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© Brian Hineline/Retna Ltd.
Power is an appropriate word. Hail To The King sounds enormous.
Planets combines epic brass parts with Metallica brutality, not to mention a chorus that we can see inspiring some huge live throwdowns. Elsewhere, Coming Home launches with Maiden bombast before morphing into a bluesy rock ballad. Whatever they’ve done, it’s worked.
“We needed to make a record like this,” reckons Syn. “This was a huge challenge for us. We even tried writing an overly progressive song – something that, at that time, we felt was quintessentially ‘Avenged’.
"But we couldn’t do it. We were having so much fun challenging ourselves to create the best melodies, the best arrangements, the best drum parts, that we just had no interest in these ‘part-part-part’ songs.”
For a band that so gleefully experiment, space, it seems, really was Avenged Sevenfold’s final frontier.
“For this album, the rhythms are much more simplistic,” elaborates Zacky. “And, being a guitarist who always wanted to be a guitarist solely to get on stage and play in front of as many people as possible, as loud as possible, it’s a dream come true.”
Ironically, and because life can be a bit of dick like that sometimes, simplifying the rhythms and stripping out most of the duo’s trademark duelling lead lines has presented a whole other set of challenges.
“It’s actually much more difficult than people would imagine,” says Zacky. “Going back and listening to songs played with such feel, there’s a complete art to that in itself. The guitars have to pull on the drums just enough to the point where it creates this sound that resonates with people. [Whereas] if you just hammered it onto a grid in Pro Tools, it wouldn’t be the same.”
Just as Zacky has found the pocket in his rhythm, playing Hail To The King sees Synyster Gates’ finest work to date as a lead guitarist. He’s always been a technical wizard, but this is the record where Syn has learned to play with real feel. The GN’R-inspired Doing Time sees the lead maestro embrace bruising Slash-style blues, This Means War is wailing whammy bars galore, and the twisted Requiem recalls Zakk Wylde’s wah work.
“I wanted the solos to reflect these incredible grooves laid down,” says Syn. “We started listening to Dimebag Darrell, Eddie Van Halen, guys who just have unordained feel and groove to them, as well as swagger...”