Black Reign – Avenged Sevenfold

This compilation of four Avenged Sevenfold songs made for Call of Duty collects songs with similar motifs, and I really like each of these songs. The choruses of “Mad Hatter” and “Not Ready To Die” feature M. Shadows gloriously wailing in the major scale despite that they’ve been playing in minor for the rest of the song (especially in the last chorus of “Mad Hatter”). It’s a kind of mode mixture we don’t normally hear in metal, and it is an excellent display of technical prowess. There’s also “Carry On”, which features the same chromatically descending chord progression as those two songs, but uses it not as a vehicle for major-scale interpolation but to perform some interesting back-and-forth key changes. The album closes with “Jade Helm”, a series of non-connected riffs which likely functioned well in the backdrop of Call of Duty, but doesn’t really function as a song. I prefer to look at it as an exhibition of Avenged Sevenfold’s expertise, and it does well in that sense; my favorite section is the 6/4 riffing at 2:09 that you know you’d love to mosh to. In addition, the lyrics of these songs really sell the video game plots they accompany, keeping in mind A7X’s understanding that one of the worst parts of war is its effect on the soldier. Another highlight of the album is the guitar riffing on “Mad Hatter”, which directly mirrors their awesome performance on “Jade Helm” but acts to provide real powerful harmony; the bridge of the song features soloing over the vocals that would be excellent on its own but provides an expert counterpoint to the vocal melody. Then again, you love to see the City of Evil-style thrash guitar that they move back to on “Carry On” and the phenomenal 6/4 guitar solo “Not Ready to Die”. It’s hard for me to explain what I like most about this album, but you should definitely sit back and listen to this epic zombie metal collection. I’m not a fan of CoD’s glorification of war and use as a military recruiting tool, and I think you’d be better off playing a game like Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt, but this is a great EP. One of the nice things about this band is how incredibly anti-war they are (see “The Stage” and “Exist” off their most recent album) while still constantly making the case that we need to do better by our servicemembers.

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