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In The Pipeline: The Rev's last works evoke tears

August 09, 2010|By Chris Epting

In January, sitting at the funeral for Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, one had to wonder what was next for the surviving four "brothers in arms" from Huntington Beach.

They had been about to enter the studio at the time of the tragic loss, and Jimmy himself had been working on some demos for inclusion on the new set. Would they continue? Could they go on? Perhaps most importantly, who would be sitting behind the drum kit?

Well, here we are in August, and the questions have been definitively answered. The band's new release, "Nightmare," just became the No. 1 CD in the country after bumping Eminem from the slot. And legendary drummer Mike Portnoy from the band Dream Theater dutifully picked up the sticks not just for the record, but for the current tour as well.

Portnoy, one of Jimmy's musical heroes, was honored. As he told me in a recent interview, "This was a chance for me to pay tribute to the Rev in a special way. I feel like these are my brothers now as well, and being accepted a part of the Avenged family for this project is an honor."

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After listening to the CD (the band's fifth, starting with 2001's "Sounding the Seventh Trumpet") a couple of things seem clear. This band answered their loss with honest, heartfelt emotion. And Portnoy was the right man for the job. This ferocious mentor plays with an inspired fury, as if his younger compatriots are pushing him into newer realms.

Rather than a precise track-by-track review, I'd like to my offer my general comment of the CD, because it seems to consume the listener as a sum of its parts.

The opening title track sets the tone for everything that follows. An eerily melodic, black-light roller coaster ride through hell, "Nightmare" lets it be known that anyone who doubted this band would go for the throat was woefully mistaken.

The A7X trademarks are all in place. Shiny-black, Metallica-esque chords and sinewy lead guitars from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance that curl together in ghoulish sonic vortexes. Johnny Christ's steady, white-knuckle bass patterns. And intense, passionate vocals (with the occasional beast master hell-howl) from vocalist M. Shadows.

New to the mix, though, is a desperation, perhaps borne of fury and loss, that gives the band a fresh urgency. They're growing up. Dealing with life and death. Playing for their lives, and for the life of their fallen brother.

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