Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…
Released: June 2nd, 2023
M Shadows // Vocals
Synyster Gates // Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals
Zacky Vengeance // Rhythm Guitar
Johnny Christ // Bass
Brooks Wackerman // Drums
Avenged Sevenfold being behind the supposed ‘hack’ of their own social media accounts to say they were cancelling festival appearances, was definitely NOT one of the things on my 2023 Music Bingo card! Neither was the five-piece from Long Beach releasing an album (the first since The Stage was surprise released in 2016), but luckily, here we are. Life Is But A Dream… drops today and I know that there has been nothing but anticipation for what M Shadows, Zacky Vengeance, Synyster Gates, Johnny Christ and ‘new’ recruit Brooks Wackerman could come up with.
Life s But A Dream… kicks off with ‘Game Over’, which opens with some pretty Spanish-sounding acoustic guitar before properly kicking off with the heavy instrumentals. The vocals are fast and frantic at first, before slowing down and becoming more recognisable as the track progresses. We get a signature Synyster Gates guitar solo about a minute and a half in, and Brooks absolutely smashes this shit out of his drums. The stomping double kick is so impressive and just shows why Brooks fits in so well with the band, even though the shoes left behind by The Rev have been hard to fill. I like the way this one opens and closes with the acoustic guitar, making it feel like a complete package.
When the following track ‘Mattel’ began, I felt like I was being transported back to City Of Evil era A7X because it gives off ‘The Beast and The Harlot’ vibes. Unfortunately, that vibe doesn’t stay throughout the whole five and a half minutes, but, makes appearances every now and then. There’s a synthy electronic-sounding part at around the 3-minute mark, interwoven with Syn’s guitar solo, and it’s a little bit weird but I didn’t find myself hating it. The band have clearly been experimenting with sound over the last 10 years, so it’s not entirely surprising that it’s there either. Leading single ‘Nobody’ is up next, and it took me several times listening to it through before it grew on me. While it has classic Avenged feels, such as the layering of Shadows’ vocals throughout, with the stomping drums and duelling fast guitars from Syn and Zacky, it also has something very synthetic about it. It’s lyrically a strong track, with the accompanying music video aiding in the storytelling. There’s also some beautiful string arrangements woven through the latter parts of ‘Nobody’, and Syn has a great solo as well.
Speaking of a great accompanying visual to aid with the storytelling, ‘We Love You’ comes with an interactive VR music video. Matt really shows off his quite impressive vocal range throughout with the lyrics changing between spoken, sung and growled, including some very (and I say this as a positive!) pretty clean, high vocals. I highly recommend watching the video whilst listening to the song, at least the first couple of times, to get a really good understanding and feel for it. ‘Cosmic’ is the longest offering on Life Is But A Dream… coming in at around seven and a half minutes. It’s one of the longest Avenged have given us (though dwarfing in comparison to the fifteen or so minutes of beauty on ‘Exist’ from The Stage), and is definitely a journey. You get tricked about 5 minutes in when the music fades out, but trust me, it keeps going after that. Brooks is kept extremely busy on this track, but his drumming is flawless as always, and I really love that he’s being allowed to show off how incredibly talented he is as a drummer.
‘Beautiful Morning’ definitely has darker vibes than the songs preceding it, at least in the first half. The bass often gets lost in amongst everything else going on musically, but there’s just something about the way Johnny Christ plays that makes him stand out. The bassline on ‘Beautiful Morning’ is one of my favourites on the album, and is a great tool that is used throughout to keep things together. I’ll also never get mad about bands including other instruments on their songs, and the ending piano part is so beautiful. Matt clearly found a love for synth because ‘Easier’ opens with some very synthy vocals. He’s also gone back to using a CB radio to sing through as he did on ‘The Stage’, and I really enjoy the way it comes across. The whole track actually feels like you’re inside a pinball machine with the different sounds that pop up during, and it’s probably one of my favourites on the record overall. The outro is pretty fun and funky too, which really helps to make ‘Easier‘ stand out and sound different from the offerings preceding it.
Speaking of things that are funky, that’s definitely how I’d describe the intro to ‘G’. It’s very obvious that Syn has been influenced by Mr Bungle, something both he and Matt have talked about in the past. There’s a lot that I could say about this one, but I really just recommend that you go and listen to it. It’s something I can only describe as fun, and Matt’s voice sounds silky smooth and kind of sexy in certain parts. I think ‘G’ is going to quickly become my go-to song when I’m having a bad day and need to smile. ‘(O)rdinary’ is anything but and for some reason I got really confused about what I was listening to. There’s a complete shift in the tone and vibe of the album at this point, and I thought maybe I was listening to a different album accidentally. It’s still just as funky as ‘G’, but in a completely different way. It’s almost a dancey track, especially with the drum and bass and the way Johnny and Brooks play off each other.
‘(D)eath’ continues on with what I can only describe as weirdness and a complete 180° in tone, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing? A lot of people complain (myself included) when a band just puts out an album full of music that sounds the same. Avenged Sevenfold definitely haven’t done that and I commend them for it, but it’s definitely going to mess with people a little. Somehow we’ve been transported to a jazz club, and I can picture Matt singing into an old-fashioned microphone at the front of the stage, while Syn, Zacky, Johnny and Brooks stand behind him wearing suits and looking suave. It would also fit in perfectly as an outro to a movie that plays during the end credits.
‘Life Is But A Dream’ is both the title and the final track of the record, and it’s a four and a half minute, hauntingly beautiful piano ballad. There’s no vocals here, just the piano, and it’s such an interesting and different way of closing out a record but for some reason it works. If you had told me 10 years ago that Avenged would close out a record with a piano ballad I would have laughed in your face, but I guess it really does show how much the band have changed and grown.
I really really wanted to love Life Is A But A Dream… because Avenged Sevenfold is a band I’ve grown up loving and having a lot of respect for, but I just didn’t. It’s not a bad record by any means, and I definitely didn’t hate it, I just think that my music tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older and the current era of A7X just isn’t wowing me. I wasn’t expecting the record to sound anything like Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, or even City Of Evil, with the experimentation the band dabbled in for The Stage, that would have been naïve. While I’m very impressed with the direction Avenged Sevenfold are taking with their music, Life Is But A Dream… may take a few listens before fans can fully appreciate it.
Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream… tracklisting:
- Game Over
- We Love You
- Beautiful Morning
- Life is But a Dream