2. Welcome To The Family
3. Danger Line
4. Buried Alive*
5. Natural Born Killer*
6. So Far Away
7. God Hates Us ^
9. Tonight The World Dies
11. Save Me
A quick detour before I review the album as a whole: Nightmare was originally set to be a concept album by California’s Avenged Sevenfold. The music was conceived and the lyrics (to my knowledge) had been written for the original draft. However, tragedy struck on December 28th, 2009 when drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead at his home for reasons unknown (it was later revealed as polydrug intoxication). It was at this point that the remaining band members put aside the thought of a concept album and instead they created the ultimate tribute to their fallen bandmate and life-long friend. Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy was recruited to record studio drums.
Out of this great tragedy, Avenged Sevenfold prevailed with what I consider to be an instant classic. The gang had already wowed me (as well as everyone else) with 2005’s City of Evil and gained mainstream popularity with Avenged Sevenfold a few years later. With Nightmare, they not only give their most mature album to date, but they also demonstrate that they are clearly not out of ideas just yet. Included in the album are some of the group’s heaviest, catchiest, thrashiest, and at times, most touching tracks they have released. The even more amazing part is that none of the members have even reached thirty yet. Personally, I cannot wait to see what territories the guys will enter much later in their career.
Right off the bat, the title track “Nightmare” (one of the only songs to include the lyrics for the concept album idea) shows the band’s diverse scope. Beginning eerily with what sounds like a toy piano or a mobile, the band quickly turns the song around with some in-your-face, staccato riffage. The track may be an acquired taste considering it bears resemblance to more mainstream metal bands, but it is indeed a taste worth acquiring. Aside from “Nightmare,” other tracks such as “Natural Born Killer” (my possible favorite song on the album and easily my favorite guitar riff) and “Welcome To The Family” represent the classic Avenged sound, but are also a step forward in song structure and composition.
But if you came here for songs like “Seize The Day,” you won’t be disappointed either; there are more than a handful of epic, 80s style ballads to pick from. My personal favorite is “Buried Alive,” which plays out like one of Metallica’s great ballads. The track begins with a peacefully harmonious riff, punctuated only by a comparatively heavy chorus. About halfway through, it goes full-on heavy metal awesomeness, complete with a chugging guitar riff and a percussively catchy feel. Also noteworthy is the simple yet bittersweet “So Far Away,” which has lyrics like an open letter to The Rev. Later on, we get to “Victim,” which bears somewhat of a resemblance to “Wasted Time” by Skid Row or even “Danger” by Mötley Crüe.
However, the two saddest moments come at the two tracks at the end. The second to last song, titled “Fiction”, is a piano-oriented song composed by the Rev just days before his death. The final version includes both his and Shadows’ vocals in somewhat of a duet. The lyrics are the most peculiar part about the song, raising the question of whether or not the Rev’s death was suicide. However, the track is beautifully symphonic and theatrical and is one of the best songs on the album. The next track “Save Me” does not lay it on thick until the tail-end, in which the phrase “Tonight we all die young” is repeated over and over in front of a piano chord progression that could break hearts.
Nightmare quite honestly gets better and better with every listen, which is one clear mark of a great album in my book. The only track that I have not gotten great feelings for is “God Hates Us,” which plays out like a song from the band’s metalcore days. The album in general does not quite beat City of Evil as my favorite work by Avenged Sevenfold, but it is terribly close. What the album does do, though, is solidify the band’s position as one of my favorite music acts of this generation. Wherever he is now, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan must be very proud of his brothers and humbled to have played part in such a legacy. Nightmare is not quite perfect, but it is damn close. Way too close.