The album gets started with one of my favourite tracks Shepherd of Fire. After a classic build-up of pounding drums and simple riff, things get going at a nice headbanging pace with a snaking riff backed up by some occational double-bass patterns from Ilejay. M. Shadows sounds great as always. His voice has always been very distinctive and he works hard on the chorus here to make it sound huge. There is also an excellent solo from Synyster Gates, a future guitar legend in the making! The album's title track and lead single follows and this is another groove-fest with an excellent guitar lead throughout and some huge bass from Johnny Christ. The solo here is one of the song's best assets. It is neo-classical in style and very memorable. I also like the simple guitar and vocal part that follows the solo that mimics the song's intro. Doing Time is up next and picks up the pace slightly. This is very similar to songs from the band's self-titled album. It is another highlight of the album with some Axl Rose-esque vocals from Shadows during the verse. This Means War follows and this is where the plagarism accusations come from. It is clearly very similar to Metallica's Sad But True, both musically and structurally. I can understand why this annoys lots of people, but I still feel that This Means War is a good song. It's a shame it will always be shrouded in controversy. Requiem seems a little like the album's black sheep. The latin choir in the intro just sounds out of place on this album and sounds poor compared to the things Epica and their ilk create. The song itself is pretty good, but the choir just sounds tacked on and silly.
Crimson Day is up next and starts off slowly with nice clean guitar before evolving into a power ballad. Shadows has a great voice for ballads I think, and sounds very heartfelt here. Delicate strings in the background help to create a nice atmosphere and there is an extremely melodic solo from Gates. He is so much more than just a shred-machine and proves it in spades here. Heretic follows and this another real belter. The grooves are back up front and it has another very catchy chorus. Some nice keyboards make their presence felt here and add something to the song. There is some excellent duel guitar work too between Gates and Zacky Vengeance. Coming Home is up next and this speeds up the pace again a little. This is a little more 'epic' than much of the material on this album and seems to be a nod to their past. It would not have sounded out of place on 2005's City of Evil. Again, the guitar work is stellar with some more twin-leads before an explosive break from Gates. Speaking of guitar, Gates' Dad makes his traditional cameo in this song's outro with a melodic solo of his own - like father like son! I feel overall that Planets is the album's weakest song. It is not bad per se, but certainly the least memorable. Still, it is a solid metal track that sounds chunky enough to be enjoyable. There is another incendiary solo from Gates, that seems to make good use of the whammy bar, and some big riffs. Hail to the King really is a guitarists album and Gates has excelled himself on it. He should be proud of his skills and his work here! The album closes with Acid Rain which is a piano-led piece that has a haunting yet slighty upliftng atmosphere. The strings make a welcome return and again have a lot to offer. Avenged Sevenfold have always made good ballads and this up their with their best in my opinion. Despite the fact it seems to be slighty in contrast with the stripped-down heaviness of the rest of the album, it still remains a fitting closing track for the album. Overall, Hail to the King is a really great album that will appeal to lots of people. Die-hards might accuse the band of selling out, but I feel that this is an album that band were always going to make. A worthy addition to anyone's collection who likes their metal basic and groovy!
The album was released on 23rd August 2013 via Warner Bros. Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Hail to the King.