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Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold

The thing about singing/screaming at the top of your lungs is that it can easily damage vocal chords. After two albums (and countless shows), Avenged Sevenfold's vocalist M. Shadows had to undergo surgery to repair his pipes. This led the group to take a more melodic, less thrash, approach. In the end, it worked for the Hunington Beach, CA, group.

Starting in '99, while still in high school, Avenged Sevenfold had, in addition to Shadows, Zacky Vengeance (guitar), Synyster Gates (guitar), Johnny Christ (bass) and The Reverend - shortened to "The Rev" (drums).

The group developed a harsh Metal/Punk hybrid that got them signed by indie label, Hopeless. Their '01 debut "Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (Good Life)" was followed, two years later, by "Waking The Fallen."

With Shadows on the mend A7X began to incorporate Prog Rock structures, extending their songs, while tossing in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences. They also jumped from Hopeless to a major label, Warner Brothers, for '05 release "City Of Evil" and a main stage run on that summer's Warped Tour.

A7X spent much of the following year touring Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. As the group was working on their fourth studio album they released the DVD All Access, which as the name implied contained extensive concert footage, some dating back to '99, and videos. The documentary was screened in several theaters prior to release.

With the group's '07 self-titled album completed Shadows went public with a hint about the album's direction - or rather where it wasn't going. "It will not be 'City Of Evil Part 2' or 'Waking The Fallen Part 2' but it will attract fans of both albums while still being a surprise."

"We all like really super eclectic stuff," added Christ. "Country falls in there. The way Country artists write their music is so different. There's a heavy emphasis on lyrics and melodies . . . We had to give it a shot."

A7X had to cancel a handful of '08 shows because Shadows had a strained throat. When the situation didn't improve, the group had to drop from the first leg of a co-headlining tour with Buckcherry. That was a relatively minor issue compared to what was to come.

Tragedy stuck A7X on December 28th, '09, when Jimmy Sullivan ("The Rev") was found dead at his home in Huntington Beach, CA. "Jimmy was not only one of the world's best drummers, but more importantly he was our best friend and brother," the band wrote on their site. Sullivan was 28.

"He wasn't just a drummer, he honestly didn't care so much for the technical side of drums, cause he could play anything he wanted," said Shadows. "He was all about creating beautiful songs, original fills and hopefully touching people with his art and mind. He inspired people in different ways."

It also appeared that Sullivan knew his fate. "He told all of us for years, including his parents, that he knew two things in life," added Shadows. "He wanted to be a Rockstar, and that he wasn't going to live past 30 years old. He was right on both accounts . . ." Sullivan was buried in a private ceremony on January 6th, 2010. Gates delivered a eulogy.

Several months later, the Orange County Coroner's office stated that Sullivan suffered "acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol."

Oxycodone is painkiller similar to Morphine. Diazepam/Nordiazepam are anxiety medications and ethanol is the intoxicant in alcohol.

Sullivan also had cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart), which was marked in the coroner's report as a "significant condition" that may have played a role in his death.

In the wake of "The Rev's" passing Avenged Sevenfold considered disbanding. "There was no way we could imagine being in a band anymore," Gates later told Kerrang! magazine. "But, quickly, that went away because your logic comes back to you. You start to realize that, had it been you, you would have shuddered at the thought of the rest of the guys not continuing."

The band selected Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy, to work on their next album ("Nightmare"). "We asked Jimmy's all-time favorite drummer to record on behalf of him," said a band statement. "Mike said it would be an honor and without question that's what Jim would have wanted."

"These guys are a true family and it is an incredibly emotional experience to be here with them for the first time without their lost brother," added Portnoy. "I am treating my participation on this album with the utmost respect for Jimmy's memory. I want their fans to realize that I'm not trying to step into or fill The Rev's shoes . . . I'm just merely lacing 'em up for him!"

"Nightmare," A7X's fifth studio album, dropped in the summer of '10 with the title track as the lead single. In interviews, both Shadows and Gates said the set, though not exactly a concept album, it did revolve around The Rev. "The eeriest 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," read a band statement. "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."

With the album out A7X began the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, co-headlining with Disturbed.

A bit later, Portnoy was selected as "The Rev's" 'permanent' replacement. "After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater," stated Portnoy.

