Coming off a Best New Artist Award at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, the members of Avenged Sevenfold returned to the studio, ambitious to create an exciting follow-up to City of Evil -- perhaps overly so, as their self-titled release focuses entirely too hard on pushing the songs into non-metal territory. Their signature, blistering Yngwie Malmsteen guitar arpeggios and lightning fast double-kick drums are still evident, but the overall heavy metal thunder is diluted by their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. Left alone in the studio to record the album on their own, AS show their unbridled enthusiasm to be as inventive as possible as they run through a staggering amount of production enhancements: four songs have string arrangements; violinists, pianists, and vocalists make guest appearances here and there; "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a strange Mr. Bungle type number with sax, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet, and "Unbound (The Wild Ride)" throws in the most un-metal addition of all -- a children's choir. Some of these enhancements help take the songs to the next level but most detract, and give the sensation of inappropriately mashed-up styles, like listening to a Dream Theater album on a boom box while a nearby clock radio plays Charlie FM. Vocalist M. Shadows, who required surgery on his vocal cords after Waking the Fallen shows that his training with Ron Anderson (vocal coach for Layne Staley, Axl Rose, and Chris Cornell) has been for the greater good. Rather than screaming or doing the metal growl, he sings in a few gritty voices, showing an obvious Mike Patton influence, and actually sounds pitch-perfect. His skills, and the entire band's technical ferocity, is flawless as ever, but just gets lost in a cluttered vision. Perhaps the worst culprit of their excessive studio trickery is when a Cher-esque "Believe" pitch corrector/vocoder is introduced to the chorus of "Lost," essentially stomping out a fiery '80s speed-metal jam into lukewarm embers of passé electro. While their willingness to experiment is admirable, despite the fact that they've gone overboard with their overdubs, the overabundance of studio polish leaves one to wonder if it's not because the songs just aren't as strong this time around.
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2