The Stage has struck me right from the start for its experimental concept. A concept that while familiar for Avenged Sevenfold (hereafter A7X), as earlier releases were actually marked by their creative experimentation, has been obliterated in their previous work. So far, that approach has rendered them far from perfect albums but absolutely great tracks. In The Stage, A7X follow an intellectual and progressive approach and step into dangerous territory where other groups (such as Tool, Dream Theater, and Meshuggah) have been playing for a long time.
The tracks appear riddled with detours, instrumental breaks, and shifts that help build up a mythical atmosphere you can feel right off the bat with ‘The Stage’: a solid, rich and immersive track where the slow and heavy progression set the stage for the record. Record where they show a rather particular concept of progressive metal that can be felt throughout the entire album. Sadly, the unending quest for meaning slowly takes over the record and erases any trace of the soul felt in the opening track. Interestingly, the moment where they seem to unwillingly let themselves go is actually the defining moment where the greatest tracks (after ‘The Stage’) emerge: ‘Higher’, ‘Roman Sky’, ‘Fermi Paradox’ and ‘Exist’.
In the end, A7X seem to be more mature after the uninspired ‘Hail to the King’ and produced their most diverse (and probably their most unapproachable) album so far. Still, this album leaves me thinking they’re exploring new ground to distance themselves from their previous work rather than to follow the logical evolution (I’ve been waiting for) of City of Evil  and Nightmare . Unfortunately, to me seeing a group like A7X straying away from their original style the way they do for (roughly) half of the record is as much a sign of courage as it is of loss. Personally, I miss old tracks like ‘Afterlife’, ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘Save Me’ but seeing them pouring their heart and soul once again and particularly in the last tracks of the record will definitely leave me on the lookout for their next work. 3 out 5 stars. MRR
TRACKS TO LISTEN INCREDIBLY LOUD The Stage, Higher, and Roman Sky
TRACKS TO FORGET Sunny disposition, Creating God, and Simulation
Post published in MEDIUM on November 1, 2016