Avenged Sevenfold, "Nightmare"
Avenged Sevenfold's fifth studio album is a dream that became something of a "Nightmare" for the arty Southern California head-bangers following the death of drummer James "the Rev" Sullivan. But in its finished form, with Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy fleshing out the drum tracks that Sullivan left behind, "Nightmare" is the group's best work yet. It's a sweeping, quasi-thematic epic whose nearly 67 minutes mixes punky abandon with prog-rock ambition and muscle with musicality. Lengthy, suite-like pieces like the title track, "Victim" and the 11-minute "Save Me" are seamless in their sonic twists and turns, while acoustic guitars, piano, strings and vocal harmonies lend welcome melodic counterpoints to such pummeling power rockers as "Danger Line," "Welcome to the Family" and "God Hates Us." Elsewhere, the song "Buried Alive" recalls Metallica's "Unforgiven" and "Tonight the World Dies" mines moody Alice in Chains/Stone Temple Pilots terrain, while "Natural Born Killer" has the makings of a mainstream breakthrough. Frontman M. Shadows sings at one point that "you can't win this fight," but Avenged Sevenfold ultimately emerges victorious here.