Music: Sonic "Evil"-lution

Avenged Sevenfold scurry from 'Metalcore' scene and hard-partying reputation

Sep 13, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Avenged Sevenfold took their major-label signing as a chance to diversify their Metal sound.

Where many bands see signing with a major label as their one big shot at huge popularity, Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Zacky Vengeance says his band saw a whole different opportunity in its move up to Warner Bros. Records.

"We had to take full advantage of the fact that we wanted to be one of the most creative bands out there that's getting backed by one of the biggest companies," Vengeance says in a recent phone interview. "For us, it was like, 'Wow, this is our chance, our attempt to try to go down in history. We might never have another chance to have this many CDs in stores. We need to make the most of it and make it as creative as we can.'

"That chance doesn't come for a lot of bands in their lifetime. And when the chance does come, the normal way of thinking about it would be to go out and (write songs to get) on the radio. But we thought, 'Wow, this is our time to put something out that's so different and does not (dumb the music down).' That's the only way you can ever really separate yourselves. It's a very scary thing and it's taking the ultimate risk, but the rewards are a million times greater."

As things have turned out, Avenged Sevenfold has had it both ways.

The band's Warner Bros. debut, City of Evil, has gone gold and put the group on the brink of stardom. At the same time, City of Evil has been seen as an adventurous outing that's altered the perceptions many had about Avenged Sevenfold's music.

The band's first two CDs, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (2001) and Waking the Fallen (2003), put Avenged Sevenfold at the forefront of the emerging Metalcore scene. But instead of solidifying its Metalcore credentials, Avenged Sevenfold risked alienating a large chunk of its audience by ditching the screamed vocals and making a dynamic and ambitious CD that emphasizes the band's Heavy Metal influences.

Call City of Evil the band's Arena Metal CD, and Vengeance (real name Zach Baker) won't object.

"I guess I'd be lying if I said that we didn't make a step in a little bit of a different direction," Vengeance says. "We listened to the current state of (Metalcore), and every band was trying to do the screaming thing. It didn't really register with us ... we're not a Metalcore band. We're not a Screamo band. We're a Metal band, and now in order to prove that once again we're going to have to step it up to a whole new level."

Rapid musical growth was not a new concept for Avenged Sevenfold. Formed in 1999, the group has shown significant growth with each CD as the band members sharpened their playing abilities and learned more about how to structure songs.

City of Evil offers a fascinating mix of attention-grabbing melody and musical complexity. "Beast and the Harlot," for instance, has its hooky vocals but also features a multifaceted arrangement that comes complete with warp-speed guitar solos and rapid-fire drums. "Sidewinder," one of several songs that tops seven minutes, follows a similar epic path. Even the seemingly concise and poppy "Bat Country" shifts between several distinct musical segments.

The ambition of Avenged Sevenfold should be a major story-line for the group these days. And while the band's musical development gets discussed, a more attention-getting topic has been the hedonistic, hard-partying exploits of this band from Huntington Beach, Calif.

Vengeance seems eager to address the topic and highlight the less sensational, yet obvious, dedication the band has to its music and career.

"Sure, we love to have fun," he says. "Everyone likes to have fun. But when I look back on my life, I'm not going to say, 'Oh, we're the crazy party animals.' I'll look back and say, 'Wow, we did take this seriously.' We had fun while we were out doing it, but it's just the only thing you read about: 'They're a bunch of party animals.' To be honest, that's not true."

AVENGED SEVENFOLD performs Sunday as part of "X-Fest" at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds near Dayton. Also appearing: Staind, Three Days Grace, Buckcherry, Hinder, Bullet For My Valentine, Hurt, Damone, Black Stone Cherry and 18 Visions. See for details.