl, boy is afraid of losing girl, so he kills girl [pretty graphically], girl returns from the dead, kills boy, they marry in Hell, and then go on a killing spree — you know, really heart warming stuff), and it opens with fucking klezmer music. Klezmer! In a metal band! “Dear God” and “Gunslinger” are also excellent, and the three probably rank as my top three favorite songs by the band.
Worst song: “Lost”, but only as a general protest against auto-tune. It’s actually still a very fine song.
So, there you have it.