Avenged Sevenfold – Life Is But A Dream…: Album Review

Avenged Sevenfold return with their first new album since 2017. Life Is But A Dream… sees the California metallers step back into the limelight with aplomb.

Released: 2nd June 2023
Label: Warner Music
Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital / Cassette

From the off, Avenged Sevenfold have stated that Life Is But A Dream… should be listened to as a whole. The idea of an ‘album’ sometimes feels like a lost art, but it is a joy to see a band fully commit to the ‘album’. It is perhaps a bold choice to make this statement early on, what with the lust for short, sharp hits on streaming services, however, fully immersing yourself in a record is truly rewarding.

Game Over opens the album and musically sets the tone for the record in that it flits between styles and genre. There is the folky intro reminiscent of early Sabbath interludes and there is the punky thrash that evokes The Misfits. M. Shadows also lays down his marker vocally. His delivery is doused in drama, and he doesn’t let up throughout playing the parts of the characters depicted during the album.

Mattel continues the maelstrom of genre hopping with progressive elements creeping into the mix in amongst some of the heaviest riffing you will hear. It harks back to A7X of 15 years ago; thunderous and uncompromising. Again, the dramatic is prevalent; there is a feel of a musical about the whole thing.

Nobody was released as one of the lead ‘singles’ and it does stand up on its own. When listened too as part of the album, it fits so much better. The arc of the story of the album talks about our path towards the end. From the suicidal end of Game Over, through Mattel and Nobody, it is a bleak start but one that speaks of truth.

We Love You appears to talk about the relationship between ones self and the wider capitalist world. On one hand, you feel like an individual but the corruption of the world leads you down inevitable paths of consumerism and the lust for more of everything. Musically, the song plays out the sides brilliantly. Again, the proggier side of the band kicks off the song in relative bliss before the sinister bass and thumping drums lay the bed for a sinister guitar riff as the world slowly gets bigger and darker around you. It perfectly brings a sonic claustrophobia to the piece and is a masterful composition.

Cosmic is the longest track on the album. It displays glorious solo guitars and heartfelt emotions of love, long distance love, love on the other side, and as the listener, wherever you interpret that love coming from. There is certainly a level of balladry in the song and it sits perfectly in the arc of the album. For a band that has been away for so long ( in terms of their output) Life Is But A Dream… is a bold return. Where A7X are concerned, bold is best. Cosmic is very bold. Orchestral sections, electronic licks, vocoded vocals and so much more make up this incredible song.

If the palette was getting a little lighter with Cosmic, Beautiful Morning throws shade at the lighter variants. Synyster Gates delivers a sumptuously dense guitar tone with a chugging riff to propel the track. Words written by Gates and A7X’s sadly departed Rev make up a more serene middle section before the razor sharp guitars return. Theological themes come through more clearly with vocal references to walking on water. This feels like a foreshadowing of the later trilogy of songs on the album; G, (O)rdinary and (D)eath.

M. Shadows has his vocals manipulated again at the start of Easier. This leads to another massive riff that will see heads bang around the world. Just like many other parts of the album, you can’t sit still as the music moves all over the place. If ever there was an album to keep you on your toes, this is the one.

If you had hints of progressive rock in the earlier strains of the album, then G absolutely hits like a prog record from 1973. Mahavishnu Orchestra are in the jazzy rock fusion here. You could also cite Frank Zappa’s Overnite Sensation era as a reference point. (O)rdinary and (D)eath follow suit. These three tracks are wonderfully indulgent and progressive but do not outstay their welcome. (D)eath evokes Sinatra and Presley at his lounge like best. Think heavy metal getting a helping hand from Burt Bacharach. With (D)eath comes the end of the story; at least vocally. The instrumental title track closes out the album in sombre fashion.

Thematically and musically, Life Is But A Dream… is destined to become a modern day masterpiece. Conceptual works are nothing new for Avenged Sevenfold. This record sets a very high bar for them, and could be seen as the record that showcases their best work throughout change. A little like Radiohead did with Kid A or U2 with Achtung Baby. It takes a lot of talent to put together so many different styles of music. It takes a lot more talent for it not to sound cluttered and confused. Avenged Sevenfold have nailed it on one of the finest records of 2023; it is both grandiose and immersive.

Check out the awesome video for We Love You, below.

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