Avenged Sevenfold are gearing up for the release of their upcoming sixth album Hail to the King. Avenged Sevenfold returned to producer Mike Elizondo who the Californian hard rock band worked with on 2010′s Nightmare.
The new CD is the first to be wholly written without drummer and key songwriter James “The Rev” Sullivan, who died in December 2009; and thus the first with new drummer Arin Ilejay, formerly of Confide.
Avenged Sevenfold also have numerous other plans in the pipeline and AMH contributor Luke Bunworth caught up with bassist Johnny Christ to get the lowdown on all things A7X.
Avenged Sevenfold have officially welcomed in Arin Ilejay as a full time member quite recently. How has he grown to fit in over the last two years?
He’s been doing good, man. He came in a little wet behind the ears, to be honest. He was somewhat of a shy little kid but he’s been working out great. He’s a hell of a drummer and a great person. He still has some moves to learn but he’s been doing well. He can play the hell out of the drums. He killed it on this new record. We had a vision and came in with him. We told him that vision, ‘This is what we need out of you from these drums – a laidback groove ‘in the pocket’ and then you’re going to need to bang out some fills. Make sure that everything is perfect but also in getting the feel right and banging the shit out of the drum as hard as you can.’ That’s what we asked him to do and after a couple days of getting it into him, he understood and he just absolutely killed it on this record. I’m very proud of him.
Now that he’s a full time member, can we expect a stage name from him?
Maybe, but I mean everyone already knows his name now. [laughs] It might be hard to change it now, but we’ll see. It’s kind of up to him. We got our stage names early on in our career, we had all kind of gravitated towards that idea before anyone really know of us. But yeah, we’ll have to discuss it with him and see if he wants one. We’ll let it go either way.
Before starting work on Hail to the King, you first recorded with Arin on the 2 Call of Duty singles – Not Ready to Die and Carry On. How did that come about?
We all grew up playing video games as kids. Even when we were first touring in a band, we had a little TV and a Playstation at the time. We just had video games as something to do when you’re on the road. Matt got really into the Call of Duty games. He’s got all the Call of Duty games, and with that, he’s got the online plays, his clan and everything like that. He became friends with the guys over at Treyarch and introduced us all. It became a real friendship with some of the guys over there. They asked us to do a song – Not Ready to Die was the first one – for an extra map, the zombie part, for one of the ‘Call of Duty’s.
More recently, they asked us to do a song that was more uplifting that they were going to put at the end of the game. It was to be this whole funny thing. We went in, wrote and recorded Carry On in five days or something like that. They loved it, they put it in and then, they asked us to actually be in the game which was really cool. We got to put on those sensory suits. It was a trip to see how all that stuff works first hand. It was a really fun thing for us.
So, moving into the lead up into your upcoming sixth album Hail to the King. How would you say the writing process was different this time around?
It was a bit more difficult. We went in and figured out what we wanted to do and where we were trying to go right from the very beginning. We’re always trying to do something better than the last record; to do something different and evolve as a band. We really wanted to make an eclectic hard rock record that slams sonically. It’s kind of like bare bones – with a guitar, a vocal and some drums all up in your face. Huge. We really studied some of the bands that had done it before, their ways and what it takes to sound sonically huge. Listening to stuff like Led Zeppelin and ACDC, we were just listening to see just how they achieve that. We noticed that a lot of it was the space. You really have to play with the space in a riff so it can be allowed to breathe. We wanted everyone that when listening to this record to almost zombie-like headbang through it. For us, it was something that we knew was going to take a little maturity. Any time that we wanted to put a whole layer of stuff on top of a riff that we worked on, it was gone. If a riff couldn’t stand alone, it wasn’t allowed to be on the song. Every riff had to be perfect and heavy, collectively what we wanted it to be. If there was one person in the room who went ‘Heh, I don’t think it is there yet guys,’ we’d scrap the whole song. I think that took a little bit of song writing maturity for us. That made it take a little bit longer. We took it song by song. We weren’t writing four or five songs at once and jumping around. We focused in on each song until it was done and then we’d go onto another one. It took a little effort and it took a little longer, probably six to nine months for just the writing process before we even recorded it.
You recorded with Mike Elizondo again. What was he like to record with the second time around now being more familiar with each other?
