(Jam Showbiz) Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album looks and sounds as if would fit right into an ABC After School Special the one where mom and dad discover junior is smoking the marijuana, rolling his joints on the CD case.
The imagery on the sleeve of City of Evil from a hell-on-Earth metropolis, skulls and demons to the necessary naked female sacrifices would no doubt convince mom and dad that sonny boy has truly turned to the stereotypical, made-for-TV dark side. If only CD players played backwards, then they could decipher the hidden messages the Huntington Beach, California, metal band is instilling in young, malleable minds.
Parents, don’t worry, says Avenged Sevenfold lead guitarist and once-nice Catholic schoolboy Synyster Gates. The 24-year-old is just as worried about your kids as you are, what with the world coming to an end and all.
Avenged Sevenfold is at the Shaw Conference Centre tonight.
Armageddon, says Gates (otherwise known as Brian Hanner Jr.), probably won’t wrap up in a tidy and efficient biblical day. Instead, he thinks it’s more of a long, drawn-out process that’s closer than most might think.
“I think it’s already happening,” he says. “It’s just not the way the Bible wrote it, with fire and demons running about. But there really are demons running about, if you think about it. Beast and the Harlot, the first track from the album, really represents how corrupt things are, especially in L.A. But I don’t want to put just L.A. under the bus corruption is a big problem everywhere.
“I don’t know if it’s political corruption, because we’re definitely not a political band. In the U.S., drugs and prostitution are a huge problem. Our prison system is just so messed up there isn’t proper drug rehabilitation in prison and two out of three prisoners end up returning to prison after they’ve been released. Something’s definitely not right.”
Gates says it would take a miracle for things to change, but the band itself has at least undergone minor changes since forming in 1999.
Avenged Sevenfold’s first album, 2001’s Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, fit soundly into the metal-core pantheon, but the band’s since abandoned the genre. Instead, City of Evil sounds like a mash-up of other California bands, ranging from Guns N’ Roses to Blink 182, with a hint of Red Hot Chili Peppers, while still retaining a metallic finish. The more melodic approach has also proven to be lighter on the lungs of Avenged Sevenfold lead singer M. Shadows (Matt Sanders).
Change appears to be a good thing; the band won the best new artist in a video award at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards for Bat Country, a song that pays homage to late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s infamous novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The award is especially gratifying, says Gates, because the band was in the process of writing the tune at roughly the same time Thompson passed away last year.
“We hope it wasn’t a curse,” says Gates with a laugh. “We were really proud and we hope that he’d be proud. It was definitely an honour for his estate, which is very strong-willed about using his name as a reference for things, to let us use some of his words and samples, especially in the (CD) booklet.”
The other big book for Avenged Sevenfold, obviously, is the Good Book. The band’s name is taken from the Book of Genesis, when Cain slaughtered Abel and God said his death would be “avenged sevenfold.” Los Angeles, as the titular City of Evil, might even be seen biblically as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
But Gates says Avenged Sevenfold is fairly tongue-in-cheek and isn’t really a religious band, despite its penchant for religious references and iconography. In his mind, too much is made of religion in the U.S. already.
“It was so funny with the presidential debates how they could talk about religion and not letting gays get married rather than talking about things that really matter to the masses, like why we have to pay $3.50 for a gallon of gas.
“Funnily enough, a lot of our members actually went to Catholic school. We use a lot of religious iconography and we don’t do it for shock value we do it because it definitely speaks to us, like Revelations in the New Testament. We put it in there not to poke fun or poke fingers, because it has a strong meaning to us, just not the same way it does for a Bible-thumping Texan.”
Looking northward, however, Gates says Canada has been particularly supportive of the band, largely because Canadians are more inclined to ask hard questions. Even if Avenged Sevenfold fans up here don’t happen to ask any, Gates says the band still manages to get ’em off, anyway.
“I don’t know if they identify with our message,” he laughs, “but they definitely dig metal music, that’s for sure.”