Sounding like the soundtrack to the greatest Tim Burton movie that never was, A Little Piece Of Heaven was the point where Avenged Sevenfold finally went Full Danny Elfman, channelling the legendary composer to the max by bringing his former Oingo Boingo collaborators Steve Bartek and Marc Mann along for the ride.
Roping in spooky piano tinklings, violas, trombones, clarinets, a choir – hell even a saxophone or two pops up – the 2007 song bounces along with equal parts mischief and melancholy, eventually exploding in a blizzard of demented horns, drum rolls, screams and strings. You may not be too surprised that this song, like so many of Avenged’s more unique moments, came predominantly from drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan.
“It was a conjuring of Jimmy’s genius,” confirms guitarist Synyster Gates. “He had these parts in his mind and he was always playing piano. Whenever there was a fucking piano, he’d always be playing it and it would always be original stuff. He’d draw a fucking crowd of all of our friends and we couldn’t wait to hear it, the new shit. Then he wanted to finish it because it started picking up momentum and he really got a kick out of the chorus. Jimmy wasn’t the guy who needed a pat on the back, but he was really proud of that chorus. It was a little bit of a joke, too; when he’d sing it, kind of like Scooby-Doo. He thought it was such a cheesy kind of jingle, so catchy and so syrupy. He just thought it was so funny to juxtapose that with the lyrics. We all loved it.”
Ah, yes, the lyrics. If A Little Piece Of Heaven sounds like a forgotten The Nightmare Before Christmas sequel, it reads like something from a full-blown torture porn horror flick, telling the story of a man who murders his significant other, preserving her body for his nefarious needs. Except she then comes back from the dead and kills him. Then he comes back from the dead and the two join in unholy matrimony to go on a big, romantic killing spree. Look, this shit ain’t Coldplay, alright? ‘Must have stabbed her 50 fucking times, I can’t believe it. Ripped her heart out right before her eyes. Eyes over easy, eat it eat it eat it!’ screams The Rev in the pre-chorus, the band clearly having an absolute blast curating the kind of comically violent narrative that would cause certain sections of Twitter to have a meltdown if it was released today.
Amazingly, despite being one of the standout songs on their self-titled album, the track nearly didn’t even make the cut at all, M Shadows having to really push the rest of the band to bring one of their most elaborate undertakings to life.
“We wanted to put it on a Halloween EP, so we started working on it,” explains Syn. “But we had so many songs and we were self-producing the record… to be honest, Jimmy and I didn’t want to work on it because the arrangements were such a monumental undertaking. We sort of gave up on it, and credit to Matt, he kept pushing and pushing and pushing. He wanted it for Halloween. I didn’t really want to do a Halloween EP, to be honest. I just wanted to finish that fucking album, and Jimmy was on the same page.”
Finally, with the rest of the band convinced by Shadows that it was a task worth pushing ahead with, things started to fall into place in the studio, and the band realised that they had struck gold.
“The song started taking life,” remembers Syn. “The minute we started recording it, everybody knew we had something special. When the stars align like that and you have Steve Bartek and Marc Mann — the Oingo Boingo guys – then you know you’re doing something fucking crazy and big.”
As soon as those around the band heard the completed song for the first time, they knew this couldn’t just be an EP track – it needed to be a cornerstone of the next album.
“I remember the label hearing it and they said, ‘This is not a Halloween EP song. This has to be on the record,’” says Syn. “We were a little intimidated to put something like that on the record, but our whole motto and ethos at the time was fucking fearlessness. The [self-titled] album is a fucking compendium of ridiculousness! Ha ha ha! There are auto-tuned vocals and country songs and shit like that, so we would have been betraying ourselves and acting like the biggest hypocrites of all if we didn’t do it.”
More than a decade on, Syn looks back at A Little Piece Of Heaven as one of the benchmarks against which Avenged Sevenfold will always be measured, and he’s perfectly happy for that to be the case.
“I’m so thankful that we did it because to me, I feel like we have a song that stands the test of time and is one of the greatest songs ever written, like a Bohemian Rhapsody or a Stairway To Heaven. Even though I didn’t write it, I’m probably even more proud that I got to witness that from a fan’s perspective and it was my best friend that created it.”