I discovered Avenged Sevenfold around 2005, the ‘City Of Evil’ era. ‘Bat Country’ had been played by someone else in FVK – I think it was Laurence [Beveridge] – and I thought, ‘What the hell’s that?’. I thought they’d be some super heavy band, and obviously they got a lot of criticism when they changed their sound to become less heavy – but they appealed to me instantly. They had this incredible theatrical element and these amazing melodies, and there was this whole metal undertone going on but it was melodic metal, and it was amazing.
We had their live DVD (Live in the LBC), which we used to watch before all of our shows in the early days, and it’s one of the best live DVDs I’ve ever seen. They were on top of their game then. And my love for them grew from there. I still think their self-titled album is one of the best albums they’ve ever done. From start to finish, every single track on there is amazing. They had everything sewn up as far I was concerned: they had all the stage names, the logo, and the whole image was really striking. They were a metal band, but they brought in other influences as well and I thought that was really cool.
I still love them now, but in my personal opinion Avenged Sevenfold was when they were at their musical peak. Obviously during the recording of the next album they lost The Rev, which was massively tragic and if I was in that position I really don’t know what I would’ve done. It must be so hard to go on when you’ve lost someone that close to you. And not only must it have been hard for them emotionally, it must’ve been hard for them creatively as well. Despite being a drummer, and despite appearances, he was a massive part of their creative process. So their new albums - whilst still being better than ones by a lot of bands out there - have gone much more down the line of traditional metal, which is cool, but I personally liked it more when they were a little bit more adventurous.
That said, we saw them play at Download in 2014 and they absolutely owned the main stage. Hearing songs like Hail to the King live was phenomenal because they’re built for those big open-air events. I guess that was the point that I realised what they’d done and why they’d done it. And now, of course, they’re one of the biggest bands in the world and as far as modern music is concerned they contribute something that’s a little bit more ambitious than a lot of other bands. They’ve never been afraid to do things that are out of the ordinary, and I think it’s cool that they’ve been brave enough to step outside of those traditional confines that metal bands often find themselves in.
These are my favourite Avenged Sevenfold songs, in the order in which the albums came out.
UNHOLY CONFESSIONS (Waking the Fallen, 2003) “This is from their second album Waking the Fallen. I haven’t got anything off Sounding the Seventh Trumpet in my list. It’s not that that’s a bad album, I just didn’t really know the band then and it’s not really my thing. But the riff at the start of this song is classic. I think a few bands have nicked it. We certainly have. There’s a song on our last album called Edge of Eternity that’s partly inspired by this song. It just has this youthful enthusiasm about it that I love.”
BETRAYED (City of Evil, 2005) “They always start songs with amazingly classic riffs. No other band would do a riff like this. It’s so disjointed, but it works, and then the theatrical vocals come in and you’ve got another cracking M. Shadows chorus. A lot of people seem to hate his voice, but I love him. Especially when you see the band perform live. He nails it even better live, to be honest. He’s got a ridiculous range too, which you wouldn’t expect from such a massive bloke.”
BEAST AND THE HARLOT (City of Evil, 2005) “This has probably one of the best intros to any song ever. It’s super metal, but again has this classic Avenged Sevenfold flavour. The production on City of Evil is fucking awful, but that doesn’t stop the songs from being fucking amazing.”
BAT COUNTRY (City of Evil, 2005) “The vocal melody in the verse is just as good as the one in the chorus, and that’s a really hard thing to do. Take it from someone who writes songs. Usually you write a good verse and then you try to make the chorus better, but this song is just great all the way through. There’s the ridiculous falsetto vocals too, and just when you think it can’t get any better…it does!”
CRITICAL ACCLAIM (Avenged Sevenfold, 2007) “This is the first song on the Avenged Sevenfold album, and it starts with that ridiculous organ. If any other band would’ve done that it wouldn’t have been very cool at all, but they manage to pull it off. And then that huge riff comes in that everyone always remembers. It’s just an amazing way to start an album. And when the vocals come in it showcases where they were going with the record. It’s also got one of the best choruses on the album, which is quite an accolade considering they’re all pretty good.”
ALMOST EASY (Avenged Sevenfold, 2007) “The thing I like about their self-titledalbum is it’s kind of got a concept feel to it even though it’s not technically a concept album. This song in particular is more classic metal and alludes to where they would go later on with Nightmare and Hail to the King. There’s the chuggy Metallica-esque guitars, and M. Shadows’ vocals became what they always should’ve been. He maintains his range, but gets gritty with it as well.”
A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN (Avenged Sevenfold, 2007) “This song is probably what made me so interested in Avenged Sevenfold. It sounds like a Tim Burton movie soundtrack with a metal backing. For a metal band to do something like that was almost unheard of at the time. It’s like a rock opera within one song, which is eight minutes long. It also turned out to be one of their more popular songs, which to me proves the fact that rock music doesn’t need to be bland to be popular. So well done Avenged Sevenfold, for writing such a bonkers, successful song and proving people wrong.”
NIGHTMARE (Nightmare, 2010) “I like Nightmare because it’s a lot darker than their other albums, and it’s quite a contrast from Avenged Sevenfold with the white cover – this one has a graveyard and reaper theme going. The Rev wrote a lot of this album with the band before he died, and that’s I guess why a lot of the songs feel true to Avenged Sevenfold’s earlier records as well. The opening riff to this one is one of their best too. It’s ridiculously epic! It’s very Tim Burton-esque, again. I guess the band must be pretty into him.”
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY (Nightmare, 2010) “This is the next step towards them going more traditionally metal, but it’s also got a cheeky swagger to it. And once again, even though it’s got this classic stompy metal riff, there’s also this melodic thing going on and it has this lively chorus that’s more like the old Avenged Sevenfold I know and love. I guess I’m just an old school fan in that sense. And it has that brilliant line at the start: ‘Hey kids, do I have your attention?’ It’s quirky, it’s metal, and it’s awesome.”
FICTION (Nightmare, 2010) “It’s very similar to A Little Piece of Heaven this one, and another song entirely written by The Rev. He passed away before they could finish recording it though, so it has this really eerie quality to it because they got some of his vocals from the demo recordings, cleaned them up and put them on the track. It’s so haunting because it sounds like lyrically he’s talking about what was going to happen to him. It’s one of the band’s more subtle and well put together songs, and it’s all very heartbreaking the way M. Shadows and The Rev sing together.”
HAIL TO THE KING (Hail to the King, 2013) “I heard this song at Download in 2014 and I didn’t really appreciate it properly until then. When I first heard it I thought it was a bit simplistic for Avenged Sevenfold. I was used to ridiculous drumbeats and guitars, and they just kind of came in with this Metallica style classic metal track. But it’s definitely one of my favourite tracks on that album now. And it’s got a huge chorus as well, which really came alive for me at Download. I guess them going back to that more traditional metal sound opened up a bigger audience as well, and they were on a natural trajectory that continued the work that they’d done on previous records. I’d personally like them to return to the form of Avenged Sevenfold, but then maybe some people think they’re on form now. They’re only going to get bigger regardless, and that can only be a good thing for rock and metal.”
Kier Kemp was speaking to Matt Stocks. Fearless Vampire Killers’ double A-side Danger/Braindead will be released on August 21. The band’s very own Havoc Festival takes place at the Dome in London’s Tufnell Park on August 9.