01. Waking the Fallen Despite its brevity, ambience and mood are what make this a very listenable opener. Right off the bat, you can already tell the production is miles above and beyond prior effort, “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet”. Of course, this just means it sounds like any rock album should sound — no self-produced, cringe-inducing face-palms here! Shadows’ vocals are the star of this show, sounding great with background screams and a strong clean vocal over simple but effective instruments.
02. Unholy Confessions One of Avenged Sevenfold’s more recognizable songs, “Unholy Confessions” perfectly embodied the sound of A7X up to that point in 2003. The hammer-on/pull-off guitar intro is distinct (well, it was back then) and the power slides bring a decent, if not a little underwhelming, variety to the mix. The drumming is nothing awe-inspiring, but its very tight and hosts a tricky double-bass pattern near the end. The vocals on this song alone are so much more enjoyable than “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet” was altogether. Shadows does a good job of alternating between his signature scream and his, well, signature clean vocals. The chorus is catchy and the harmonies enjoyable. There’s not much to question when wondering why this was A7X’s first somewhat big hit.
03. Chapter Four The Rev steals the show with his constantly busy drum work. Gates and Vengeance are more than serviceable with their drop-D chugs and Shadows presence is strong throughout with his screams being layered over his clean vocals. The verses are on the quicker side while the two part hook has a slower, operatic first half and then it’s back to the fast pacing for a good kick in the teeth. “Chapter Four” is constantly changing up its landscape, never letting you drive down one road for too long, allowing for a varied trip. I love the quick choir-like lead-in for the decent breakdown and the brief harmonic solo that’s reminiscent of those 80′s/90′s metal bands we love.
04. Remenissions M. Shadows lets loose a guttural growl over the reliably pummeled drums over the frisky guitars before slowing just a tad bit down for a great, thick verse. The standout of “Remenissions” are the perfectly-placed double pedal bursts and the ever-changing guitar work by Gates and Vengeance. It’s hard for repetition to set in if most musical segments, if you will, never last longer than 30 seconds and thank God Avenged Sevenfold knows how to mix things up. The song slows down to midtempo chugs then bursts into punk-rock-paced onslaughts that soar from one height to another. It’s a fantstically varied listen and you have to tip your hat off to the musicianship present here. Special shout out to the Hispanic-tinged segment of the track, a great mixture to the proceedings.
05. Desecrate Through Reverence The intro is deceptively bland because hot damn the verses are fantastic, featuring one of Shadows more higher screams — not to mention the great drum roll that leads into the verses. The chorus doesn’t quite match the verses in terms of quality, but hey, it’s not that bad of a chorus, no matter how forgettable it is. The harmony layered solo is simple and not memorable, but again, it provides a nice layer of variety. “Desecrate” burns out around the halfway mark until the climactic ending; had it kept the pace up, it could have been another home run, but sometimes a double is good enough, right?
06. Eternal Rest No build up here — it’s an attack on your hearing senses right from the get-go, courtesy of Gates impressive fret work. Shadows screams through the punk-style-drummed verses before another another chug fest is slammed down upon us to great effect. The aggression during the slowed-down chorus is strong and the build up back to the more punk style is natural but you just can’t wait for those thick guitars to come buzzing back again — it’s hard not to nod your head along to these parts, no matter how simple the strumming of the guitars are. The clean bridge kind of comes out of nowhere and isn’t written to as good as it can be. Other than that small gripe, “Eternal Rest” is a mosher’s delight.
07. Second Heartbeat Ah, it was too good to be true for the greatness to continue, huh? By no means do I mean is this song terrible by saying that, it’s just not quite as impressive as the prior tracks. It’s still a good number but I can’t help but feel like nothing separates it from the rest of the pack, sounding like a weird, sometimes mundane potluck of all the other songs on the album. It has some cool moments that include some tremolo picking, but they’re far and few in between. The long six-minute running time doesn’t help it, either, as it just starts to sputter out despite some of The Rev’s great fills. At least Gates and co. have an absolutely killer, Megadeth-like closing moment, with Synyster absolutely lighting up that guitar neck.
