Orange County's Avenged Sevenfold have undoubtedly been the biggest breakout metal stars of this Millennium. Over eight, wildly different studio albums they have evolved from underground goth punks to arena-filling hard rock superstars, all the way to prog metal-loving, festival headlining A-listers. Every album has exhibited daring new ideas and continual creativity, so it's a challenge to crown their greatest moment, but we took it on regardless. Here, then, is A7X's entire back catalogue ranked from worst to best.
8. Sounding The Seventh Trumpet (2001)
Released on Belgian punk label Good Life back in 2001, STST is by no means a bad first go at releasing a record, even if it is very derivative of the goth-leaning metalcore that was bubbling up through the underground courtesy of 18 Visions, xCanaanx and more, but the band would go on to outstrip it considerably with pretty much every release they recorded after that. Still, the stomping We Come Out At Night will still get fans of old school metallic hardcore moving all the same.
7. Hail To The King (2013)
A number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic upon its release, and the album that finally saw Avenged achieve their longtime goal of reaching the summit of the Download festival bill in 2014, but that doesn’t stop Hail To The King being the least creatively interesting of the band's output. Adopting a Black Album-like approach of making their songs more mid-paced, stomping and straightforward – never more literally than on Sad But True soundalike This Means War - the result is a one-dimensional listen that doesn’t really elicit much excitement. Brilliant opener Shepherd Of Fire and the record's massively successful title track are clear exceptions, but Hail To The King is more remembered for the huge stage show that accompanied it.
6. Nightmare (2010)
The first album to be released in the aftermath of the death of drummer and band architect Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, Nightmare is a hugely emotional record and features some exceptional moments. Unfortunately, the album is somewhat dwarfed by the context that surrounds it. When we get the bangers, they are truly superb - Welcome To The Family is a huge, anthemic moment that could go toe to toe with anything they’ve ever recorded and Buried Alive is pretty much the perfect metal ballad - but too much of the record just slightly misses the target. An album with a lovely sentiment, and one that came from a place of real heartache, but Nightmare isn’t quite up to the standard of Avenged at their very best.
5. The Stage (2016)
The surprise-released follow-up to the disappointingly linear Hail To The King was a bolt from the blue from anyone expecting more of the same. The Stage is Avenged’s space-themed, post-prog-metal odyssey, and comfortably the best thing they released during the 2010s. From the stop-start chugging of God Damn, the lounge-louche horn section on the woozy Sunny Disposition and to the Meshuggah-do-War Of The Worlds blowout of the epic 15 minute long closer Exist, this was a rejuvenated and well-oiled A7X flexing all of their creative muscles. Well, as we later found out, at least most of their creative muscles.
4. Waking The Fallen (2003)
Seen by many OG fans as the definitive Avenged Sevenfold album, Waking The Fallen is the final offering from Avenged's "metalcore years”, before frontman M Shadows decided to stop screaming for a while and the band elected to go in a radical new direction. Still, the album itself takes the band's original sound as far as it could possibly be pushed, and is absolutely rammed with highlights. Sprawling, emotional, nine-minute epic I Won't See You Tonight Part 1 hinted at the OC crew's lofty ambitions; Second Heartbeat's thunderous, Iron Maiden gallop is one of the most breathless, pulsating pieces of music 2000s metalcore ever produced; Unholy Confessions is a generational anthem that remains a staple of Avenged's setlists to this day. Ultimately, though, smashing it here and then bailing on the scene that bore them was probably the reason we’re still talking about Avenged Sevenfold today.
3. Avenged Sevenfold (2007)
The final album to feature the idiosyncratic drumming style of The Rev, and he went out with what’s arguably the most hit-filled album of the band’s career. Almost Easy, Afterlife, Critical Acclaim and Dear God stack up as the strongest collection of singles from one single Avenged album, but there is a lot more to Avenged Sevenfold than that. Lost and Scream continued the meld of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses that the band rode hard on predecessor City Of Evil, but if there is one song here that steals the show then it has to be the eight-minute-long A Little Piece Of Heaven, which took Danny Elfman’s Beetlejuice score, Brechtian musical tableaus and some murderously gothic imagery and packaged it to a bunch of metal fans, who promptly lapped it up. In an album packed with greatness, it was a little piece of true genius.
2. Life Is But A Dream... (2023)
Bold, ambitious, divisive and, quite frankly, batshit insane, Life Is But A Dream... might not have dished out the infectious hooks or instantaneous anthems of many of its predecessors, but as a body of work, when all is said and done, it may just go down as Avenged Sevenfold's definitive artistic statement. Where The Stage surprised fans by flirting with spacey prog rock and wading into some of the band's most conceptually dense themes to date, Life Is But A Dream... tore up Avenged's rule book, set it on fire, seasoned it with hallucinogens and ingested it.
The result was an astonishing, unsettling, 53-minute odyssey taking in influence everywhere from Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Mr Bungle and The Beatles to Daft Punk, Kanye West, and Frank Sinatra. A trip in every sense of the word (not least due to some of the album's more mind-altering influences), it serves as by far the most interesting, most varied and most unique offering from a major metal band in decades. Most incredibly of all: it totally works, and managing to flow as one, cohesive piece of art. Life Is But A Dream... may have bemused Avenged fans wanting more instant gratification, but for those willing to take the ride, it was clear Orange County's favourite sons had cooked up something truly special.
1. City Of Evil (2005)
There are many reasons why City Of Evil took Avenged sailing to the next level. Firstly, there's the bravery and ambition the record showed by ditching the zeitgeist sound of millennial metalcore and embracing hard rock and the sleaze of the 80s Sunset Strip glam scene instead. It created a Day-Glo, larger-than-life, sonic explosion of riffs and solos in a scene full of blokes in jeans and black t-shirts lazily thieving At The Gates songs.
The album also showed that Avenged could achieve incredible success by furrowing their own path and refusing to be swayed by the trends of the time. It’s something that always deserves to be applauded, and that Avenged took City Of Evil to the masses and won the award for Best New Band at the MTV Awards for Bat Country (Ahead of Chris Brown, Rihanna, Panic! At The Disco and James Blunt at the height of his You’re Beautiful fame) was a massive statement for rock and metal at the time.
Thirdly, and most importantly of all, City Of Evil just slams harder than any other album in their back catalogue. In terms of an opening run of songs, The Beast And The Harlot, Burn It Down, Blinded In Chains, Bat Country, Thrashed And Scattered and Seize The Day is as strong as any metal album you wanna put it up against. It’s also the record where we learned that M Shadows could really sing, that Synyster Gates truly was a modern guitar god, that The Rev was a uniquely, visionary artist and that Avenged Sevenfold were more than a bunch of cocky kids: they were actual superstars. They’ve never looked back, but they’ve also argurably never topped this landmark album.