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    Wednesday, April 17, 2024

    Review: We’ve been happily Avenged

    On Thursday night, as the houselights blackened, the sound system piped the soothing and eerily wistful electropop sounds of Kavinksy’s “Nightcall.” It was the ideal opening song for a post-midnight Parisian dance club while patrons waited on the Ex to kick in.

    On this occasion, though, “Nightcall” served as the walk-on music for a sold-out Mohegan Sun Arena concert by multi-platinum act Avenged Sevenfold. And while the choice might have struck some fans as downright disconcerting, the truth is that A7X (as their legions call them) long-ago and cheerfully blasted through the core parameters of “metal” that defined their formative years in Huntington Beach, CA.

    In a glorious, wide-reaching two-hour set, the band, which formed a quarter-century ago, roared through 15 molten and kaleidoscopic songs that spanned eight studio albums, included requisite favorites and a few obscure treasures, and focused on material from last year’s very fine “Life is But a Dream…”.

    To enhance their established performance style, A7X came out on a wide-open stage. There were ascending ramps to platforms on either side and a broad, tennis court-like extension into the mosh area. The expanse enabled guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, bassist Johnny Christ and vocalist M. Shadows — all nuancing brutally demanding musical intricacies — to meander casually around as though they were just four guys unable to make up their minds at a mall food court.

    That their stage clothes seem randomly selected from the Lost and Found bin at a Venice Beach skatepark is also part of the carefree charm — particularly since these guys are now in their 40s and most have kids. All told, it was a fascinating juxtaposition that ran counter to the typical “play to the crowd” choreography in the “How to Be Rock Dudes” guide.

    This also worked intriguingly with projections from several hanging video screens of various sizes. Employing a rotoscope hybrid blend of real-time performance with animation, the musicians — including the astonishing drummer Brooks Wackerman — were displayed in an ongoing series of lightning-flash images that might, for example, transform the individuals with video game-esque demonic and skeletal features.

    By definition, Shadows and Gates are the focal points. The former’s voice is a gift of incredible power, range and emotion and he seemed in great form. While he strained a few times, Shadows conveyed genuine emotion and held high notes with the sort of lung power you’d expect from Katie Ledecky.

    Gates, acknowledged as one of the genuine stars of the shredder demographic, is much more than that. His runs, tones and solos – delivered from a hunch-to-the-right angle probably not recommended by orthopedic surgeons -- are brilliant and reflect technique from stylists as varied as Allen Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Django Reinhardt and Frank Marino.

    Too, while Christ and Wackerman held the bottom with clockwork precision, Gates and Vengeance frequently utilized complex harmony guitar lines that avoided Thin Lizzy boogie and instead echoed the ancient majesty of Wishbone Ash.

    Five songs from “Life is But a Dream…” were featured on the setlist, including powerful and back-to-back show openers “Game Over” and “Mattel.” Other highlights included a wild array of greatess: “Shepherd of Fire,” “Roman Sky,” “The Stage,” “Nightmare” and “Save Me” — the latter of which is one of the finest set-closers ever, by anyone.

    Whether spicing their tunes with genetic dashes of Oingo Boingo, Queen, Deep Purple, Muse, Metallica or even the Beach Boys, Avenged Sevenfold proved that a joyously inquisitive approach to Music in general is the best way to serve their own vast vision and sound.

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