avenged sevenfold
[Photo via Avenged Sevenfold]

20 essential Avenged Sevenfold songs that will turn you into a fan

The nexus of Avenged Sevenfold’s dominance as one of the most popular American metal bands of the last 25 years has always been a moving target. 

After all, it’s difficult to nail down a band who have bounced between a list of genres to forge their larger-than-life sounds, from the early days of hardcore and thrash to groove-heavy hard-rock, progressive flourishes and even touches of country and Broadway.

Read more: 10 most criminally underrated Avenged Sevenfold songs

With the band’s eighth album, Life is But a Dream …, due June 2 and their new sprawling single “Nobody” being played on repeat by A7X lifers, AP  has re-examined the band’s catalog, selecting the tracks that have defined the group’s twisting journey into mayhem and triumph. 

Here are Avenged Sevenfold’s 20 most essential tracks; a killer cross-section for diehards and new fans alike. 

“Unholy Confessions” – Waking The Fallen (2003) 

The riff, the riff, the riff. There are many like it in metalcore, but this one is Synyster Gates’ blazing melody, which announced the shredder’s presence as a blistering force in the band for the next 20 years. For early-adopting fans who discovered the band before City of Evil broke them to the world, “Unholy Confessions” was most likely the first song they heard, also introducing M. Shadows’ clean vocal talent after 2001’s uneven debut Sounding the Seventh Trumpet consisted mostly of screaming. What’s that … harmonies?! This explosive track remains the lone tune from the early days to remain in A7X’s sets for good reason — it was a pivotal moment, and it still rips. 

“Chapter Four” – Waking The Fallen (2003) 

While “Unholy Confessions” remains the defining moment on Waking The Fallen where A7X was first taken seriously by the metal community, “Chapter Four” is the album’s most well-rounded song, drawing from the incendiary metalcore of its preceding album and mixing in a big, over-the-plate heavy metal chorus any Megadeth fan would’ve appreciated at the time. The lyrics are similarly extreme: “I’ve come here to kill you, won’t leave until you’ve died / Murder born of vengeance, I closed my brother’s eyes tonight.” Or maybe it’s more like Jekyll and Hyde, as the screamed verses on the back half intensify the old-school riffage. 

“Eternal Rest” – Waking The Fallen (2003) 

“Eternal Rest” wastes no time drop-kicking the listener then diving from the top rope into five hurtling minutes of bedlam. The verse melody appears to be heavily influenced by Pantera’s “Walk” — which the band has since covered — but Gates’ opening minute of soloing spectacle is more reminiscent of Randy Rhoades. This deep cut is more about groove and instrumental prowess than vocals, though Shadows’ harmonized finale does cut through nicely. 

“Beast and the Harlot” – City of Evil (2005)

“Beast” was a blast to shred on Guitar Hero II 15 years ago, and this bounding opener remains an avalanche of radio-friendly fun, instantly redefining the band’s sound for a mass audience. The guitar melody, which begins as a theatrical curtain-raiser before descending into its deep and infectious groove, remains one of the band’s most recognizable. But again, millennials of a certain age surely still shudder at the song’s rollicking last minute or so, where hands began to cramp around the Guitar Hero controller neck and curses rained down. 

“Bat Country” – City of Evil (2005)

Inspired by and named for a line in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “Bat Country” remains the single most cursory rock listeners associate with Avenged Sevenfold. The platinum-selling song seemed to be everywhere for a while, featured in a list of video games and all over rock radio before everyone eventually grew tired of the nasal trill of Shadows’ lines “I tri-i-i-ed to drive all through the ni-ight.” While there are better songs on City of Evil, no track found the band having a better time, lightening up their sound and removing screams as they headed for much larger stages. 

“Burn it Down” – City of Evil (2005)

It seems ridiculous now, considering the success of “Bat” and “Beast,” that the lead single from City of Evil was in fact “Burn it Down,” which touts a triumphant sort of power metal riff paired with The Rev’s brutalizing blast beats. Shadows’ vocals are a little whiny here on lines like “Run towards the light exposing your soul / (We won’t be there by your side),” but Gates picks the ball up with another signature solo to punctuate a song designed to throttle the listener. 

