On its first two albums, Avenged Sevenfold was a by-the-numbers screamcore outfit. The Orange County band was one of the first to make the unexpected connection between death metal and emo, and the weird mix of adolescent goth melodrama and extreme metal aggression helped it build a solid underground reputation. But just as Avenged seemed poised to become a major act in a very particular sub-sub-genre, singer M. Shadows was sidelined by vocal troubles. Feeling constrained by the limits of screamcore, the group had already been considering a change in direction since recording Waking the Fallen in 2002, and Shadows's injury provided the perfect opportunity to break out of the formula. The result is City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold's major-label debut. Evil is an audacious speed-metal album with explicit aspirations for the top of the charts. It's a Saturday-morning-cartoon version of albums by acts like Mastodon and High on Fire, pummeling in a ProTools kind of way through songs about ancient Babylon, serial killers, Hunter S. Thompson and the end of the world.