Avenged Sevenfold is guilty of two acts of heresy: In spite of the band’s name and multiple Biblical references (songs like “Shepherd of Fire,” “Requiem,” “Heretic” and countless ones from previous recordings), they’re not a Christian band, and singer M. Shadows wants to make it perfectly clear.
“Absolutely not,” he told the Current on the phone from Chicago. “I don’t believe in those things. [Laughs] I try not to get into that because a lot of our fans are Christians and a lot aren’t. I have my own beliefs, but I don’t believe in any kind of religion that we have nowadays. But we’re definitely not a Christian band.”
The other act of heresy: they dare to evolve. In the often narrow-minded world of metal, they left their metalcore (and screaming) origins to gradually become a band that didn’t mind experimenting with symphonic arrangements and hard rock, not caring about the inevitable consequences.
“When we started as a very young band in the Orange County [Calif.] hardcore scene, as soon as we started separating ourselves from that, all those kids wouldn’t come to our shows and they hated us because we sang and were a little bit more melodic,” Shadows said. “We were a cool band to watch at Warped Tour, but if you ask those kids now they’ll say, ‘No, Avenged Sevenfold is not a Warped band, they suck.’ ‘They’re too big, corporate.’ The bigger you get, you get that. So, we just write the music we want to write, we go on tour, do the production we want to do, and we basically live in our own little bubble. We really don’t care what anyone says.”
Especially when the gamble pays off: their last two albums (2010’s Nightmare and September’s Hail to the King) both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, with the latter selling 159,000 copies in the first week. It was the culmination of a band that considered dissolving after the death of drummer The Rev (James Owen Sullivan) in 2009 due to an overdose combination of alcohol and prescription pills. The death occurred two weeks before their anticipated Nightmare sessions. After years of self-production, they finally found the sixth man they had been looking for in Mike Elizondo, who seemed to know everything about the band. Their relationship went beyond the making of both hit albums.
“When Jimmy died, Mike was with us all the time and we formed a friendship that is very valuable to this band,” said Shadows. “We did two records and hopefully we’ll continue.”
Gone forever are the early screaming vocals, and Shadows is unapologetic about it.
“We don’t listen to bands that scream,” he said. “I did when I was in high school and I kind of grew out of it. Maybe I’ll listen to one or two. I’d rather listen to the Iron Maidens and Metallicas of the world than the death metal bands. For me, it doesn’t make sense.”
The singer does listen to AC/DC and NOFX, but for the most part is bored of bands who release the same album over and over again. That’s why he’s a firm believer in the Steve Jobs approach: to give people what they need before they even know they wanted it.
“I love [AC/DC and NOFX], but most other bands I fall out of love with because they do the same things but they no longer move me or challenge me,” Shadows said. “That’s what we want to do with our band: to move you in ways you didn’t necessarily think you wanted. Maybe you’re a little thrown off at first, but you’ll get into it. And I do use a Mac, yeah!”
The band returns to San Antonio, a place they love to play at, with a fan request.
“Playing in SA is exciting because it’s one of the capitals of metal,” said Shadows. “But I’m also excited about Deftones and I hope people come in early, because [Sweden’s] Ghost [B.C.] is an amazing band. We all have a very nice production and people are going to get blown away by it.”