It’s not always recognized in today’s “I want it all now” world, but patience is a virtue. And Huntington Beach, California rockers Avenged Sevenfold are being rewarded for remembering that golden rule. After releasing two highly successful albums on an indie label (Sounding The Seventh Trumpet and Waking The Fallen), the quintet is set to unleash its major label debut, City Of Evil, on Warner Bros. Records. City Of Evil, co-produced by Avenged Sevenfold, reunites the group with producer Mudrock (Waking The Fall).
“We’re at the point now where we’ve come into our own,” vocalist M. Shadows says of the ambitious City Of Evil, an 11-song collection that gives a middle finger to the idea of categorization, bridging the sonic guitar assault of Iron Maiden with the frenetic pace of Bad Religion and the musicianship of Dream Theater. “In Southern California you’re really brought up in the whole punk world. At the same time, we were growing up listening to Pantera, Megadeath, Metallica and Slayer records,” Shadows recalls. “So then you think, ‘I want to play in that kind of band, but I want to play in this kind of band.’ Then you pass that point and all of a sudden you’re just writing music and it comes out naturally. But that’s what happens cause of all the different influences we have. And we’re definitely not afraid to put anything in our songs if we think it calls for it.”
Yes, Avenged Sevenfold can rock, as the band recently did at a sold-out show at Hollywood’s Music Box Theater, where they turned the intensity of the new tunes up from 11 to about a 20, but these are musicians as well. However, as the group evidenced during the orchestral interlude in “The Wicked End,” a perfect metal moment live complemented by a boys choir and 14-piece string section, Avenged Sevenfold, in the tradition of Zeppelin, Queen, and Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” meld their intensity with a musical daring their hard rock forefathers would be proud of.
Those looking primarily for a cathartic release live, as so many of the kids moshing their brains out at the Music Box were, need only turn to the ferocious energy of “Bat Country,” a song written for Hunter S. Thompson about the band’s own adventures in Vegas, and the Maiden-esque guitar and Shadows’ perfect caterwaul of the line “city of evil” (where the album’s title stems from) in the opening “Beast & The Harlot.”
And while Avenged, whose influences range from Maiden, Pantera, and Guns ‘N’ Roses (Shadows calls Use Your Illusions 1 and 2 his favorite albums of all time) to Billy Joel, Queen, and Elvis Costello, may not be your typical hard rock band musically, they can hang with the best of them. Epic nights of late night fun have followed this band around the country, and it’s something all of the members freely acknowledge. They like to party, and they like to drink: and plenty. Additionally, and fitting with their chosen lifestyle, the members of Avenged could write the A7X equivalent of the Zagut guide to strip clubs in America.
“Strippers and bands have this bond,” Vengeance says. “They totally do. The band walks in and it’s like special treatment,” Shadows adds. So, what makes a good strip club? “I like strip clubs that are out of control,” he says, citing Vegas, New York and New Orleans (“It’s fucking Bourbon Street. It better be crazy,” he says) as home to some of the better establishments they’ve frequented.
Reflecting the complex personalities though that can lead a hard rock band to throw in a beautiful Flamenco guitar solo near the end of the new album’s savage “Sidewinder,” Avenged Sevenfold is far from just a party band, and it shows on City Of Evil. The album is bursting with displays of their virtuoso musicianship, from the intricate tempo changes of “Burn It Down” to the tender acoustic intro into a Spaghetti Western mixed with classical melody that provides the calm before the storm in the savage “Strength Of The World.”
The group has learned a great deal having spent the last three summers as part of the Warped tour. Shadows got some valuable advice from Fat Mike of NOFX, besides how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. “He’s like, ‘You know what, if you do this stuff long enough, you gotta fucking have fun. If you can’t have fun on tour then you’ll never last,’” Shadows recalls. “I think that’s a really important thing.”
Additionally, the quintet, which started on a Warped side stage, graduated to the second stage, and then made the move last year to main stage, a spot they’ll be returning to this year, learned a lot by the gradual progression. “We’ve seen bands that we started out with that got a little bit of a head start or an early break and they’re done. We’ve learned so much more doing it from the ground up. We’ve got so many more stories than other bands will have; so many more good times, bad times. It has made us stronger as a band too,” Vengeance says.
Hard work is what also accounts for the band’s fiercely loyal following, according to Shadows. “It’s rewarding ‘cause you know you have this really solid core fan base that has been through a lot and they believe in the band now as more than a band, it’s like a lifestyle,” he says. “If anything happens we don’t ever fall, it’s like they’re holding us up. We’re not on the radio, but everywhere we go we always have this rabid group of fans. We would’ve never had that if we had some lucky break and just jumped to the point we’re at now. I hope it gradually keeps going up. The slower you go the more I think it builds underneath you and we’re grateful for that. They can’t just get pulled out from underneath us. There’s nothing you can grab to pull; it’s fans that love that band. So, it’s very gratifying to be at this place now.”