They abandoned metalcore and achieved fame by aping on Guns N' Roses' Sunset Strip decadence mixed with what could have been Helloween trying to 'Kill 'Em All'. Odd is it then that Avenged Sevenfold have discarded their golden ticket for a scatterbrained record so bent on self-indulgence that it reeks of pretentiousness.
Fundamentally, the ideas here are clever and one can definitely respect the band for the huge chances they take. There's an abundance of eclectic instrumentation grafted onto the songs, ranging from the quirky Mr. Bungle-like horns that infect the colorful "A Little Piece Of Heaven" to the lap and pedal steel that support the handful of country, yes country, styled crooners. But once the novelty of the keys, strings and the like wear off after the first few songs, you soon find out that there are no boundaries to this record.
Things just plain get messy as these extra flourishes begin showing up in every song, quickly wearing out their welcome. If any record could have benefited from a producer to help the band to reel it in, this would be it. There are numerous questionable moments, like the cringe-worthy backing choir vocals of "Unbound (The Wild Ride)" which really just make the listener wonder how much this band like the smell of their own shit.
Add in some cliched female call and response vocals; a painful Mike Muir carnival barker impersonation and a frontman, who while more adept at singing melodically this time around, still comes off like Linkin Park's Chester Bennington fronting a scuzzy glam rock band; and you have a recipe for disaster. The only thing saving this album from the brink is once again the astute dual guitars of Synster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, both of whom continually dazzle with intricate solos and taut crunchy riffs.
Beyond that you have an album the label probably should have rejected. It's admirable that the band have felt the need to distance themselves once again and have continued to reinvent themselves - hell, all you metalcore bands out there could take a lesson from them. But with little restraint and some of the most flaccid long-winded song structures seen in quite awhile, the 'critical acclaim' will not likely come easy for this band. Especially with only small sections of songs, rather than the full tracks themselves, being the most noteworthy inclusions here.
(2.5 / 5)