Album review: Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…

Huntington Beach heroes Avenged Sevenfold hurl themselves off the deep end for sublimely batshit eighth album…

Album review: Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…
Sam Law

It’s not hard to make an album that’s utterly, certifiably bananas. From Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart to Devin Townsend and iwrestledabearonce, rock is littered with acts who’ve done big business slamming together disparate ideas in the name of being bonkers. Shockingly, most of them were on drugs, too. So to reveal that Avenged Sevenfold have followed-up 2016’s audacious The Stage by cracking out the hallucinogens and plunging deeper into the unknown isn’t tantamount to saying the resultant album is any good.

Except Life Is But A Dream… is good. Damn good. Crazily so. In the process of shedding any lingering preconceptions about genre, consistency and the basic rules of songwriting, the Huntington Beach boys haven’t just made an album that’s more out-there than any they’ve put their name to before – they’ve delivered a set of songs that are simply far more fun.

Looking at the tracklist, for instance, one might imagine that opener Game Over might be another thudding Call Of Duty companion piece. Instead, you're taken on a 226-second thrill ride, starting with Stairway To Heaven-style chamber music, before erupting into a slamming blend of A7X at their most frantic and System Of A Down at their most unhinged, then spiralling off into M. Shadows’ weirdo croons about ‘swinging from my family tree’.

Mattel is the heaviest song you’ll ever hear named after a major toy company, cramming in flourishes of musical theatre, juddering production and a synth-laden prog-rock crescendo. The thumping industrial of Nobody segues to rump-a-pump brass riffs, ’70s vocal harmonies and a wonderfully widdly guitar solo. Then We Love You delivers a percussive masterclass, careering through runaway punk, pounding techno, bloody-knuckled hardcore and hauntingly wiry acoustic guitar. And still, we’re barely a third of the way through.

It’s reductive to call this Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘on drugs’ album, but the chemical magic of the LSD in its veins is undeniable. Bonkers without boredom, manic without meandering, it’s an experience weirdly evocative of the wide-eyed, white-knuckled, ultimately euphoric thrill of dropping something ill-advised before wandering into the city lights, not knowing where you’re headed, what your face is doing or, indeed, which way is up.

The moments of real lucidity pop even harder for it, too. Alice In Chains-inflected highlight Beautiful Morning blindsides you, sandwiched between Rainbow-meets-Bowie space-rock epic Cosmic and openly Kanye-indebted funk-metal banger Easier. The three-song suite of G, (O)rdinary and (D)eath, meanwhile, reckons on big ideas – life, love, region and, once again, killer AI – while cramming in country, soul, disco, jazz and everything in-between.

If there’s a criticism to be levelled it’s that the closing title-track wrong-foots you ione last time, offering up understated, instrumental piano when it seemed like the album was heading for some gloriously over-the-top burnout. But the joy here is, ultimately, in the unexpected. And listeners can always just head back to the start to peel back the countless layers they didn’t even realise were there. A trip worth taking, over and over again.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: System Of A Down, Sigh, Metallica

Life Is But A Dream… is out on June 2 via Warner

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