Hail to the King (Warner)
Selling more than eight million albums to date, Southern California’s Avenged Sevenfold are not yet in the Metallica league but they have a strong claim on being the biggest American hard-rock band of the 21st century. While they make a powerful racket, it is fair to say the singer M Shadow and his cohorts have yet to settle on a unique sound as they cherry-pick from the last 20 years of nu-metal, thrash, Gothic rock and other genres. On their sixth album, the band have chosen to turn this lack of focus into a strength, embracing an eclectic range of styles with confident swagger. The pumped-up aggression anthem This Means War is one of many that leans heavily into Metallica territory, while the title track sounds purpose-built for sky-punching arena crowds. Meanwhile, Shepherd of Fire and Acid Rain combine tolling bells, ominous doom chords and operatic melodrama. But there are softer pop-metal numbers here such as Crimson Fire, the closest Shadow has come to writing a power ballad. Behind their macho bluster and armour-plated riffs, it seems America’s loudest metalheads have a secret romantic side.