If your kid was born when The Stage was released, they’d be a year into primary school by the time Life Is But A Dream… came out. That’s how long the world’s been waiting to hear new Avenged Sevenfold. And, now that it’s here, it’s safe to call the Huntington Beach jocks’ eighth album a genre-busting display of prog experimentation, heavy metal energy and countless electronic detours.
With Life Is But A Dream… destined to go down as one of the biggest heavy music releases of 2023, there’ll doubtlessly be many a listener wondering where they can go next to find the same vibe. Below, Hammer will point you in the direction of everything from other Avenged albums to the best music by the band’s ever-growing list of eclectic influences.
Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage (2016)
Avenged’s first trip into mind-melting prog was perfectly timed. Prior album Hail To The King had bisected their fan-base: some decried it as Metallica mimicry, but it couldn’t stop the Californians soaring to Download headliner status and the title track becoming their most-streamed song. Fortunately, giants like The Stage and Exist showed the true extent of the band’s imagination – and nearly caught everyone as off-guard as the album’s unannounced release in October 2016.
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
Although suites like The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and The Phantom Of The Opera screamed that Maiden adored their prog, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was their first start-to-finish progressive metal album. Its lyrics were obsessed with folklore and the supernatural, with touches like the album starting and ending with the same acoustic verse putting a bow on the big, conceptual package. It was the creative peak of the band’s 80s heyday.
Black Flag – Damaged (1981)
Hailing from Hermosa Beach, Black Flag formed merely an hour from where Avenged got their start in Huntington Beach, California. So it’s no surprise that the hardcore icons’ righteous rage was an early influence on M. Shadows. The same scurrying chords and ranting that define masterpiece Damaged can be heard on Life Is But A Dream… opener Game Over. Between all the acoustic interludes, Avenged sound the punkiest they’ve been since their debut.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)
During a recent podcast interview, M. Shadows tipped his backwards baseball cap to France’s house innovators Daft Punk. “I think what you’re hearing [on Life is But A Dream…] is a lot of Daft Punk,” he said while wearing a t-shirt dedicated to the Parisian duo. “A lot of this kind of, not being afraid to use technology in a really grounded way. Like vocoders and funk, and this sort of Nile Rodgers feel and groove."
King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
With Avenged venturing further and further into the prog landscape, revisiting the genre’s origins is a must. The debut album by English experimentalists King Crimson is most commonly cited as progressive rock’s inception, with opener 21st Century Schizoid Man evolving from a hulking blues rock start to noodling saxophones. Meanwhile, the title track folds in folk and symphonic sounds. Reportedly this band were a big influence on The Rev’s eclectic ways.
At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Soul (1995)
When Rolling Stone asked M. Shadows to name his favourite metal albums, he said of Slaughter Of The Soul: “that record changed everything”. It’s no surprise. At The Gates’ magnum opus basically inspired the entire New Wave Of American Heavy Metal with its anthemic songs and slicing guitar riffs. And, even amid the wildness of Life Is But A Dream…, that melodic metal heart still beats during Nobody and Beautiful Morning.
Weezer – Pinkerton (1996)
In the new issue of Metal Hammer, M. Shadows cites Weezer’s ultra-personal second album as an inspiration for Life Is But A Dream…. He admires the way that the concept piece about feeling lonely as a touring rock band made him uncomfortable. Life Is But A Dream… is similarly introspective, exploring human nature and quoting the writings of philosopher Albert Camus. Opener Game Over was inspired by his novella The Stranger.
Mr Bungle – Disco Volante (1995)
Another major touchstone for Avenged while they were making their new album, according to M. Shadows in that Hammer interview, was Mr Bungle’s second album. Although its 70 minutes stunningly waltz through genres as obscure as musique concrète and noise, he was especially awed by polymath Mike Patton, who used a wide array of vocal techniques and post-production tricks. As a result, Shadows dabbles in autotuning, talkboxes and vocoders on Life Is But A Dream….
Queens Of The Stone Age – Queens Of The Stone Age (1998)
Life Is But A Dream… producer Joe Barresi has manned the dials for a who’s-who of heavy metal, including Tool and Slipknot. However, we’re featuring the first QOTSA album here because, in 2022, M. Shadows named the desert rock idols as one of his five most-listened-to artists. Despite being recorded by two ex-members of the then-recently disbanded Kyuss (Josh Homme and Alfredo Hernández), this debut’s smoother rock sound led them down a new path.
100 Gecs – 1000 Gecs (2019)
In May 2023, M. Shadows tweeted that electronic innovators 100 Gecs are one of his favourite bands and future festival headliners. Surprise, surprise: the genre-agnostic duo also influenced Life Is But A Dream…. 2019 debut 1000 Gecs’ restless pace and heavily digitised vocals both translate over to the new Avenged album – and, since both artists love to test everyone else’s boundaries, we’d love to see the two tour together sometime soon.