Avenged Sevenfold's discography is all over the map. Since founding in 1999, the Huntington Beach, California, band have never stayed faithful to a single sound for more than a couple albums, surfing between metalcore, thrash, groove-metal, prog, hard-rock balladry and more in the span of seven full-lengths. Throughout their fair share of highs and lows — rocketing to mainstream popularity but losing founding drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan to tragic circumstances — the band have always stayed true to themselves as multi-faceted musicians with a diverse range of creative interests, and each of their albums is reflective of that. Ranking them all wasn't easy because each represents a different era of the band, but we did our best below.
A7X's 2001 debut was brimming with potential. Vocalist M. Shadows' fierce growls and mighty sing-alongs were infectious, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan's drumming was already mind-melting and guitarist Zacky Vengeance was a formidable shredder — and this was all before lead guitarist Synyster Gates had even joined the band. That said, the album suffers from incoherent songwriting that saw the band's influences scattered messily throughout the track list, veering between punk, metalcore and thrash at a discombobulating pace. It's certainly their weakest record, but the seeds were there.
Hail to the King is essentially A7X's "Black Album": the tempos got slower, the riffs got chunkier, the hooks got bigger and it mostly worked. The band paid homage to old-school heroes like Metallica, Pantera and GN'R across an entire album of swaggering groove-metal riffs, and the respite from their usual blend of speed and technicality was a more natural transition than one would have expected. That said, despite standouts like "This Means War" and its mighty title-track, the album does drag in its back-half without the sprinting solos and pummeling drum fills.
Sci-fi concepts, a Neil deGrasse Tyson feature and prog-metal grandiosity. A7X's latest album, The Stage, was a total switch-up from the meat-and-potatoes approach of Hail to the King, and it's by far their most ambitious one to date. With new drummer Brooks Wackerman joining the fold, the band returned to the dizzying guitarwork of City of Evil and the symphonic embellishments of Nightmare, resulting in a much more interesting — though at times clumsy — listening experience compared to Hail. They had the musical chops to pull off a prog opus, but the record still feels like it's missing that signature A7X flavor amid the pomp and circumstance.
The band's first album without The Rev, who died tragically the year prior, is without a doubt their most emotional. Numerous songs on the record are touching tributes to their late brother, but there's also a plethora of high-energy bangers like "Welcome to the Family," "Natural Born Killer" and the first metalcore song they'd recorded in years, "God Hates Us." Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy was the best fill-in for The Rev that they could've possibly asked for, but Nightmare's energy dips when the ballads begin to blur together in the record's second half. Even so, some of the band's most passionate performances lie within this track list.
A7X's 2003 breakout, Waking the Fallen, is a fan favorite for many reasons. It's the heaviest album in their discography, "Unholy Confessions" features what might be their best riff, "Chapter Four" and "Remenissions" are downright gnarly and the solos on "Second Heartbeat" and "And All Things Will End" are nothing short of magnificent. Similar to Trumpet, the band's lofty ideas weren't as fine-tuned as they would be on later material, but this album's sheer aggression and the band's unrivaled musicianship among their NWOAHM peers make it easy to gloss over the few weak points. The highs are hard to beat.
City of Evil initially caught some flack for the band's complete abandonment of metalcore in favor of highly melodic thrash. However, as songs like "Bat Country" and "Beast and the Harlot" became more defining of the A7X sound than anything from their older records, the 2005 opus was accepted by new and old fans alike as one of the band's quintessential releases. Tracks like "Burn it Down" and "Trashed and Scattered" are some of the most virtuosic in their catalog, and unlike the previous two records, City of Evil feels more like a coherent album than a smattering of individual songs.
It's fitting that this is their self-titled, because A7X's 2007 masterpiece is the one that encompasses everything they do best. The fuming groove metal of "Critical Acclaim" and "Scream," the thrash virtuosity of "Almost Easy" and "Afterlife," the operatic hilarity of "A Little Piece of Heaven," the soaring hooks of "Unbound (The Wild Ride)" and "Lost" — it's their most well-rounded album and their most musically impressive. Plus, it left the door open for the band to explore a multitude of new directions down the line. It's their best record so far.