June 13, 2024

While still in high school, M. Shadows, Zacky Vengeance (guitar), Synyster Gates (guitar), Johnny Christ (bass) and Jimmy Sullivan (drums) – known as The Reverend – shortened to The Rev – founded Avenged Sevenfold.

The group developed a 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.”

A7X began to incorporate Prog Rock structures, extending their songs, while tossing in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences. They also jumped to a major label, Warner Brothers, for ‘05 release “City Of Evil” and a main stage run on that summer’s Warped Tour.

Shadows had this to say about the band’s ’07 self-titled album. “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.”

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 The Rev was found dead at his home in Huntington Beach. “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 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 . . .”

Several months later, an Orange County Coroner’s reporty stated that Sullivan suffered “acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol.”

In the wake of The Rev’s passing A7X considered disbanding but decided to press on selecting Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy, to work on their next album. “We asked Jimmy’s all-time favorite drummer to record on behalf of him,” wrote a band statement.

“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 revolve around The Rev.

A bit later, Portnoy (having just left Dream Theater) was selected as The Rev’s ‘permanent’ replacement. “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.” But Portnoy was a short-timer.

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

“Hail To The King,” produced by Mike Elizondo, who was also at the controls for “Nightmare,” was the first album to feature Arin Ilegay on drums.

Despite success, the drummer’s slot remained a quandary. In the summer of ’15 A7X reported that Ilejay, Portnoy’s replacement, had left.  He was around for four years and one album.

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 Shadows. 

Released in ’16, “The Stage” was the first A7X album with 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 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.

Fast forward, 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 blistered vocal cords.

A7X‘s eighth studio album “Life Is But A Dream.” featuring the singles “Nobody,” and “We Love You,” was the band’s first set of original music since ‘16’s “The Stage.” 

The pandemic was at least partially responsible for the delay- which turned out to be a good thing.

“It gave us time to really concentrate on the record sonically,” explained Christ during a radio interview. (“Let’s) make this the best possible journey of music that we can possibly put together.”

“Life Is But A Dream…” was described as “a journey through an existential crisis; a very personal exploration into the meaning, purpose and value of human existence with the anxiety of death always looming.”

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