From the start there was something different about Avenged Sevenfold, who stood out from the Orange County metalcore crowd by wearing make-up, adopting stupid stage personas and dreaming bigger than all the rest. Frontman M Shadows (aka Matt Sanders) is proud that their seventh album, The Stage, embraces prog-metal.
What inspired the band to write a concept album about artificial intelligence and the self-destruction of society?
The subject had consumed me for several years, so much that I felt compelled to write about it, and luckily the other band members shared that interest.
Classic Rock’s review said The Stage is “easily the band’s best album to date”, and also praised “epic [tracks] worthy of Rush or Dream Theater”.
That’s awesome. Making a record like this, there’s two ways it can go… I’m so happy people are reacting positively, especially some of the younger fans that usually prefer shorter songs. Now we must see whether the floodgates open.
And yet those words of positivity were tempered by bewilderment.
Well, that’s awesome too – I like confusing people [laughs]. That’s one of our biggest goals.
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Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater deputised with Avenged back in 2010. Has he heard it yet?
We didn’t even tell Mike [about its top-secret surprise release]. But he texted me on the day it came out saying it sounded great, though it really wouldn’t have had time to sink in. I still talk to Mike all the time.
Over the last five albums, the band has almost completely reinvented itself from its early metalcore years. Are you now left wondering who the average Avenged Sevenfold fan is?
At this point I have no clue. The fans we love most are the ones that like us because they don’t know what’s coming next – the ones that don’t get it on first spin but are prepared to give it three more.
We imagine that many rock fans might not buy the album purely because it says ‘Avenged Sevenfold’ on the cover.
That’s true. But we’re so persistent that I think people will come around. For us it’s about grabbing some of the sixteen-year-olds and bringing them to a style of music that’s cool.
Might a change of name be beneficial to you?
[Laughs] Well, I can see why you’d say that.
Playing two nights at London’s O2 Arena, you’re having the last laugh over the haters.
This really isn’t a scoreboard. What we’re about right now is staking a claim [to being something special], putting on a really unbelievable live show and hoping other bands follow our lead.
Avenged Sevenfold’s arena tour begins in Dublin on January 7.