Avenged Sevenfold is a heavy metal band from Huntington Beach, California. They were formed in 1999. They are known for their diverse sound that bridges the gap between heavy metal and hard rock. They have sold over 8 million albums and were ranked No. 47 on Loudwire’s list of Top 50 metal bands of All Time. In 2017 they received their 1st Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song. They are currently on their North America tour presenting songs from their current album, “The Stage.”
The band’s current lineup consists of:
M Shadows – vocals
Zacky Vengeance – Guitar
Synyster Gates – Guitar
Johnny Christ – Bass
Brooks Wackerman – Drums
Past members include Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, their original drummer who passed away in 2009.
Sounding The Seventh Trumpet (2002)
Before I joined the band, they had written Sounding the Seventh Trumpet and I would cruise up to the studio in Hollywood while they were recording and bring them whiskey and non-filtered cigarettes. I was not a fan of the demos as I felt that there was something off about Shadows vocals but I remember the first day I listened to a cut from the record and I was truly blown away! As a huge fan of Pantera, I found A7X’s sound to be as heavy as anything I had ever heard. The riffs were brilliant, Shadows voice was INSANE, and the drumming was brilliant. I was honored when they asked me to play on the opener, To End the Rapture. I was also there when The Rev tracked drums- every song was done in ONE TAKE! No joke, he thought it was the funniest thing ever and was in huge competition with himself to cut a record in one take which is absolutely the OPPOSITE philosophy one should have when going into the studio but to me, he absolutely pulled it off. His technique is from outer space and there was such a raw energy and movement that was captured that day, I will never forget it.
Favorite moment: Drinking and smoking with the boys.
Their first album was Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. When I heard it for the first time, I said, “Your singer’s going to hurt his voice screaming like that.” But did they listen to me?
On a serious note – LOVE the opener. If To End The Rapture doesn’t get you pumped – nothing will.
Favorite moment: Syn smoking and drinking with the boys.
Waking The Fallen (2003)
M. Shadows asked me to write with him on Waking the Fallen which to this day, is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been given. We’ve sat side by side on every record since. This record was our “bridge” record. It was known to all of us when we started writing that we didn’t want to be a band that screamed anymore. We were fascinated by great melody and songwriting and we felt that screaming took up way too much real estate to ever allow us to fulfill our songwriting goals. We also had egos and felt that we were an already well established pillar of the screaming community and didn’t want to completely abandon our “huge” fan base and decided to cut the screaming back instead of cutting it out completely. I’m glad we didn’t because many years later, I’m proud of where we were at that point and it’s become a fan favorite.
Favorite moment: The end of I Won’t See You Tonight Part I. I remember when we finished the lead vocal and the “whoa” harmonies on the outro to conclude the song and we were listening for the first time in the tracking room and not one of us didn’t have goosebumps.
Their second album was Waking The Fallen. When I first saw the title, I thought it read “Walking” the Fallen. I imagined one of the band members picking up another band member when he was too drunk to walk – which I had actually witnessed on occasion. I guess it was deeper than that.
On a serious note, this was a very good album and besides giving us the perennial fan-favorite Unholy Confessions, it gave us a glimpse into the brilliance that was to come. In fact – this album is still a favorite of many fans. On this album, Syn began his collaboration with Matt as a writer. Something that was meant to be.
Favorite moment: Syn’s solo on Second Heartbeat.
City Of Evil (2005)
City of Evil as you can tell when you listen to this monstrosity of a record, is us going berzerk after the proverbial “leash” had been taken off. Music just poured out of us, we truly spent most of the time on this record, piecing together all the parts like puzzle pieces. The content wasn’t an issue, we just needed to make it all work together and I’m sure I’m a bit biased, but I think we achieved that. The album is also psychotically layered with more guitar and vocal lines than you need for 10 records but we were obsessed with having this web of harmony existing at all times. To us, you could listen to the record a dozen times and discover new melodies or guitar harmonies each listen and that really excited us. I’m very proud of the shock value of the random intros, outros, and bridges on this record, a lot of them containing multiple segments a piece. Again, for whatever reason, this excited the hell out of us. This album also garnered a lot of success earning us the “Best New Artist” MTV award with us each taking home a moon man as well as our first platinum record.