He was great. We already knew how each other worked. He’s very into metal and he comes from a lot of different types of music, much like us. We all listen to a lot of eclectic things. He’s an incredible musician and songwriter, and we have such a respect for him. When he gave his opinion, we really listened. When we were writing the songs, we’d send them straight off to him, saying ‘Hey, are we on the right path? Do you think this is a good idea or should we scrap it?’ He was honest. He’s another guy that we get sound ideas from. We know that we can trust that he’ll be honest. He gets what we are trying to do. Working with him again was kind of a no brainer. We knew what record we wanted to make and we told him. He said ‘Here’s some stuff to listen to. Here’s some ideas that might get you inspired and get you started.’ We were looking into some classical music actually. We listened to The Planets [1914-1914 seven-piece orchestral suite by Gustav Holt] and all that stuff. We listened to it for how those composers are able to paint a picture without even having lyrics on it. We had a lot of that and we also listened to a lot of records that we had listened to a lot before. ‘Back in Black.’ [ACDC], ‘Paranoid.’[Black Sabbath], those classic hard rock albums that we all know – everyone knows – those records but we never tried to delve in to understand why those records are so awesome. What makes those songs stand out through the test of time? That is something that we wanted to achieve in our own way.
You have released the title track, how would you say that song previews the album?
It definitely does. That’s kind of the reason that we picked it for the first single, but there is a lot more to the record than that. The song has part of the underlying theme. We wanted to make this groove record that had a lot of face and keeps slamming at you. The main riff of the songs is that same theme that keeps coming in and out. That’s kind of the theme for the record but each song has its own piece to that puzzle. We still get half the spectrum of what Avenged Sevenfold have done before with the fast dueling guitars, but there is more progressive drumming. We really focused in on each song having its own vibe. We didn’t want to take anyone out of that vibe. When they listen to another song, they’ll hear another piece of Avenged Sevenfold that they have grown to love. Each song is different but if we had to pick the underlying theme, Hail to the King matches up to it quite well.
You recently announced future plans to release an Avenged Sevenfold game and a Hail to the King animated series. What is the lowdown on that?
It’s just another thing that we have been working on while we were writing. We’re into video games obviously, so we’ve always liked to release something like that. We’re getting closer and closer. It’s been a work in progress. The animated series is something fun, kind of a joke. It’s not a full on joke but it’s something cool for the fans. It’s something different that we can give to the fans that is directly related to the album. We wrote a more serious record and I think that these things are something to give to the fans to show a different side on what we’ve been working on while we’ve been away for a couple of years.
Avenged Sevenfold are definitely on the top tier of 2000’s metal. There have been a few statements floating around lately from both the band, the media and others about a future changing of the guard, which I thought was pretty interesting in that there still isn’t really any clear bands from the last ten odd years that have taken that last step. At the moment, we’re still seeing the major festivals headlined by the likes of Metallica, Maiden, etc. So it will be interesting when heaven forbid they do decide to call it a day.But I would say that Avenged Sevenfold are definitely up there with a chance. What’s your take on the situation?
It would be pretty silly of me to say something like that at this point in time. For me, I’m humbled by that – to be compared to these bands that have been doing it for so long. Metallica, ACDC… those are some of our favourite bands, they have been doing it for so long and they are the best at it. For us to hear chitter-chatter about us even having the potential of doing something like that, it’s cool. It’s definitely humbling. I don’t agree 100%. We’re not to their calibre yet. Hopefully we’ll get there. If we ended up the way they are and headlined some of those huge festivals, that would be great. To reach their status is something that would be great but yeah, we’re not there yet. For us, music is what we love. We’ve been doing it for so long. We’re a touring band, this is the way that we have always done it. We write a record then we get out there and tour for two years trying to grow our fanbase. We go out there and try to give our fans a good show, we give them a full show not just the music. That’s just something that we have always wanted to do so as things have grown, fans have appreciated that and talked to their friends about it. It’s naturally grown to a point where we can headline some festivals and bring out a bunch of production. We feel very comfortable on stage. That is where we probably feel the most comfortable. Again, to compare us directly to those bands though is still a little soon.
You were last in Australia for the Nightmare tour in 2011. When can we expect a return visit for Hail to the King?
We absolutely love coming to Australia and we’ll be setting up a tour really soon. We’ll be out there bringing some of our sets – what we can into the rooms – and blowing some stuff up. There will be some new stuff that the Australian fans haven’t seen yet. We’re really excited to play songs from the new records when everyone gets their hands on it and has had a chance to listen to it a bit. We’re really excited for our plans for these new songs.
What else can we expect from A7X in the future?
Touring, dude. Right now, we’re ready to tour. We’re just getting geared up here. We have a run coming up in the States before we go to Rock in Rio. We go to Europe and then early in the new year, we’ll be hitting up Australia and South America. We have got a lot of places to hit so you’ll be seeing us touring around for a while.
- @lukeyb92 / Luke Bunworth
Avenged Sevenfold will release their sixth album Hail to the King on August 23 through Warner Australia. You can pre-order your copy here.
Check out the title track and lead single below.
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