Definitely hard to move on after death. It would be hard for even the coldest bastard on Earth to not acknowledge the loss of a friend, and some would even argue that grieving is not only healthy but essential.
Imagine if you worked with the same people, lived, partied, existed with the same people as one entity for over a decade and then one of you suddenly ceased. This is the tragedy suffered by Avenged Sevenfold in December of 2009 when their drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan passed away from an accidental drug overdose. Sullivan, who was considered one of the best drummers in his genre, if not music, was a known user of drugs, but nobody quite expected his loss, especially not the other four members of A7X.
The band forged on, though. They went into the studio with music that The Rev helped create and got help from a friend, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. Portnoy, who was Sullivan’s favorite drummer and idol came in and provided the drums for the album while the vocals Sullivan left behind were left intact.
The result is something that, at times, feels familiar, and other times feels new. Regardless of lost drummers, this has always seemed to be Avenged Sevenfold’s modus operandi: creating new music that has hints and elements of previous works, while shifting (in some ways) dramatically towards a completely new style. Some fans or ex fans will say that A7X have gotten more “radio friendly” over the course of 4 previous albums and it would be difficult to argue against that, as they’ve shifted more from screaming to melodic vocals. But, things like harmonizing guitar solo’s, machine gun drums and low end bass never go out of style, it seems.
Nightmare is not unique in the shifting department. Certain parts feel more like a throw back to the Sounding/Fallen days like “God Hates Us.” Other tracks, like “Nightmare” seem like a more natural evolution that the band has taken from City of Evil to their Self Titled album. Tracks like “Danger Line” bring something new, albeit not great, to the table. Other tracks like “Welcome to the Family,” and “Buried Alive,” have a feel of familiarity and power to them and are a solid A7X effort for a fallen brother.
More or less, “Nightmare” doesn’t evolve the way the band has in previous albums, but that may not be bad. I wouldn’t call this album more of the same, or even stagnant. It’s all together right in the middle… let’s just hope that The Rev isn’t floating in the same purgatory and is resting peacefully. Thanks for 4 great albums.