The A-Z Of Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold circa 2007 (Image credit: Mick Hutson)

One of the biggest names in modern metal, Avenged Sevenfold have graduated from the Warped Tour circuit to become arena headliners worldwide. Currently on a US festival run, the band are set to embark upon a 27 date European tour in 2017, taking in 10 shows in the UK and Ireland. Here’s your essential guide to the Huntington Beach, California quintet.

A is for… Aaronson, Craig

Warner Brothers A&R executive Aaronson signed A7X to the label from Hopeless Records in the summer of 2004, having previously brought Green Day, My Chemical Romance and The Used to the label. When Aaronson passed away in 2014, the band paid tribute to him in a moving statement, stating “We had heard horror stories about independent bands signing with major labels so when we first met Craig we were sceptical. We ended up trusting him and Warner Brothers Records and in the end we are glad that we did. Craig had not only been a personal friend to us through the years, but also helped spearhead many of the band’s successes.”

B is for… Brian Haner Sr

The 58-year-old Californian musician/comedian/writer has played guitar on every A7X album from 2005’s City Of Evil through to 2013’s Hail To The King, but is best known to Avenged fans as the father of guitarist Synyster Gates, aka Brian Haner Jr. Syn has hailed his father as his “inspiration”, “hero” and “best friend”, and described him as “a fucking monster” on guitar. Awwww.

C is for… Covers

Across their 17 year career, Avenged have released just three cover versions, two - Iron Maiden’s Flash Of The Blade and Pantera’s Walk – commissioned by this writer for magazine covermount CDs, with the third, their take on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid appearing on the Warners compilation Covered – A Revolution In Sound. Sadly, their corporate paymasters vetoed their original choice for this collection, which would have seen the quintet tackle Stubb A (Dub) by Mr Bungle, who Synyster Gates cites as his favourite band ever.

D is for… Deathbat

Designed by Huntington Beach artist Micah Montague, a high school friend of M. Shadows, A7X’s iconic winged skull logo has appeared on all their album sleeves, and is in no way whatsoever a knock-off of Overkill’s flying-skull-with-bat-wings logo Chaly. In an entertaining series of sketches posted on his Instagram account last year, Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland offered his thought on what the Deathbat’s teenage life may have been like. Trigger warning: it’s quite sad.

E is for… Early Recordings

Avenged cut their first demo tape, a three track release featuring the songs Forgotten Faces, Thick And Thin and The Art Of Subconscious Illusion, in 1999, as a four-piece, with their original line-up of M. Shadows, Zacky Vengeance, The Reverend Tholomew Plague and bassist Matthew Wendt. The following year, the demo was expanded to five songs, with the addition of Lips Of Deceit and We Come Out At Night. All five songs were re-recorded for the band’s 2001 debut album Sounding The Seventh Trumpet.

F is for… Feuds

One of metal’s most divisive, polarising acts, Avenged have had their fair share of critics over the years, with M. Shadows telling Hammer in 2013 “people know that they’ll get more attention by talking shit about us,” and claiming that his band is above such behaviour. This was not always the case. Back in 2006, Shadows made enemies of Dillinger Escape Plan, after labelling the band “a bunch of homos who make shitty noises and try to pass it off as music”: never one to back down from a fight, Dillinger’s Greg Puciato responded by saying “What about bands that make shitty noise and try to pass it off as Guns N Roses?” calling A7X “musical clowns.” Ouch.

G is for… Game

Avenged launched their own self-funded game, Hail To the King: Deathbat, a third person fantasy/adventure RPG set in the mythical kingdom of Haides and based around the origins of their iconic logo/mascot, in 2014. “We felt that the game had already written itself, at least visually,” Shadows told the LA Times. “A band like Mumford & Sons or Imagine Dragons or Coldplay — there’s no game to be made there.”

H is for… Hail To The King

The band’s sixth, and most recent, album became the first Avenged release to debut at Number 1 in both the UK and US upon its release in 2013. Hammer called the album “a beast of a record, vast, ambitious and magisterial.” Not everyone was so complimentary, with Machine Head’s Robb Flynn referring to the collection as “a covers album”, saying “Who knew that re-recording Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Megadeth songs could be such a worldwide hit!!??” Saucer of milk for Mr Flynn, please.