“Blinded in Chains” – City of Evil (2005)

“Blinded in Chains” begins like a metal march before Shadows’ lyrics put this epic jam toward the soapbox, hitting on anti-authoritarian themes, urging listeners to break away from tyranny, blending in some biblical themes: “As they thank the Lord the blind can’t see, like a plague fed to the brain deadly disease / I’d run away tonight with my mind still intact, you gotta make it alright.” The sonics play like a sister to “Burn it down,” with Rev and Gates given room to roam and hammer the message home. It’s a banner album track too easily forgotten among the bigger tunes. 

“Critical Acclaim” – Avenged Sevenfold (2007)

A7X loves an entrance. Each album opener strives to make an encompassing, theatrical call to arms, announcing their glorious return. But none land quite like the bellowing pipe organ intro of “Critical Acclaim” following a soaring, sanctimonious riff to launch a sort of “Phantom of the Rock Opera” moment — before the double-bass and Shadows’ shrieks send the song to hell. While Shadows’ serrated, pitched screams have never sounded better, the banner track’s real hero is The Rev, who gives a killer second vocal to finish the chorus — the song has never been the same live without his double-duty performance.   

“Almost Easy” – Avenged Sevenfold (2007)

Written by The Rev, “Almost Easy” had the most mainstream appeal of anything off the band’s self-titled masterpiece, with a monster hook and confident hard-rock sensibilities. It’s a sad song, about losing someone and the pain running so deep you question your own sanity, but few of the band’s singles soar quite this high. All five members sing on the chorus, launching it into the stratosphere (and over countless festival crowds) and fans responded, eventually earning the song a platinum certification. This was also Avenged’s only song to be performed by the USC marching band (to our knowledge, of course). 

“Afterlife” – Avenged Sevenfold (2007)

While Avenged’s progressive tendencies now feel commonplace, it was a sincere thrill in ‘07 to hear “Afterlife” begin with a chamber string arrangement. The song then finds a familiarly chugging groove in its verse, one of many across their discography that could be Guns N’ Roses outtakes. But wait, the strings return(!), boosting the bridge and Gates’ piercing solo for some deliciously symphonic metal moments. Digging into the lyrics is a heartrending go, however, as they were written by The Rev, unknowingly foretelling his looming demise: “Loved ones back home all crying ’cause they’re already missing me.” 

“A Little Piece of Heaven” – Avenged Sevenfold (2007) 

An eight-minute epic inspired by Danny Elfman — and perhaps the dark theater of My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade a year earlier — “A Little Piece of Heaven” is a felonious frolic through The Rev’s imagination set ablaze. Dueling vocals, heart-consuming lovers, all colors of sonic grandeur, the fan favorite is like if Edgar Allan Poe rewrote “November Rain.” While the band has spent much of the last decade stretching its sound to varying results, rarely have they been better than this huge, playful, deluded swing. 

“Nightmare” – Nightmare (2010)

After The Rev’s death in ‘09, no fan truly knew what to expect when Avenged dropped its first single five months later. Then those devilish xylophone tones began to plink. The eponymous album’s lead single was a total howitzer of a return, signaling the band’s refusal to turn soft in the wake of tragedy. The lyrics unveil scenes from the underworld, banishing a bad dude for eternity, as he pays “the price of evil.” Boosted by epic sub-in Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) on the kit, the band’s comeback remains a centerpiece of all heavy metal Halloween playlists and helped the album, released two months later, notch the band’s first No. 1 record on the Billboard chart

“Welcome to the Family” – Nightmare (2010)

Largely composed by The Rev before his passing, “Welcome to the Family” is surely the most fun track off Nightmare, even if the lyrics of “thoughts so numb” and “emptiness issue” match the album steeped in varying levels of woe and darkness. This one has all the A7X signatures: oversized, chugging verses, singalong hooks and dueling guitars screaming through the speakers. And by the band’s standards, it’s nearly an interlude, clocking in at a paltry four minutes. 