Favorite moment: Tracking Sidewinder with my father.
Their third album was City Of Evil. Not sure this isn’t my favorite album. It’s them on 11. No rules, no boundaries. I call this the kitchen sink album. You want a country steel guitar? It’s here. You want a Spanish guitar solo? It’s here. You want a bridge in 6/8? It’s here. You want a song that tells the same story from three different perspectives? It’s here. They threw everything at this – and it all worked. Some of my very favorite parts of this album are the bridges and outros. Absolutely transcendent. It’s an album that could only be made by uber-talented “kids” who didn’t know there were rules. Thank God!
Favorite moment: I have three. Bat Country becoming the MTV mega- hit that summer was surreal and so much fun to watch. All you can say is that it was the right song at the right time. Obviously playing the alternating acoustic solo with my son on the end of Sidewinder was an incredible experience and a dream come true. But perhaps the best for me is Syn’s solo on Seize The Day. It’s the first time he put melody and emotion COMPLETELY ahead of his unbelievable technique. The mark of a true musician. That solo still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Pure passion.
My favorite record by far is Self-Titled or the White Album which is where Jimmy began writing for Avenged making this record truly one of a kind. With songs like A Little Piece of Heaven, (our Bohemian Rhapsody written by The Rev), and Almost Easy, this record runs the gamut of adventurous eclectic high energy music. Dear God was an experiment in country music which we were obsessed with at the time when we started our adored friendship with the Big and Rich crew who gave us such great insight into songwriting and recording, prompting us to produce the record ourselves which turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. We did have invaluable help as well from the two amazing engineers on this record, Fred Archambault, a dear friend who worked with Mudrock on our last two records, as well as David Schiffman, Rick Rubin’s engineer.
Favorite moments: Discovering the Sustainic pickup for the first time and watching Greg Leisz record pedal steel on Dear God.
Their fourth album was Self-Titled. The reason I said I’m not sure if City Of Evil was my favorite album is because of this one. In my humble opinion, this album showed what the band was capable of as it matured. To make a Beatles comparison – If City of Evil was Revolver, Self-Titled was Sgt Peppers. Jimmy really hit his stride here as a writer. And the rest of the band stepped up and wrote some truly incredible stuff as well.
Favorite moment: Little Piece of Heaven. Are you kidding me? A full eight-minute movie soundtrack about cannibalism & necrophilia? You had me at hello.
We were 95% done with Nightmare when The Rev passed away. We were absolutely lost at that moment and only through the strength of our friendship and support and guidance of the glorious Sullivan family, were we able to pick up the pieces of our broken lives and complete this record. Jimmy was everyone’s best friend and we had known him since we were little kids. When he died, we thought that the band had as well. One of Jimmy’s favorite drummers was Mike Portnoy, and since he was considered prog and metal royalty, we called him first to fill the giant shoes of my favorite drummer and best friend. He checked his ego at the door and analyzed Jimmy’s playing tirelessly in an effort to recreate the percussive genius that only The Rev was capable of. Mike nailed it and he lightened the mood with his very outgoing and sometimes child-like personality. This dude loves music as much as anyone I’ve ever met, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate him for stepping in as a vessel to complete what I consider, lyrically, to be our masterpiece.
Favorite moment: Every day I had the honor of writing the last album I’d ever make with The Rev . . . in this life.
Their fifth album was Nightmare. This was a much heavier album and not nearly as friendly and accessible as Self-Titled. It took me a while to get used to it. I think the passing of Jimmy made the heaviness of this album even more dark than it actually was.
Favorite moment: I played on So Far Away – a song that Syn started writing when my father, (his grandfather), passed. He finished it shortly after Jimmy passed. I overdubbed a couple of background guitars on this track. I listened to the finished mix one time and have not listened to it since. Can’t.
Hail To The King (2013)
Hail to the King was definitely the toughest record to write as we were really doing our best to work within certain parameters on each song, never straying from the vibe we were going for which was completely counterintuitive to how we were accustomed to writing. Not to mention, we were down a man… a seriously fuckin’ talented man at that. I am really proud of the craftsmanship that this record showcases in that we really began studying harmony via copious amounts of classical music consumption and I feel that we said a lot with this record by saying less. This album had a lot of number one singles and sonically, I feel it is our strongest record with great credit to it’s producer, Mike Elizondo, and the wizard god himself, Andy Wallace who mixed it. I still to this day, feel like the fidelity and sonic massiveness of this record is unbeatable.
