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We Are Only What We Feel
After the radical changes that 2005's City of Evil and 2007's self-titled album each brought forth (following the band's metalcore beginnings), Nightmare isn't so much another direction for Avenged Sevenfold than it is a further refining of their sound. At this point, it seems the band has finally found a general formula they're happy with: catchy, groove-laden rock and metal with plenty of guitar and drum acrobatics, and a ballad or two to break things up a bit. The biggest change here is the loss of drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, who died suddenly at the end of 2009 while in pre-production for the album. His bandmates ably soldier on without him, enlisting Dream Theater drummer (and one of Sullivan's idols) Mike Portnoy to fill the vacant drum throne. Yet his presence is felt (and heard) throughout, most chillingly in the powerful penultimate track "Fiction", which preserves some of the vocals he recorded for the song before his passing. Other highlights include the rip-roaring "God Hates Us", and the epic, thunderous finale "Save Me".
Yet despite plenty of strong moments, more acoustic-based ballads than usual slow the album's pacing a bit, and while Sevenfold have usually worn their influences on their sleeves, they sometimes do it just enough (like the Mike Patton-esque crooning that opens "Victim") and go overboard elsewhere (the Metallica clone "Buried Alive"). While a fantastic drummer and background vocalist, Sullivan also brought his songwriting skills and a strong production sense to his band's albums. While Nightmare is a solid enough continuation without him, he is still sorely missed.