Whether or not it was intentional, Avenged Sevenfold’s Avenged Sevenfold is a crossroads album, pure and simple. It sees the band thinking out loud about where to go from the metalcore of Waking the Fallen to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of City of Evil. Both of those discs saw the band embrace said genres to the fullest extent. Avenged, however, displays the band at a potential turning point for the next decade of its existence. The best example of this is the penultimate song "A Little Piece of Heaven," which features strings and multiple song sections, including a theatrical-themed portion, and it really shows serious experimentation from the band’s last outing. The track is the oddball of the record, to say the least. Though a cool song, "A Little Piece of Heaven" plays as if the band included it solely as a possible precedent for future endeavors. Aside from that, the other nine songs are just combinations of the last two records. It is an odd grouping of metalcore, groove metal and classic heavy metal, but it works well on "Unbound (The Wild Ride)," which is five minutes of great dual guitar harmonies. "Brompton Cocktail," however, features a very cool riff, but falls flat due to the orchestral strings that are there for no apparent reason during the verses; the strings really take away from the overall energy of the song. The band, on the other hand, is still in top form here. The Rev (nickname of drummer James Owen Sullivan) shows why he continues to be the strongest link in the band. His drum fills on second single "Almost Easy" are sick as hell, and "Scream" plays like Sullivan refuses to be upstaged by guitarists Zacky Vengeance (Zachary James Baker) and Synyster Gates (Brian Elwin Haner Jr.). The same cannot be said for "Afterlife" due to the vicious shredding from the axemen, but it is not without Sullivan’s trying. And M. Shadows (Matt Sanders) shows again why he is, sadly, the weakest. His voice has not become any less irritating in the two years since City of Evil. This is quite a shame for two reasons. The obvious one is that he is the lead singer. The other reason, perhaps just as important, is that Avenged’s lyrics are spotty, but at times, it can have some real gems. Thus, hearing a great lyric sung by a nasally voice ruins the lyric itself. Speaking of lyrics, one song is of some note: First single "Critical Acclaim" is a full-on political song. One could argue that one or two songs on the band’s last disc were political in some fashion, but "Critical" takes a clear pro-military stance with a spoken-word question of how it feels to know that a "kid" has blood on his hands from fighting in the very war that allows others to criticize his choice. This song draws two equal reactions: It is nice to see a band release a political song from the nonsterotypical side of the debate, but at the same time, the whole nonpolitcal band doing a political song at this point is so stale. Still, Avenged Sevenfold is an album that time could either hold up as a beacon of where the band became great, or time could point to this as the start of its decline. These guys do have a lot going for them, so let us hope for the former.