Orange County, California, quintet Avenged Sevenfold makes its case on Waking the Fallen. With spiked belts that match their gel-caked buzz cuts, these Warped Tour vets bill their group as a punk-metal hybrid, but its twin-guitar assault, loud-soft dynamics and shape-shifting time signatures suggest a less-memorable variation on early Metallica.
Clearly, vocalist M. Shadows has spent lots of time studying the book of James -- Hetfield, that is. In addition to copping the puppet master's trademark bellow, Shadows adopts Hetfield's annoying stretched phrasing, transforming right and try, for instance, into two-syllable words. Clocking in at well over an hour, this effort suffers from bloat, particularly around the midsection, where the two-part power ballad "I Won't See You Tonight" hogs an unconscionable fourteen minutes of space.
Sevenfold could learn something from Sepultura, the long-running Brazilian powerhouse that refused to die after founding vocalist Max Cavalera departed to form Soulfly. Sepultura uses punk's blueprint to pack its ideas into tightly constructed tunes that rarely run out of steam. Guitarist Andreas Kisser proves to be the group's lethal weapon -- he's all over the place, minus the masturbatory solos found on the Sevenfold disc.
Sepultura caps off Rootback with a gasoline-soaked cover of U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky," a great choice for a metallic makeover that sends the Edge's dive-bombing guitar histrionics scurrying into the stratosphere. Sepultura doesn't match the intensity (or pretension) of the original, but the band proves imaginative enough to think outside of metal's pedantic box without whoring itself to the masses.