I is for… I Won’t See You Tonight, Parts 1 and 2

An early indication that A7X had rather more lofty ambitions than their peers, the epic I Won’t See You Tonight – split into two parts, the first written from the perspective of a character contemplating suicide, the second from the viewpoint of an individual who’s lost a friend to suicide – is perhaps the best illustration of the step up that Avenged took when guitarist/songwriter Synyster Gates, who wrote the song single-handedly, joined the band in 2000.

J is for… Jimmy Sullivan

A singular, much-missed talent, Jimmy Sullivan helped form A7X in 1999, and was the band’s creative heartbeat until his death at home in Huntington Beach on December 28, 2009, aged just 28. A larger-than-life, effervescent character, the drummer died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol. His memory is celebrated each night Avenged take the stage with the song So Far Away.

K is for… Katy Perry

Though both artists cut their teeth on the Warped tour – Avenged debuting on Kevin Lyman’s ‘punk rock summer camp’ in 2003 and Perry in 2008 – their creative worlds didn’t align until 2015 when YouTuber Isosine elected to blend City Of Evil fan favourite Bat Country with Perry’s worldwide smash California Gurls to create the rather impressive Bat Country Gurls mash-up. A genuine collaboration between the two would surely slay: here’s hoping…

L is for… Lawsuit

In January this year, Avenged announced their intention to leave their record label Warners, invoking a clause in the state of California’s labour code which stipulates that a court cannot enforce a personal service contract after seven calendar years from when the deal began. Having delivered four of the five studio albums mandated in their 2004 record contract, the band argue that “regime changes” at the label mean that they no longer have the working relationships with Warners that they formerly enjoyed. Warners have sued the band as a result, and the lawsuit remains unresolved, with A7X seemingly determined to walk away. “If you’re at a place where they don’t care about your band, then you have to do somewhere where they do care about your band,” Shadows stated earlier this month.

M is for… Metallica

An obvious influence upon Avenged – as one listen to This Means War on Hail To The King testifies – Metallica have taken their fellow Californians on the road on several occasions, and consider the Orange County crew both friends and an inspiration. Lars Ulrich has stated that Avenged are “near and dear” to his band, while James Hetfield personally introduced their set at Metallica’s Orion festival and declared “I dig everything they do.” You guys…

N is for… Not Ready To Die

Written in four days in the Spring of 2010 between the band’s Nightmare After Christmas and Welcome To The Family tours, the seven minute-plus Not Ready To Die appeared as an ‘easter egg’ in the hugely successful Call of Duty: Black Ops game, and marked the A7X recording debut of drummer Arin Ilejay. Lyrically, the song is about zombies, with Shadows stating “I’m a big fan of the game, I play it all the time, so I got caught up in the story.”

O is for… Oingo Boingo

The Los Angles new wave band, arguably best known as being the first creative vehicle for musical genius Danny Elfman, were a huge influence upon The Rev and Synsyter Gates, to the point where Avenged hired former members Steve Bartek and Marc Mann to orchestrate strings arrangements on A Little Piece Of Heaven and Afterlife on their self-titled 2007 album. In one of his final interviews The Rev described Danny Elfman as “my musical hero.”

P is for… Piss

Avenged may be clean-living, married family men now, but they’ve indulged in more than their fair share of debauchery. Two groupies who ‘partied’ with the band once in Atlantic City found themselves drenched with a bucket-full of the band’s combined urine, while in her book The Last Living Slut, UK super-groupie Roxana Shirazi reveals that she encouraged the band to indulge in ‘water sports’ with her, recalling “Synyster…unleashed his hot pee like a fountain all over my breasts.” Delightful.

Q is for… Quote

One might imagine that there’s precious little to link Avenged with 18th century English literary giant Samuel Johnson, but Bat Country, still arguably A7X’s signature song, opens with a quote from the great man, namely ‘He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man’. The same quote opens American writer Hunter S. Thompson’s seminal 1971 ‘gonzo’ text Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, from which Avenged borrowed the title of the song.

