Here are all the bands that every member of Avenged Sevenfold were in before Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold members through the years
(Image credit: Getty)

Avenged Sevenfold were only teenagers in high school when they first formed in 1999. However, even at that point, Huntington Beach’s future heavy metal heroes had a history. Many of the band’s core members had been classmates for years and had gathered individual experience in California’s fertile punk rock underground. With new album Life Is But A Dream… on the way, here’s every single band that Avenged Sevenfold’s members were in before they started sounding the seventh trumpet.

Metal Hammer line break

M Shadows: Successful Failure

Before Avenged were Pantera- and Metallica-idolising metalheads, they were snot-nosed Huntington Beach punks. Successful Failure were the high school band of frontman M. Shadows and Avenged’s first bassist, Matt Wendt. Little’s known about them, since they were active for a short while, never released an album and never embarked on any large-scale tours. Even the other members that rounded out the lineup are a mystery. However, Avenged guitarist Zacky Vengeance once revealed to Revolver that he first met drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan at a Successful Failure show.

“I was sitting there watching, and this tall, skinny, scary-looking kid came up to me and grabbed me and said, ‘Get up and mosh, you pussy,’” he remembered. “That was the first time I ever laid eyes on that guy and it was incredible.”

The Rev: Bomb Squad/Suburban Legends

Before he was heavy metal’s Rev, Jimmy Sullivan also ascended through the Californian punk scene. He joined a fledgling Huntington Beach ska punk band called Bomb Squad at the end of 1998, who quickly changed their name to Suburban Legends. He drummed on debut album Origin Edition in 1999 before leaving their ranks the same year. Presumably, he fucked off to form Avenged, who had more sonically in common with his childhood influences of Metallica and Slayer.

Suburban Legends still exist to this day. They’re best-known for their associations with Disneyland California up the road, where they used to regularly perform. Since then, they’ve released EP after EP of ska takes on classic Disney tracks. If they started doing that 15 years later, they would have probably dominated TikTok.

Zacky Vengeance: Society Down and MPA

Like fellow Avenged founders M. Shadows and The Rev, Zacky is a punk rock kid turned heavy metal superstar. His first band were a crust punk outfit called Society Down, although they didn’t go far. The rhythm guitarist reflected on their first concert in a 2016 Metal Hammer interview: “We were trying to be so crust punk with liberty spikes, and there were literally three people in the crowd: one being M. Shadows, one being our friend Joel, and one guy that just sat down in the wrong coffee shop at the wrong time.”

After that lot came and went, Zacky joined another punk band called MPA, which reportedly stood for Mad Porn Addiction. We can only assume that this bunch didn’t set the world on fire either, since the guitarist quickly left in favour of playing with Avenged.

Synyster Gates: Pinkly Smooth

Synyster Gates’ real name is Brian Haner Jr. Before he was born, Brian Haner Sr was an in-demand session guitarist, having played in the studio with Motown star Norman Whitfield and spent a summer touring with ’60s rockers Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs. From the looks of it, Junior initially wanted to echo his dad’s career. After being raised on everything from metal to jazz, he studied his instrument at the Guitar Institute Of Technology in Los Angeles.

Syn’s first formal band didn’t come until 2001, when he formed Pinkly Smooth with his old school buddy The Rev. The two had previously bonded over avant-garde artists like Mr Bungle and channelled those influences into the project, but it wound down as Avenged gained traction. When the band needed a second guitar player after Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, Syn instantly joined.

Johnny Christ: unknown

We know that Avenged’s fourth and current bassist spent his high school days in a local rock band or two. However, our searches for actual names have yielded nothing. What we can say is that Johnny knew The Rev and Synyster Gates from an early age, since the duo were mates with one of his older brothers. Once the band started gathering momentum, he’d head to M. Shadows’ mum’s garage and watch them jam. Then, once they were done, he’d play Primus songs with The Rev.

The bassist’s stint in Avenged was supposed to last just two weeks, with him filling in for then-member Dameon Ash on a tour. A week and a half in, he was asked to join the band full-time. His dedication to them was so strong that he dropped out of high school to take the job.

Mike Portnoy: Intruder, Rising Power, Inner Sanctum and Dream Theater

OK, so Mike Portnoy was never officially a full-time member of Avenged. However, the brief role he had in the band was invaluable. He picked up the sticks almost immediately after The Rev died in December 2009, tracking Nightmare and joining the accompanying tour at a time of immense grief for the remaining four members.

Before Avenged, Mike drummed for some high school bands called Intruder, Rising Power and Inner Sanctum. He was already studying his instrument at the time, then continued at the renowned Berklee College Of Music. There, he met Johns Petrucci and Myung and co-founded Dream Theater. The band became idols of the progressive metal genre, but Mike left in 2010, citing a need to try other projects after spending 25 years within the same circle.

Arin Ilejay: Tear The Sails and Confide

Arin was the first full-time drummer Avenged hired after The Rev passed away. His first band of note was called Tear The Sails: a California pop-emo bunch that split in 2007. He joined metalcore melody-makers Confide the same year, which is what put him on Avenged’s radar.

“We recently asked several friends who knew Jimmy and his style, and also knew our music and each of our personalities to suggest drummers to tour with us starting this year,” the band said when Arin joined in 2011. “Our long-time studio drum tech, Mike Fasano, recommended Arin Ilejay.”

Avenged dismissed Arin in 2015, citing creative differences, and the drummer quickly joined hard rockers Islander. He parted ways with that band as well, two years later.

Brooks Wackerman: so bloody many

By the time Brooks formally replaced Arin Ilejay as Avenged’s drummer in 2015, his CV was so long it’d jam your printer. He was treated to an auspicious start when he formed teenage band Bad4Good and their debut album, Refugee, was produced by guitar god Steve Vai. After that springboard, he joined Suicidal Tendences side-project Infectious Grooves. Then came spots in the main band itself and another offshoot called Mass Mental.

In 2001, Brooks replaced drummer Bobby Schayver in Bad Religion, starting a full-time gig that lasted for 14 years. During that stint, he also found time for studio and/or touring work with Avril Lavigne, Tenacious D, Korn and Tom DeLonge, amongst others. Since starting with Avenged though, his focus has been much more firmly on the day job.

New Avenged Sevenfold album Life Is But A Dream… is out on June 2 via Warner

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.