08. Radiant Eclipse I’m not really a fan of the whole “haunted guitar” intro, but I do dig the Arabic-like second half of the intro before burst into some more of that chugging I oh-so can’t get enough of. There are parts in the verses where The Rev plays with the ride cymbals offbeat to great effect. The chorus is a great listen as Shadows’ gruff clean vocals soar, showing that these guys can write some really good choruses.
09. I Won’t See You Tonight (Part 1) Ah, nothing like the sweet, sweet sounds of a pleasing piano to ease you into a near nine minute track and a bombastic opening that sees Gates fulfilling the lead well. Christ can actually be heard on the bass on the verses on the track and the guitars during the chorus are nice and thick in their simple chord progression. There’s a simple but good in a moody kind of way solo around the 3 and a half minute mark that adds some variety to the song. The last portion of the song is led by a soft piano that builds up to a rather disappointing “explosion”, that is, until Shadows comes soaring in. “See You Tonight” is good considering its long running time, but I can’t help but feel that not enough was done to make me want to come back to this song, no matter how great the atmosphere is — there’s just something missing.
10. I Won’t See You Tonight (Part 2) Talk about a chaotic opening, screeching feedback and all. So the second part of the decent “I Won’t See You Tonight” pair is definitely less brooding and more in your face. Shadows undoubtedly sounds great when he yells “IIIIIIIIII!” in certain parts, providing a chest-thumping bravado to the mix because, despite the quicker pace, I found some parts of the song to be more dull than the first part of the pair. The second half of the guitar solo sees a much needed boost of distorted guitars before going back downhill with a bland bridge. The only real good thing about this song is the cool descending factor of the choruses and the latter half of the solo. Other than that, there’s not much here worth listening to.
11. Clairvoyant Disease A7X slows things back down to a midtempo halt, with an interesting intro and a musically calming verse. Had it not been for Shadows transition from clean to rough vocals in the chorus, I would have written it off as a forgettable one, but his scream injects a necessary dose of testosterone to the hook. “Clairvoyant Disease” is host to multiple solos, the first sounding decent and being technically sound, the second being less technical but it better amplifies the song. The bridge is a bland stretch that goes on for too long and I’d go as far to say to cut it out and just leave the second guitar solo there. At least the brief, clean outro is a pleasant way to end the song.
12. And All Things Will End Once again, the soft leads to the harder pastures of distortion in “And All Things Will End”. For a good portion of the song, it’s a slugfest of chug-a-chugs and while it keeps the momentum going, it’s startin to get tiring hearing it when it’s not executed as well as it could be (i.e., not as varied as it is in their other songs). The slower parts of the song considerably damage the song as I found myself running out of patience — nothing about the instruments or vocals spoke to me during this near two minute segment. Thankfully, the gear is shift back up to 6, well, more like 3 or 4 because the transition back into the quicker pace falls flat. “And All Things Will End” has too many filler segments that drag the song down and had they decided to cut the fat or at least add more flavor to these segments, then perhaps it’s 8 minute length could have been forgiven, but with its too many dull moments, it’s kept from being something worth coming back to — sorry Gates’ closing solo, but that was one hell of a clunky and boring closer to end on.
“Waking the Fallen” is, without contention, an undeniably vast improvement over debut album “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet”, which was a horrible album in retrospect. Literally every aspect of Avenged Sevenfold’s metal game has been injected with steroids and put through the “300″ workout. The two standouts are drummer, The Rev, and vocalist, M.Shadows. The Rev is constantly providing a soundcape chock-full of variety and impressive technicality and, while Shadows’ voice can be nasally and occasionally grating, when he soars, it’s hard to think of an equal. Vengeance is as solid as a rhythm guitarist can get an Gates has several moments where he shines but he doesn’t quite show here why he’s one of today’s best guitarists. “Waking the Fallen” has an absolutely stellar first half that’s a good ass-kicking of a listen while the last quarter of the album sputters out and ultimately ends in a disappointing whimper.