Avenged Sevenfold's first two albums had a clear influence from heavy metal, but the California combo also freely incorporated emo, screamo, and post-hardcore elements. The mixing and matching meant 2003's Waking the Fallen had as many sighing harmonies as it did harmonized guitar freakouts. And yet City of Evil, the band's third record and Warner debut, is absolutely rife with the imagery and pacing of classic metal. Look at that artwork. It features a skeletal swordsman flying a steed with steaming nostrils over the urban inferno of the title; tattoos, demons, and a skull with flapping wings adorn the lyric book. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence is immediate and prevalent, from the maniacally rippling percussion throughout to the triumphantly whining lead guitars in the chorus of "Blinded in Chains," or the soaring melody in "Burn It Down" that meets its match in Metallica-styled verses. The downshifts into guttural roars are largely gone, replaced by better-integrated atmospheric stretches or the tighter songcraft of a track like "Bat Country," which intersects punk and pop influences in a manner similar to My Chemical Romance. At over seven minutes, "Wicked End" is a late-album standout. Vocalist M. Shadows rips through couplets like "We've grown in numbers, six hundred sixty-six/War breaks, a sign of the end, eternally expelled/Look to the sky for knowledge, the stars align tonight," guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance trade off blistering solos, and there's a full choral interlude in the center, complete with an angelic host and sighing cellos. Which is all totally metal, and refreshingly unmarred by attempts to fit too many jumbled genres in. City of Evil's ballads are a little trite, and even its double-bass raging doesn't necessarily break new ground. But Avenged Sevenfold gets all the pieces right, and sound like they're having more fun here than in the scattershot approach of the first couple records.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus