Avenged Sevenfold is an American rock band from Huntington Beach, California, formed in 1999. The band consists of vocalist M. Shadows, lead guitarist Synyster Gates, rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengeance and bassist Johnny Christ.
Avenged Sevenfold emerged with a metalcore sound on their debut Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, which included primarilyscreamed vocals. The band changed their style on their third album and first major label release, City of Evil, which features more melodic vocals and power ballads. The band continued to explore new sounds with their self titled release and enjoyed continued mainstream success before their drummer, James “The Rev” Sullivan, died of heart disease and combining effects of a few chemicals in his body in 2009. Despite his death, the band continued on with help of then Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and released their fifth album Nightmare in 2010 which debuted on the top spot of the Billboard 200, a first for the band.
To date, Avenged Sevenfold has released five studio albums, one live album/compilation/DVD, and fifteen singles. The band themselves have received much credit for their worldwide mainstream success and were most notably proclaimed as one of the leaders and key bands in the New Wave of American Heavy Metal and were featured as second place on Ultimate Guitar’s Top Ten Bands of the Decade.
The band was formed in 1999 in Huntington Beach, California with original members M. Shadows,Zacky Vengeance, The Rev and Matt Wendt. M Shadows came up with the name as a reference to the story of Cain and Abel from The Bible, which can be found in Genesis 4:24, although they are not a religious band. Upon its formation, each member of the band also took on apseudonym which were already nicknames of theirs from high school. Before release their debut album, the band recorded two demos in 1999 and 2000. Avenged Sevenfold’s debut album, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, was recorded when the band members were just eighteen years old and in high school. It was originally released on their first label, Good Life Recordings in 2001. After lead guitarist Synyster Gates joined the band, at the end of 1999 when he was 18 at the introductory track “To End the Rapture” was re-recorded featuring a full band element. The album was subsequently re-released on Hopeless Records in 2002.
The band started to receive recognition, performing with bands such as Mushroomhead and Shadows Fall and playing on the Take Action Tour. Having settled on their fourth bassist, Johnny Christ, they released Waking the Fallen on Hopeless Records in August 2003. The album featured a more refined and mature sound production in comparison to their previous album. The band received profiles in Billboard and The Boston Globe, and played in the Vans Warped Tour. In 2004, Avenged Sevenfold toured again on the Vans Warped Tour and recorded a video for their song “Unholy Confessions” which went into rotation on MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball. Shortly after the release of Waking the Fallen, Avenged Sevenfold left Hopeless Records and were signed to Warner Bros. Records.
City of Evil (2005—2007)
City of Evil, the band’s third album and major label debut, was released on June 7, 2005 and debuted at #30 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 30,000 copies in its first week of release. It utilized a more classic metal sound than Avenged Sevenfold’s previous albums, which had been grouped into the metalcore genre. The album is also notable for the absence of screamed and growled vocals; M. Shadows worked with vocal coach Ron Anderson—whose clients have included Axl Rose and Chris Cornell—for months before the album’s release to achieve a sound that had “grit while still having the tone”. The album received steller reviews from several magazines and websites and is credited for propelling the band into international popularity.
After playing Ozzfest in 2006, Avenged Sevenfold memorably beat out R&B Singers Rihanna and Chris Brown, Panic! at the Disco, Angels and Airwaves and James Blunt for the title of Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, thanks in part to their Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-inspired song “Bat Country.”
They returned to the Vans Warped Tour, this time headlining and then continued on their own “Cities of Evil Tour.” In addition, their lead single “Bat Country” reached #2 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Charts, #6 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Charts and the accompanying video made it to #1 on MTV’s Total Request Live. Propelled by this success, the album sold well and became Avenged Sevenfold’s first gold record. It was later certified platinum in August 2009.
Self-titled album (2007—2009)
Avenged Sevenfold’s mainstream success got them an invitation to 2006’s Ozzfest tour on the main stage, alongside other well known hard rock andheavy metal acts DragonForce, Lacuna Coil, Hatebreed, Disturbed and System of a Down. That same year they also completed a worldwide tour, including the US, The United Kingdom (as well as mainland Europe), Japan, Australia and New Zealand. After being on tour for sixteen months in promotion of City of Evil, the band announced that they were cancelling their Fall 2006 tour in favor of recording new music. M. Shadows stated that their fourth studio album—which the band self-titled and self-produced—would not be a “City of Evil Part 2” or “Waking the Fallen Part 2,” but would incorporate a new, grittier sound. To tide the fans over in between albums, the band released their first DVD titled All Excess on July 17, 2007.All Excess, which debuted as the #1 DVD in the USA, included live performances and backstage footage that spanned the band’s eight year career. Two tribute albums, Strung Out on Avenged Sevenfold: Bat Wings and Broken Strings and Strung Out on Avenged Sevenfold: The String Tribute were also released in October 2007.
Avenged Sevenfold, the band’s fourth album, was released on October 30, 2007, debuting at #4 on the Billboard 200 with over 90,000 copies sold. Two singles, “Critical Acclaim” and “Almost Easy” were released prior to the album’s debut. In December 2007, an animated video was made for “A Little Piece of Heaven.” Due to the song’s controversial subject matter, however, Warner Brothers only released it to registered MVI users over the internet. The third single, “Afterlife” and its video was released in January 2008. Their fourth single, “Dear God”, was released on September 30, 2008. Although critical reception was generally mixed the self-titled album went on to sell over 500,000 copies and was awarded “Album of the Year” at the Kerrang! Awards.
Avenged Sevenfold headlined the 2008 Taste of Chaos tour with Atreyu, Bullet for My Valentine, Blessthefall and Idiot Pilot.They used the footage from their last show in Long Beach for Live in the LBC & Diamonds in the Rough, a two-disc B-sides CD and live DVD which was released on September 16, 2008. They also recorded numerous covers, including Pantera’s “Walk”, Iron Maiden’s “Flash of the Blade” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. They will also be releasing a Guitar Tutorial DVD, which include the five tracks, Afterlife, Almost Easy, Bat Country, Beast and the Harlot and Trashed And Scattered, breaking down the guitar solos and riffs in each song. During a sold-out festival performance in Leeds and Reading, the band were forced to shorten their Leeds performance and cancel their Reading performance due to a vocal strain sustained by M. Shadows. A few days later, the band was forced to announce the cancellation of the remaining September shows, with the tour set to resume again on October 15.
In January 2009, M. Shadows confirmed that the band is writing the follow-up to their self-titled fourth album within the upcoming months. They also announced that they will be playing at Rock on the Range, from May 16–17, 2009. On April 16, they performed a version of Guns N’ Roses’ “It’s So Easy” onstage with Slash, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. M. Shadows was featured on Slash’s debut solo album Slash in the song “Nothing to Say”.
M. Shadows and the rest of the band has expressed interest in making a follow-up to their self-titled record. They announced that they plan to start writing in June 2009 and recording in October 2009. M. Shadows also said in an interview with Loveline that the next record would be a more traditional heavy metal, more rock-oriented record, since the self-titled record was very experimental. He also said it would feature more progressive, longer songs and would be the “biggest Avenged Sevenfold record ever.” Additionally, he said they were possibly thinking about a concept record.
On July 15, 2009, their website and MySpace profile were updated with a statement from M. Shadows implying that work on the next album has started, but they are still “throwing around ideas”. The update was on the same day that Waking the Fallen went Gold.
In an interview, M. Shadows has revealed that after the band will complete their tour with a final performance at the Sonisphere Festival on August 2, they will get in the studio to write and record a new studio album, a follow-up to their self-titled album.On November 5, 2009, Zacky Vengeance posted a message on the official website stating that they had returned from their tour and immediately started focusing on forming a production team in order to start recording the album. “We will continue finalizing our songs until we feel every note does both you as well as us justice. We are also in the final stages of solidifying our production team, studios and engineers so that the second the axe falls and the album is written we will spend day and night in the studio until it is complete. This album will definitely take you on a very dark journey…”
On December 24, 2009 it was announced that Avenged Sevenfold had come in second place on Ultimate Guitar’s Top Ten Bands of the Decade, losing the top spot to Metallica.
The December 31, 2009 edition of Kerrang! magazine included an interview with M. Shadows, in which Shadows stated the following about the album; “It’s a dark record. The music is emotional. Our goal is to make every single part memorable, we want to evoke reactions live and at home. It’ll have big rock ballads, the big fun stuff, the piano, the choir, the orchestra and all the visual things you expect but with a different, moodier vibe. Lyrically, I’ve been inspired by everything from the ways kids are brought up nowadays, to schooling, the economy, religion, war and the behaviour of our government. It all plays into how kids are so emotionally detached from the real world right now.”
On April 17, 2010, a short message from Zacky Vengeance was posted on the official Avenged Sevenfold Twitter: “Tracking is complete. There are no words that will ever describe the feeling of listening to this album while driving home alone at 4 am.”
Avenged Sevenfold’s brand new single, “Nightmare”, was digitally released on May 18, 2010. The song comes off the band’s fifth studio album, which is due out July 27, 2010.A preview for the song was released on May 6, 2010 on Amazon.com, but was removed soon after for unknown reasons.
[…] The new album, Nightmare, is dedicated to The Rev memory and although it’s not exactly a concept album, it does center around The Rev. The eeriest thing about it is there is a song on the album called “Fiction” (a nickname The Rev gave himself) which started out with the title “Death”. And the song was the last song The Rev wrote for the album, and when he handed it in, he said, that’s it, that’s the last song for this record. And then 3 days later, he died.
Mixing for the album had been completed in New York City and was released worldwide on July 27. It met with mixed to positive reviews from music critics but was overwhelmingly accepted by fans averaging a 9.1 score on Metacritic from the public.
The death of The Rev
On December 28, 2009, drummer James “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead at his home at the age of 28. Autopsy results were inconclusive, but on June 9, 2010, the cause of death was revealed to have been an “acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol”. In a statement by the band, they expressed their grief over the passing of The Rev and asked that his family’s privacy to be respected:
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we tell you of the passing today of Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. Jimmy was not only one of the world’s best drummers, but more importantly he was our best friend and brother. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jimmy’s family and we hope that you will respect their privacy during this difficult time.
Shown on Avenged Sevenfold’s official website was a message from Sullivan’s family which expressed their gratitude to his fans for their support:
“We would like to thank all of Jimmy’s fans for the heartfelt comments that have been posted – it is comforting to know that his genius and antics were appreciated and that he was loved so much. Our hearts are broken – he was much too young to fall. Óg agus saor go deo (forever young and free)”
In addition to comments made about the death of Sullivan, the band’s manager Larry Jacobson expressed how Sullivan was a kind figure to all. Jacobson stated within the interview that;
He was expressive. He’d tell you how he felt about you – you didn’t wonder because he’d put his arm around you,” he said. “He knew how to tell his friends he loved them.”
In addition to Jacobson, over 50 musical artists have commented upon the death of Sullivan.
The January 13, 2010 edition of Kerrang! featured an article about the death of The Rev, in which fans and stars paid tribute to him. Simultaneously, Zacky Vengeance expressed his own feelings about the passing, stating that “Jimmy will always be with me in everything I do. Except sitting at home being sad, so today Im going to try to start living again. foREVer.”
In a recent interview with M. Shadows about the death of the Rev, Shadows confirmed a July release for Avenged Sevenfold’s fifth album. “I have so much to say but can’t find the words so I will wait until time can allow me to find a way to express myself. As for the rest of us, it has become clear what we need to do. We had just finished writing a record with Jimmy. I can’t promise what the future holds because right now it’s too painful to think about, but we know we need to record and put out this record in honor of Jimmy, for Jimmy. He would call me every night to talk about songs and tell me ‘this shit is gonna change the world.’ I agreed with him, unfortunately I didn’t know it would be on these terms. Please be patient with us for we cannot imagine how hard this is gonna be to get through, we just know we have to do it for his legacy. After that, who knows?”
In a recent interview conducted by the Huntington Beach Independent newspaper, Jimmy Sullivan’s parents, Babara and Joseph revealed the following information about Avenged Sevenfold’s new album: “Most important to him, Jimmy had just finished writing songs for Avenged Sevenfold’s new album — he even called one his ‘masterpiece.’ When he wrote songs, he would record tracks of his singing, playing the piano and drumming — then, when he played them for me, he would sing the orchestra or guitar parts that would be added later. I am thankful that I got to tell him how much I liked and admired his music. Later, Barbara commented that, “Jimmy wrote some really good songs. I was so proud of him, and I know that even though it will be very hard for them, the band will do a great job getting them recorded soon. Needless to say, these ‘all Jimmy’ recordings are almost impossible for me to listen to yet, but what a blessing to have them.” They plan to dedicate their new album to The Rev.
On February 17, 2010, Avenged Sevenfold stated that they had entered the studio, along with now former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, to drum for the record, in place of the Rev. “I want our fans to know that with Jimmy in our hearts, our journey to record has officially began. Jimmy helped leave this world an amazing gift and now it’s our job to make sure to deliver that gift to our fans. We asked Jimmy’s all time favorite drummer Mike Portnoy to record on behalf of him. Mike said it would be an honor and without question that’s what Jim would have wanted. It’s comforting to us that someone like Mike, who is undoubtedly revered as one of the best drummers in the world, held such respect and adoration for the Rev’s abilities. Even though it will never be the same without our brother by our side, his essence lives in our hearts and through the music he helped create. He was a legend before any of the success or any of that bullshit and we are fucking excited to lay this down for our fans, and especially for Jimmy.”
