More than 13 months since its release, Avenged Sevenfold can certainly look back on “Nightmare,” its fifth studio album, with satisfaction.
The set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in August 2010, and it’s been certified gold. The title track led a charge of rock radio hits that includes “Lost It All,” “Welcome to the Family” and “So Far Away,” and the heavy-rock quintet from Huntington Beach, Calif., headlined the Nightmare After Christmas tour earlier this year and is now topping the Uproar Festival.
But that dream scenario has its “Nightmare”-ish side, too.
Avenged Sevenfold is still mourning the December 2009 death of drummer Jim “The Rev” Sullivan from a drug overdose after the band started making “Nightmare.” Sullivan was still included on the album (Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy finished the drum parts), but frontman M. Shadows says the loss of a collective “best friend” is still fresh among the other band members.
“I’m just so glad we recorded (’Nightmare’) when we did,” explains Shadows, 30 (real name Matt Sanders). “We were in such a terrible, deep, emotional spot. Your eyes open up so much more to the rest of the world and you realize how fragile everything is. It was so painful and so real. ...
“So I’m glad we captured it all then, because it would be hard for me now to say some of the words and some of the emotions I put on that record. You can’t really bring those emotions again. If I had to do it right now, it would be hard for me to do that.
“I’m just grateful we got through it, and I’m just really proud of the record. We may have bigger records, but I think this is gonna be the most emotional and meaningful.”
Shadows does feel that he and his bandmates — guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, bassist Johnny Christ and touring drummer Arin Ilejay — are “in a better spot” these days, and the group is certainly happy to be atop the Uproar bill this year after taking part in the inaugural package in 2010. Besides a stage set the singer describes as “a very sort of Spinal Tap, over-the-top metal-looking show,” Avenged Sevenfold tapped into its fan base to determine its Uproar set list, picking the top 20 songs from an Internet poll — which yielded rarities such as “M.I.A.” and “I Won’t See You Tonight, Pt. 1” — and “mixing it up every night” in order to keep the individual shows fresh.
“That’s one thing we’re really excited about,” Shadows says, “but it’s causing us a lot of work — meaning we’ve got to know the songs seamlessly, and we’ve got to have all our production people know the songs as well and be able to make the show look like the songs belong together every night. It’s ... cool for the fans, but a lot of preparation for us.”
Avenged Sevenfold is also getting ready for the future. Though the touring cycle for “Nightmare” may stretch into next summer, the group — which plans to release “Buried Alive” as the album’s next single — does have some decisions to make. One of those, of course, is the drum chair. The 23-year-old Ilejay is “great,” according to Shadows, but he’s not guaranteeing permanent membership yet.
“As far as personality and his playing, he’s our guy,” Shadows says, “but we haven’t been able to write a record with him yet. So we want to make sure for his good and for our good that he can write with us and bring something to the creative and be comfortable in the situation.
“We’re just trying to work towards that, and hopefully everything works out ’cause we love the guy.”
That next album isn’t coming any time soon, however. Noting that “we’ve always taken a long time” between albums, Shadow says the band expects to take a similar break before getting to work on a successor to “Nightmare.”
“I think bands burn themselves out,” Shadows explains. “Look what happened to Disturbed; those are good friends of ours, and you just get caught up in the ‘do a record, tour for two years, do a record, tour for two years.’ ...
“We’re very cautious of making sure that everybody has their time. We need to go home ... and make sure everybody’s mentally in the right spot to do a new record.”
It’s not like the band members get away from each other — or even want to — when they’re off the road, however. Shadows and Gates (nee Brian Haner Jr.) are married to twin sisters and live near each other. And getting together socially can often lead to making music, according to Shadows.
“I have a studio in my house. So does (Gates),” he says. “So we’ll hang out and lay some stuff down and joke around with it, and eventually it turns into something for the band — which is a much healthier way to do it instead of putting a lot of stress on ourselves to meet a deadline or something.
“So we’ll take six, seven months (off) and sit around. If we decide to write, we will. If we decide not to, we won’t. That’s kind of the timetable we’re on.”
The Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival featuring Avenged Sevenfold, Three Days Grace, Seether, Bullet For My Valentine, Escape the Fate, Sevendust, Black Tide, Art of Dying and Black Cloud Collective, takes place at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $49 and $29.50 pavilion, $10 lawn. Tickets go up $5 day of show. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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