R is for… Republican

In a 2006 interview with M. Shadows declared that his band were “one of the only bands around right now that will admit that we’re Republican” and declared his support for George Bush. The singer also recalled being on the 2005 Warped tour with bands who were “anti-everything our country stands for”, and admitted wearing T-shirts featured the US flag and the words ‘Love It Or Die’ to antagonise left wing artists. In a later influence with Hammer the band pulled back somewhat on such sentiments, with Shadows declaring himself “socially liberal.”

“We didn’t want people to fucking suck our Republican dicks, it was just a reaction,” insisted Synyster Gates. “You live and you learn – a lot of bands say douchey shit.”

S is for… Satan Sandwich

The rarest of A7X songs, Satan Sandwich has never been recorded and was played live only once, when the band played the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on October 29, 2007. There’s footage of the performance on YouTube, but good luck trying to make out a single lyric or guitar riff above the squeals of the band’s female fans. Something about that title suggests that Avenged weren’t entirely serious about the track anyway.

T is for… To End The Rapture (Heavy Metal Version)

The first Avenged song to feature Synyster Gates, To End The Rapture (Heavy Metal Version), is a re-recording of the opening track on Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, as featured on the band’s debut EP, 2001’s Warmness On The Soul. When the band’s debut album was re-released, this version replaced the original recording. The song has now been restored to A7X’s standard setlist.

U is for… UK

In January, Avenged will round off their ten date UK and Ireland tour with two nights at London’s 20,000 capacity O2 arena, a far cry from their first ever visit to the UK, in February 2004, when they played support to Lostprophets and The Bronx at London’s (now demolished) 2,000 capacity Astoria theatre. That night is perhaps most memorable because, following a mass brawl at legendary London drinking den Crobar, The Rev spent the night in a police cell, but such an inhospitable welcome hasn’t deterred the band from frequent returns to the territory where they ‘broke’ first internationally.

V is for… Valary DiBenedetto

Best friends with M. Shadows since sixth grade at elementary school, Valary sang on The Art Of Subconscious Illusion on the band’s debut album, graduated from being A7X’s merch girl at the outset of their career to becoming their tour manager, and on October 17, 2009, married Shadows. Val’s twin sister Michelle DiBenedetto married Synyster Gates the following year.

W is for… Waking The Fallen

Recently acclaimed in Hammer as the sixth best album of the century so far, the ambitious, progressive and fearless Waking The Fallen sold over 100,000 copies on Hopeless Records in its first year on release, alerting America’s A&R scouts to the emergence of a thrilling new voice in heavy metal. Re-released as Waking The Fallen: Resurrected in 2014 as a tenth anniversary edition, the album breached the Billboard Top in the US for the first and entered the UK Top 40 at number 35.

X is for… X-Posed

Not an officially endorsed ‘product’, the 2014 release X-Posed: The Interviews collates 11 A7X radio interviews onto one 78 minute disc, offering a handy primer for those new to the band. Though, really, after reading this A-Z, what more could you possibly learn eh?

Y is for… YouTube

As the wait for the seventh Avenged studio album continues – there’s the small matter of that Warners lawsuit to resolve first, remember – it’s worth keeping an eye on the band’s YouTube channel over the coming months to see how they’ll build up to their mammoth European tour. The most recent posting on the channel features a short documentary clip of the band’s free show at Minneapolis’ legendary First Avenue club on August 18 – new drummer Brooks Wackerman’s first gig with the band – and you can expect more exclusives in the months ahead.

Z is for… Zacky Vengeance

When Avenged began working on Waking The Fallen in 2003, their founding guitarist was more than a little pissed off to hear producer Andrew ‘Mudrock’ Murdock tell him ‘Zack, you’re not very good at the guitar’. “I think he even tried to get me kicked out of the band at that point,” Zacky recalled in 2014. A7X’s most low-key, introspective member, the man born Zachary James Baker took on the stage name ‘Vengeance’ as a ‘fuck you’ to everyone in his life who doubted his potential: that seems to have worked out rather well for him so far…

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Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.