Favorite moment: Recording the solo for Planets
Their sixth album was Hail To The King. This album was much-maligned because of the obvious tip of the cap they were giving to classic rock. And that’s exactly what it was – a tip of the cap. It was not a rip-off. There is a HUGE difference between writing “in the style” of someone and directly stealing a song. For instance, you can hear a band like AC/DC on one of the tracks – BUT ONLY IN STYLE. I defy you to go back and find that specific AC/DC song they ripped off – because it doesn’t exist. I think this was lost on a lot of the casual fans. It was a bold move on the band’s part to be sure – but great bands take chances and NEVER repeat themselves. I have always said, if you were to go back and change the arrangements a bit, and REALLY busy up the drums on this album – nobody would have made any comparisons – because the songs are great and completely original.
As far as the songs go – HTTK is still the best concert opener they have ever penned. Epic. There are some other gems on this album as well. My favorite song is Acid Rain. This is not only my favorite song on the album – but one of my favorite Avenged songs period.
The Stage (2016)
The Stage is ridiculous. If it weren’t for A Little Piece of Heaven, this would be my favorite record. This is the album I always wanted to make. I am so proud of the band for throwing every rule we have ever made, consciously or subconsciously, out the goddamn window. This record epitomizes the old adage, “Learn it so well that you forget it” because we had spent years studying from our forefathers, but we had the confidence to not focus on the rules we had so vigorously obsessed over- it was the perfect time to do a record like this. We didn’t have to think about harmony and theory because of the time we’d put in. We just wrote from our heart and soul and the maturity and knowledge were there in the shadows, quietly guiding our pen as we set off to write a record that knew no bounds, adhered to no rules, just our deep love for all things music. Throw in the legendary Brooks Wackerman and the possibilities are truly endless. Lyrically it is our runner up and if Matt’s broken soul wasn’t coursing through Nightmare’s veins, The Stage would easily stand alone as our piece de resistance. He seamlessly marries humanity with the future of technology with a cleverness that would even put a smile on Rod Serling and Charlie Brooker’s face. Exist concluded the first iteration of the record with a captivating spoken word guest appearance by Neil DeGrasse Tyson that simply makes me want to be a better person. As you might be able to tell by my not so humble and verbose depiction of this record, I fuckin’ dig it.
Favorite moments: Watching Brooks record the drums. I hate to admit that I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job on that record. Also, experimenting with 300 of our co-producer, “Evil” Joe Barresi’s FX pedals . . . for real. Pinnacle would have to be watching my dad nail a brilliant solo at the end of Angels in one take.
And lastly, we have The Stage. I’m not sure where to start. I would suggest if you haven’t checked out the lyrics yet – DON’T! It’s a trick. If you are the least bit curious about life and the universe, every song will take you to a Google rabbit hole that you’ll spend a week in – only to come out questioning your own existence. My outro solo on Angels is followed by the song Simulation. So was my solo real or not? I’m so fucking confused.
On a serious note – it is an EXTREMELY deep and complex album, both lyrically and musically. Like Dark Side of the Moon – it’s an album that demands the listener to engage and pay attention. This ain’t background music for the pool party on Sunday. The boys wrote and played their asses off on this one. And no one more so than Brooks Wackerman – who is my new favorite drummer on this planet. It’s hard to comprehend just how deep he went on a couple of these songs.
My favorite song on the album is Roman Sky. Stirring and beautiful.
Favorite moment: Nailing the Angels solo on the first take. Trust me when I say I’m not one to blow my own horn. Nobody is more critical of me – than me. Anyone who has spent more than an hour in a studio knows a “one take” rarely happens. For some reason, the planets aligned for me that day and I played through it once and when I was finished – everyone was silent. Syn asked Matt, “You good with that?” He said, “Yup”. Then he turned to the producer, “Joe – you good with that?” Joe said, “Yup.” And Syn said, “Well – I guess we’re done here.” He asked me, “Do you want to do another take for shits & giggles?”
I said, “Absolutely not! – Why chip away at my own legend and play something shitty now.”