Avenged Sevenfold takes on the Golden Gods
As their fans here and abroad have witnessed, the last two years have been a wild ride for Avenged Sevenfold.
The local heavy rock act lost one of its founding members, drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, at the tail-end of 2009, but instead of bowing out, remaining members Matt Sanders, Brian Haner Jr., Zachary Baker and Jonathan Seward -- better known by persona: M. Shadows, Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance and Johnny Christ, respectively -- forged on, eventually releasing their fifth studio album, Nightmare, in July.
The record is the band’s best-selling release to date, debuting at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and selling enough copies to knock hip-hop golden boy Eminem out of the top spot.
With Sullivan on their minds and in their hearts, the quartet also continued to tour, temporarily adding Dream Theater anchor Mike Portnoy. A7X co-headlined the inaugural Uproar metal fest in late summer, then took a short break before beginning its Nightmare After Christmas tour with a new drummer, Arin Ilejay from Confide.
In March, Avenged received two OC Music Awards, for best metal and best album, which Shadows happily accepted at the ceremony at City National Grove of Anaheim. Soon after, it was announced that the band would headline Revolver magazine’s 3rd annual Golden Gods Awards at Club Nokia on April 20.
“It’s kind of like a huge spirit triumph,” Shadows said in a recent phone interview, speaking of the band’s surge of successes.
“There’s never a great day," he explained. "Every day we still think about Jimmy, and we’re doing everything in his memory and for his legacy. We know he would want us to continue on. We’ve been very fortunate that it’s been received so well. I think no matter what kind of music it is, the story kind of pulls at the heartstrings -- everybody loses people they love at one point or another in their lives, and it’s one of the hardest things to go through.
“I think we had two choices: we could fold or we could go out there and make the best out of the situation -- which is a terrible situation. We’ve been very lucky that we’ve been embraced the way we have with this record. We put everything out there on it, and we’re going to try to continue to be strong as people and as a band.”
Facing the Golden Gods
Shadows is tight-lipped about what the band has in store for its Golden Gods performance but does say it will perform a few favorite tracks alongside “a couple of friends that play in some pretty big metal bands.” Who knows what kind of royal combination could be cooked up? In its almost 12-year existence, A7X has pretty much played with all of the genre’s luminaries, from Iron Maiden to Metallica to Slash.
Members of Avenged are also nominated in just about every Golden Gods category: Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance were both singled out for best guitarist, Portnoy got a nod for his drum work with Avenged last year, Shadows is up for best vocalist, Nightmare a contender for album of the year and A7X is vying for best live band.
The show, which Revolver editor-in-chief Brandon Geist says is much more of a “metal family reunion” than a stuffy awards event, will be hosted by WWE figure and Dancing with the Stars contestant Chris Jericho and, between awards, will feature numerous on-stage collaborations that honor heavy music's past and present.
Aside from A7X’s performance, the roster includes Alice Cooper, with his full original band in its first L.A. appearance in 40 years, as well as sets by Loaded featuring Duff McKagan (of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver), Volbeat, DevilDriver (leading a tribute to seminal punk band Black Flag) and Jericho's group Fozzy, while newcomer Asking Alexandria will be joined on stage by Sebastian Bach for Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild.”
Mötley Crüe will be presented with the Ronnie James Dio Lifetime Achievement Award; actor and musician William Shatner will receive the Honorary Headbanger Award. Cooper also will be given the highest honor, the actual Golden God Award, given to those who embody the spirit of hard rock and metal. Previous recipients have been Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. The ceremony will air May 28 on VH1 Classic.
Geist calls A7X’s story “incredible” and says it’s been a pleasure to follow the group’s rise.
“It’s been an amazing experience and a heartbreaking one at times, with Jimmy’s death, but it’s been really inspirational to see how they’ve come back, and Nightmare has opened a lot of people’s ears to that band. They have a lot of haters, but with that album and their whole story, it shows the real character of the members, and it’s turned some of the haters into fans.
“That’s one of the reasons they’ve had such a big year: because people are realizing these guys are for real. They’re not a gimmicky boy band. They are serious artists and that’s something we really wanted to bring to the forefront by nominating them for the awards and giving them the forum to show everything they’ve got on our stage.”
Shadows says he’s looking forward to mingling with musician buddies he usually only gets to see in passing on tours, but he’s most excited about seeing Alice Cooper in person for the first time. There’s sure to be plenty of drinking and after-parties, but the vocalist says he and the rest of A7X won’t be partying it up since they fly out immediately for a festival the following day, which kicks off the band’s new Welcome to the Family tour.
Crediting overwhelming support from fans as the thing responsible for breathing new life into the band’s deflated lungs, Shadows says the immense hometown welcome it received during its stop at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine on the Uproar Festival in September -- the band’s first local gig without Sullivan -- was a truly emotional experience.
“Jimmy’s whole family was there and a lot of our friends were there,” he recalls. “It was more about playing for them and letting them know we were strong and we were moving forward in his honor and his memory. We wanted to let them know that we were going to continue on the best we can without him.”
Shadows says the band also greatly appreciated its two OC Music Awards wins: “It was really nice because I think we feel that sometimes we don’t get as much love from our hometown as maybe we feel we would like. So this year, when we got nominated, we were really excited and happy that we were getting some recognition here -- and when we won the award, it was awesome.”
Following this Welcome to the Family jaunt, A7X heads overseas for a slew of massive festivals, including Rock am Ring and Rock im Park in Germany with System of a Down in June. A7X is near top billing at almost all these festivals, but the group has its eyes set on being the headlining act next time around.
“Our goal is to go there now and crush every other band -- in a nice way, of course -- and just go dominate this summer, so when we come back next summer or when we put out the next record, we can come back and headline. For now, our main goal is to put on the best show, with big production, and play really well, stay healthy, get ourselves set up to go tour there and put on the crazy, over-the-top Avenged Sevenfold show.”
Which, of course, means being away from Huntington Beach for long stretches of time. “I miss the weather, my house, Tuna Town, good sushi, going to 24-Hour Fitness and playing basketball when no one is there,” he lists. “I miss everything. I miss the golf courses. When I’m on tour, I’m fiending to get back to Orange County.
"Everyone around the world is like, ‘Oh, you’re from Orange County!’ -- and they’re either jealous or they have some preconceived idea of what Orange County is all about. We always try to change their minds and let them know that it’s awesome. There are a lot of people who are just jealous that we live in sunshine all year round.”
The 3rd annual Revolver Golden Gods Awards, featuring Avenged Sevenfold, the original Alice Cooper Group, Loaded with Duff McKagan, DevilDriver, Asking Alexandria and more, takes place April 20 at 7 p.m. at Club Nokia in the L.A. Live complex. Tickets are sold out.