Heavy metal rockers Avenged Sevenfold is one of most successful rock outfits of the 2000’s. Composed of M. Shadows (lead vocals), Zacky Vengeance (rhythm guitar and backing vocals) and Synyster Gates (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Johnny Christ (bass). Their artistic influences are many; including: Slayer, Alice in Chains, Metallica, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Korn, AFI, Rage Against the Machine and more! Their sound and style began in metalcore roots, but as their career progressed the developed a more traditional, classic metal sound that they are known and loved for today.
Founded in 1999 in Huntington Beach, California, Avenged Sevenfold underwent a few lineup changes before settling on their current lineup. One of their more documented changes was the departure of bassist Justin Shane in the early 2000’s . It was reported that Shane attempted to commit suicide by ingesting excessive amounts of cough syrup. The attempt had a great effect on the band’s then current Take Action Tour. As his physical and emotional condition declined, Shane was hospitalized and eventually left the band. M. Shadows said in an early 2000’s interview, “He perma-fried his brain and was in a mental institution for a long time,” Shadows said. “When you have someone in your band who does that, it ruins everything that’s going on all around you, and it makes you want to do something to prevent it from happening to other people.” Shane was eventually replaced by Dameon Ash.
The band recorded two demos, in 1999 and 2000, and then released their debut album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. The band members were just eighteen years old at the of their debut release and still in high school. The band then recruited Synyster Gates, when he was just eighteen and switched record labels from Good Life Recordings to Hopeless Records in 2002. The began to garner recognition, performing with bands like Mushroomhead and Shadows Fall.
After recruiting their fourth and current bassist, Johnny Christ, Avenged Sevenfold released their second studio album titled Waking the Fallen in August 2003. The album’s sound was a maturation form their two previous efforts, marking the evolution of their sonic style. The band’s popularity was growing, and in 2004 did a second stint on the Van’s Warped Tour and recorded a music video for their song Unholy Confessions, which received heavy rotation on MTV2’s Headbanger’s Ball. Then soon after left Hopeless Records and signed with Warner Bros. Records.
The band followed up Waking the Fallen with 2005’s City of Evil. Released June 7, 2005, it was their third album and their first major label release. The album featured the hit singles “Bat Country”. City of Evil marked a departure from the metalcore screams and growls form their previous albums. 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”. This further evolution of musical sound cemented their change from metalcore to a more mainstream accessible classic heaby metal sound. City of Evil debuted at number 30 on the Billboard charts, with the hit single “Bat Country” peaking at number 2 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, number 6 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and number 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live. The album was ranked No. 63 on Guitar World magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time”.
On October 26, 2007, Avenged Sevenfold released their self-titled debut, which was their fourth studio album. It debuted at number 4 on the Billboard charts and featured the hit singles “Critical Acclaim”, “Almost Easy” and “Afterlife”. 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. They used the momentum of their success to headline the Taste of Chaos Tour, which gained the band an even bigger following. With the upward climb that Avenge Sevenfold’s career was taking, it seemed as though the sky was the limit for the band. Unfortunately, tragedy would be just around the corner.
On December 28, 2009, the band’s 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 later posted a message from Sullivan’s family which expressed their gratitude to his fans for their support.
After speculation that Avenge Sevenfold would disband, the band decided to continue on after the death of The Rev. They recruited now ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy to record their next studio effort to be entitled Nightmare. The album was emotionally charged, when many of the lyrical themes based on the events of The Rev’s passing. The lead single, Nightmare, has an accompanying music video that pays a numerous tribute to The Rev; including a broken down drum kit of the deceased band member and the artistic theme of the video being heavily based on the infamous scene from Jacob’s Ladder where Jacob Singer is being pulled on a stretcher through hell. This was because the band knew this was one of The Rev’s favorite movies. The album Nightmare exceeded commercial expectations, debuting at number 1 on the charts and winning the band a sweep of the Golden God Awards (Portnoy for Best Drummer, Gates & Vengeance for Best Guitarists, Shadows for Best Vocalist and Nightmare for Album of the Year).
The band is still forging on in their careers. They made plans to enter the studio to record their sixth album in January 2013, with a tentative release later in the year. Only time will tell what is in store for Avenge Sevenfold in the future; but if history is any type of guide, it is safe to say that the band and its members will continue to grow, evolve and create hard hitting metal anthems that rockers world will be able to appreciate. Avenged Sevenfold can safely spread their ‘bat-wings’ and reach for the sky!!!