[Photo by Jeff Forney]
“Warmness On The Soul”—Sounding The Seventh Trumpet
Long before they were the international rockstars they are today, Avenged Sevenfold were just five boys from Huntington Beach, California, jamming and writing songs. In 2001, they released their debut album, Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, a joint venture between Goodlife Recordings and Hopeless Records. Smack-bang in the middle of this record is this little beauty, “Warmness On The Soul,” which paved the way for the first-ever music video from the young bucks. Just look at their fresh faces! Beware if you have motion sickness though—this clip gives The Blair Witch Project a run for its money.
“I Won’t See You Tonight, Pt. 1”—Waking The Fallen
The first time A7X tasted commercial success was after the release of their sophomore album, Waking The Fallen, which crash-landed into the Billboard 200 at No. 10. The lead single “Unholy Confessions” secured the band mainstream media exposure, but “I Won’t See You Tonight, Pt. 1”—written entirely by lead guitarist Synyster Gates—is the tune that really gets us feeling emotional.
“Seize The Day”—City Of Evil
After signing a five-album deal with Warner Bros., Avenged’s major label debut came in the form of City Of Evil. Three electrifying alternative-rock singles preceeded “Seize the Day,” and although it’s practically a pop ballad with rock sensibilities, it’s an absolute banger. The accompanying music video is particularly personal, as it features frontman M. Shadows’ “pregnant” girlfriend (now wife), Valary, who passes away in the storyline. Her painstaking funeral is played out with an obvious nod to Guns N’ Roses’ classic “November Rain.”
“Dear God”—Avenged Sevenfold
Traditionally, a group will release an eponymous album first, but Avenged Sevenfold decided to curb that trend and wait until they had really discovered their sound before they did so. The closer on their self-titled offering is called “Dear God.” It could be considered another ode to M. Shadows’ beloved Valary, as he somberly sings about being away from her and asks God to watch over her when he’s away on the road.
“So Far Away”—Nightmare
When drummer Jimmy “the Rev” Sullivan suddenly and unexpectedly died, it absolutely crushed his bandmates—and understandably so. He was just 28 years old when he died from a drug overdose in between Christmas and New Years of 2009. The band had only just begun creating their next record, so it was inevitable that this comprehensive piece of work (which became Nightmare) would be solely dedicated to the Rev. Synyster Gates came out of solo writing hiatus to pen “So Far Away” about his fallen comrade. The music video sweetly paints a picture of the band playfully growing up as kids and honing their craft together. It ends with a collection of bittersweet home-video snippets of Jimmy in happier times.
A soft church bell and the soulful gospel backing vocals of session singer Sharlotte Gibson adds melancholic tones to “Victim,” another number off of Nightmare. Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy was asked to play drums on the record, as he was one of the Rev’s major musical influences. In this track, Portnoy’s anthemic percussion sit respectfully beneath M. Shadows’ pained and repeated lyrics of, “I’m missing you.”
There might not be another piece of music ever conceived that is as beautifully haunting as “Fiction.” Just three days before the Rev died, he gave the band his final recordings for it. That was the last time his talents were ever recorded. Session player Dave Palmer commences the song with spooky keys and the Rev leads vocally for a change, with Shadows’ own vocals spliced and smoothly layered in. The Rev’s final lyrics are, “I know you’ll find your own your own way/when I’m not with you tonight” —eerily, what was captured in his last studio session was a goodbye note to his best friends. It’s impossible not to be chilled to the bone when you listen to this heartbreaker.
“Acid Rain”—Hail To The King
It must have been extraordinarily tough for the four remaining members to release a record without a trace of the Rev’s musical contributions, but the show must go on. And it did when Hail To The King came out. This was A7X’s second consecutive album to crash-land at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and its crushing finale, “Acid Rain,” is seen here being performed live in the ambience of the Capitol Records open rooftop in Hollywood after the tattooed team signed a new record deal and were about to drop the follow-up to Hail To The King.
In October, seemingly out of nowhere, Avenged gave us the gift of The Stage. Brian Haner Sr., aka Papa Gates, aka Synyster Gates’ father, has appeared on parts of the band’s records in the past, but his exquisitely rip-roaring guitar solo on the subtly tender “Angels,” is certainly one of his finer moments.
“Roman Sky”—The Stage
The elegant symphonies on “Roman Sky” are nothing but pure decadence in contrast to the dramatic arrangements. Few have been lucky enough to witness anything from The Stage performed live by the band, but that’s all about to change in 2017. With a bunch of European dates already firmed up, it’s only a matter of time before Avenged Sevenfold bring their awe-inspiring set—which stretches across an impressive back catalogue—to a town near you.