“So Far Away” – Nightmare (2010)

No song in the band’s discography feels as clear and bleeding a reaction to The Rev’s death as the maudlin ballad “So Far Away.” Though Gates actually began writing the song prior to the tragedy, penning lyrics for his grandfather. Fans know “So Far Away” as the moment in most A7X shows where everyone pays solemn tribute to the fallen drummer — cellphone lights illuminate the crowd as Shadows wails “I have so much to say but you’re so far away.” It’s still a tough listen more than a decade later, but it’s a necessary piece of the band’s journey and Rev’s legacy. 

“Save Me” – Nightmare (2010)

Not to be confused with the Queen, BTS or Jelly Roll songs of the same title, “Save Me” is the mammoth, nearly 11-minute finale to Nightmare, introducing some vulnerability to contrast the album’s hell-raising beginning. “Save me, I’m trapped in a vile world / Where the ending’s all the same as every other, we’re only here to die,” Shadows pleads. Gates and Christ’s swirling, maniacal guitar duels launch the song toward neighboring galaxies before the final crushing refrain: “Tonight we all die young.” Over and over. 

“Shepherd of Fire” – Hail to the King (2013)

The sounds of burning, the foreboding bells, the demonic guitar lick — “Shepherd of Fire” ushers in Avenged’s sixth LP with all the familiar ceremony. As the album itself plays like a tribute to many of the band’s influences, the steady melody and anthemic chorus ring of Black Album Metallica — the spoken bridge all but says “now I lay me down to sleep.” But then the ever-present guitar duo tears through, channeling Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing, cementing the album’s opener as an instant classic.  

“Hail to the King” – Hail to the King (2013)

The problem with “Hail to the King” is you can only listen to it outside, otherwise its blazing riff sets your house on fire. But seriously, that opening melody, which announced the new album and band’s return in 2013, is an all-time flamethrower, worthy of any metal museum. Again, there’s a lot of Metallica here, but we still love the towering hook and commanding first line “Watch your tongue or have it cut from your head.” And Rock Band 4 players will recall how satisfying Gates’ solo is to finally nail. 

“The Stage” – The Stage (2016)

Avenged’s Grammy-nominated lead single sets the pace for an album that is far and away the band’s most wide-reaching and experimental. Hell, it takes a load of cultivated fan equity to return to the fold with an eight-and-a-half-minute comeback and expect people to listen. But the diehards did, sending the massive cut to No. 4 on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart. The jam begins much like “Critical Acclaim” nine years earlier, with sweeping pipe organs demanding attention. Then comes the world-bending riff, then double-bass fills from new drummer Brooks Wackerman. From there all bets are off as the song lays the conceptual blueprint for a Muse-like project, where humanity battles against oppression and technological destruction, searching for freedom of mind and spirit. 

“Creating God” – The Stage (2016)

While Avenged is many things, striving to be a “heady” or “thinking man’s” band has never been their M.O. But they flip the script somewhat throughout The Stage, and especially on “Creating God,” where Shadows contemplates humans’ self-made prisons and the biblical stakes of such computing power: “Exponential growth is a frightening thing, indeed.” He continues, through melodies conjuring Alice in Chains: “Sometimes when I look up to the sky I have to wonder, are we summoning the demon, you and I?” If you’re not interested in sitting through all of the album’s sometimes tedious 73 minutes, “Creating God” is a shrewd distillation. 

“Exist” – The Stage (2016)

“However big our world is, our hearts, our minds, our outsize atlases, the universe is even bigger. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the world’s beaches. More stars in the universe than seconds of time that have passed since Earth formed.” All of this and more is spoken by astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, who helps to conclude the band’s magnum opus in “Exist,” a shredding recreation of the Big Bang and the universe’s creation. At 15 minutes it’s by far the band’s longest and most absurdly ambitious piece of music, and a punctuation on a project that, among other decrees, announced Avenged Sevenfold as a band that had only begun to experiment. We can’t wait to see what’s next.