The band is preparing for touring behind the new album. M. Shadows has said, “We’re not sure what’s going to happen after this touring cycle. Our goal right now is to just get kids to hear the record, because we want them to remember the Rev.” Avenged Sevenfold’s final album featuring Sullivan’s writing, Nightmare, will be released July 27 on Warner Bros. (Ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy played the drum parts Sullivan had written on the album and will tour with the band.) Nightmare beat sales projections easily, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 with sales of 163,000 units in its first week.
Avenged Sevenfold’s material spans multiple genres and has evolved over the band’s ten year career. Initially, the band’s debut album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet consisted almost entirely of metalcore sound; however, there were several deviations to this genre, most notably in “Streets” which adopts a punk style and “Warmness on the Soul,” which is a piano-oriented ballad. On Waking the Fallen, the band displayed the contemporary metalcore style once more, but added more clean vocals as well as more mature and intricate musical elements. In the band’s DVD All Excess, producer Andrew Mudrock explained this transition: “When I met the band after Sounding the Seventh Trumpet had come out before they had recorded Waking the Fallen, M. Shadows said to me ‘This record is screaming. The record we want to make is going to be half-screaming half-singing. I don’t want to scream anymore. And the record after that is going to be all singing.'”
On City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold’s third album, the band chose to abandon the metalcore genre, developing a more hard rock style. Avenged Sevenfold’s self-titled album, again, consists of several deviations to less consistent genres and styles from the album’s main hard rock and heavy metal songs, most notably in “Dear God”, which adopts a countrystyle and “A Little Piece of Heaven”, which is circled within the influence of Broadway show tunes, using primarily brass instruments and stringed orchestra to take over most of the role of the lead and rhythm guitar. Nightmare contains further deviations, including a piano ballad called “Fiction” and a brief return to their metalcore roots on “God Hates Us”. The band has changed considerably since their first album, in which during that time they have been characterized as a heavy band with a screamed and growled vocal style combined with clean vocals, chugging guitar riffs and breakdowns that one can expect from the metalcore genre.
The band has also cited bands such as Bad Religion, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Dream Theater, Metallica, NOFX, Alice in Chains, Black Flag, Corrosion of Conformity,The Misfits, Slayer, The Vandals, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, Deftones, and AFI as their artistic influences.
Band name and lyrical content
The band’s name is a reference to the Book of Genesis in the Bible – specifically Genesis 4:24, where Cain is sentenced to life in exile for murdering his brother. God marked him so that none would kill him on account of his sin; the man who dared to kill Cain would suffer “vengeance seven times over” (KJV). The abbreviation “A7X” for their band name was the idea of guitarist Zacky Vengeance. The title of Avenged Sevenfold’s song “Chapter Four” refers to the fourth chapter of Genesis, in which the story of Cain and Abel takes place. The song’s subject also appears to be this story. “Beast and the Harlot”, yet another song derived from the Bible, comes from the Book of Revelation only it is written in the first person and refers to the punishment of Babylon the Great, world empire and seat of false religion.
Another biblical reference occurs in the song “The Wicked End”. In this song, several times it is said “dust the apple off, savor each bite, and deep inside you know Adam was right.” making reference to Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Although the band’s title and members’ stage names make references to religion, Shadows stated in an interview that they are not a religious band. “Anyone that reads the lyrics and really knew anything about us, they would know we’re not promoting either,” he said. “That’s one thing about this band that I love is that we never really shove any kind of, like, political or religious beliefs on people. We just, the music’s there to entertain and maybe thought-provoking on both sides, but we don’t try to, like, really shove anything down anyone’s throat. There’s too many bands that do that nowadays, I think.” The band has a few songs that are somewhat political in nature like “Critical Acclaim”, “Gunslinger” and “Blinded in Chains”. The song “Betrayed” off of their album City of Evil was written about “Dimebag Darrell’s death”.
The band sports a logo known as the “Deathbat”. It was originally designed by an artistic high school friend of Avenged Sevenfold, Micah Montague, as seen on the band’s first DVD, All Excess. The Deathbat has appeared on all of the band’s album covers, many of which were done by Cameron Rackam, a close friend of the band. The Deathbat has developed from just being a skull with bat wings, to sometimes appear as a full “man size” skeleton with bat wings, as it can be seen at the cover of City of Evil and Nightmare. OnSounding the Seventh Trumpet, there are pictures of two people (in which appear to be Cain and Abel), another angel-like human and a semi-opaque Deathbat below it, several Deathbats appear on the back cover of the album as well. The Deathbat also appears on covers of number of singles such as “Bat Country”, “Warmness on the Soul” and “Critical Acclaim”.
The Rev – drums, vocals (1999–2009)
Matt Wendt – bass (1999–2000)
Justin Sane – bass (2000–2002)
Dameon Ash – bass (2002-2003)
Mike Portnoy – drums (2010)
Mike Portnoy (2010 – Present)