Considering his departure from Dream Theater just three months earlier to work with AX7 full-time, it was a bit of a surprise when Portnoy announced he was no longer in the band. "I had a great time with them (A7X) throughout 2010, but it was their choice to end the relationship at the end of 2010 as was always the initial plan."

"We always knew we'd need to find another solution for 2011 and beyond," Avenged Sevenfold claimed in a statement. "And it's time for us to take that next step."

The statement also praised Portnoy. "He (Protnoy) is a brilliant writer, producer and, of course, drummer. Because of that, the world and we would always see it as Avenged Sevenfold with Mike Portnoy."

At the '11 Revolver Golden Gods Awards show at L.A.'s Club Nokia the group took home the Album of the Year trophy for "Nightmare" (presented by Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez of Alice In Chains). The Best Vocalist Award went to Shadows.

With everything that had transpired, there was finally some new music to talk about. The track "Not Ready To Die" was heard in the map extension pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. "I'm a big fan of the game, I play it all the time," Shadows told Revolver magazine. "They sent me over the full storyline, so I made sure it {the song} was going along the lines of the zombie story. So that's what it's about." The track marked the first recording with drummer Arin Ilejay.

The band also premiered the music video for "So Far Away," a tribute to "The Rev". According to a band statement the video was a "raw and emotional" and a "very personal goodbye" to him.

A7X scored again at the '12 Revolver Golden Gods awards when they won Best Live Band and Most Dedicated Fans. Also, "Carry On" was featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

"Hail To The King," produced by Mike Elizondo, who was also at the controls for "Nightmare," was the first album to feature Ilegay and the first without any musical contribution from "The Rev."

"I look around now and I see a lot of heavy Rock bands and Metal bands getting into dubstep and electronics (that would be KoRn)," said Shadows in a Kerrang! interview. "That's not us. We're not interested in that. If anything, we're going almost in the opposite direction."

As if to prove they were right all along, Avenged Sevenfold reissued "Waking The Fallen," over a decade after the album's initial release. Back in '03, it failed to chart. This time around "Waking The Fallen" sold 22,000 copies in its debut week to land at #10 on the Billboard 200.

Despite the successes, the drummer's slot remained a quandary. In the summer of '15 A7X reported that Ilejay had left. Ilejay, Portnoy's replacement, was around for four years and one album. "Arin has been nothing but a positive energy and monster drummer for us," the band wrote in a statement. "Creatively though, we felt we needed to move in a different direction."

So A7X went back to the well. Within a week of Brooks Wackerman's announcement that he'd left Bad Religion, A7X named him their new drummer. "To be honest, Brooks has always been in the mix," said M. Shadows.

Released in '16, "The Stage" was the first A7X album to feature Wackerman. The change must have made a difference because the title track landed at #10 on Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart, their first Top 10 appearance on that chart in nearly five years. The track was also the band's fourth #1 on Hard Rock Digital Song Sales with 1.9 million U.S. streams and 15,000 downloads in a one week period.

To promote the album, A7X performed on the rooftop of the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood for a 3D/360-degree live-streamed virtual reality performance, with fans viewing the show on Universal Music Group's, VRTGO VR platform.

"The Stage" went to #1 on the Top Rock Albums, Alternative Albums and Hard Rock Albums charts, and debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 Chart (overall sales and streaming). Even though the set sold 76,000 physical and/or digital units it was the lowest first-week total for any Avenged Sevenfold album since "City Of Evil," over a decade earlier.

It may seem mandatory for a Hard Rock group to produce an unplugged album at some point in their career. Case in point was "Live At The Grammy Museum," an acoustic set recorded in October of '17 at the Clive Davis Theater at L.A. It was released two months later.

Fast forward eight months, Avenged Sevenfold announced the cancellation of their '18 summer "End of the World" tour because M. Shadows was under doctor's orders to rest his damaged vocal cords.
Avenged Sevenfold Discography

Studio Albums:

2001 Sounding The Seventh Trumpet
2003 Waking The Fallen
2005 City Of Evil
2007 Avenged Sevenfold
2010 Nightmare
2013 Hail To The King
2016 The Stage
2017 Live At The Grammy Museum

Avenged Sevenfold has got the Judas Priest thing down - searing vocals, call-and-response guitar riffs and thunderous drum attacks.

The occasional acoustic tracks are generally pretty good.

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