Avenged Sevenfold have a reputation of being the pop boys of metal. It's fair to say - they definitely have one of the more accessible sounds in the genre. While remaining easy to listen to in terms of the levels of metal, they often do it well. Their new song is not one of these cases.
'The Stage' is perhaps one of the most uncreative, gimmicky songs the band has ever put out. From the over-the-top angsty music video to the absolutely dreadful drum mix, this song really has hit all the checks for bad.
You'd think progressive A7X couldn't be that bad. You'd have thought wrong, though. 'The Stage' is melodramatic in the worst ways possible. The band is known for being bombastic and upfront, but this is just distasteful. It does have multiple distinct sections that work to a passable ending that takes the song out on its only positive note. The intro is brought straight from the title track 'Hail To The King' from their 2013 effort Hail To The King in a move which shows that the band is basically ripping themselves off (at least it's not Metallica this time). The song abruptly segues into a clean, almost bluesy bridge after an electrifying solo. The guitar in this part is really great, the instrumental as a whole sounding really genuinely pretty.
Then the heaviness comes back. It's not as bad as the verses had set up, but it's still not great. The song ends with dual guitar solos in that 'Nightmare'-esque fashion and pounding drums (the only part of the album where the drums are tolerable). A classical acoustic ending brings the song to an awkward end as the crash cymbal fails to fade out with the rest of the instrumental. Also, why did they end with an acoustic guitar? What is the relevance?
Not only is the performance out of place, but the instruments themselves just sound awful. The kick drum in the intro sounds like something a teen trying out a double-kick pedal or a sampling pad for the first time would sound like. The tone of it is so completely dead, too. The snare is okay, and the cymbals are fine, but as for the rest of the kit; it's like they forgot to mic them appropriately. Their new drummer Brooks Wackerman is really not doing them any favors - Bad Religion won't miss him if this is his work now... The guitar lacks bass or crunch, sounding floppy and weak. The lead parts are good, as is expected from Synyster Gates, but what happened to the rhythm guitar? Why does M. Shadows sound like a dying horse in the third verse? What's going on?
To make matters worse, the lyrics are absolutely laughable. By some tragic miracle, M. Shadows seems to have misplaced his own lyrics with an angry middle-schooler's diary. Who let "When did the walking apes decide that nuclear war / Was now the only solution for them keeping the score? / Just wake up / Can’t you wake up?" be words to a song? The key to being prolific and making a statement is ripping cliché metaphors straight out of angry YouTube comments? The second verse sings (in the song's awful, failing melody) "Jesus Christ, was born to die / Leave it to man to levitate his own to idolize / We’re simply sociopaths with no communication baby / I see your angle but we differ from our points of view," as if this isn't the cringiest line you've ever heard in a metal song (barring Limp Bizkit, of course, who made that their thing).
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, the music video is atrocious. It's a giant metaphor on war and corruption, with handpuppets replaying scenes from the history of man, including the beheading of Louis XIV and World War I. An interesting concept, but done with the wrong song and the the wrong direction. Watching puppets in these scenes with crappy metal playing in the background doesn't do any justice. When Hillary Clinton and Vladmir Putin appear at the end as puppets controlling the other puppets, you can't help but say "Oh, come on." Then another set of strings control those puppets, the strings attached to a skeletal hand that presses a button the detonate a nuclear bomb, sending us back to the age of cavemen, because that's how evolution works.
There's so much wrong with this song, and it makes me angry. I want this song to be good. Repeated listens lighten the initial "what and why is this" reaction, but fails to make the bad elements of the song any better. It's a badly produced song and a badly produced video to combine into one fail of a show. Hopefully the rest of Voltaic Oceans holds up, because if this song (and the edginess of the album title) are proof of what's to come, we're doomed.
Rating w/ Video: 40